In-depth – High net worth: Great expectations

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High net worth customers demand the very best in service. Sam Barrett explains what brokers must do to meet private client requirements

High net worth (HNW) clients have high expectations when it comes to the service they receive. To meet these expectations, brokers must ensure they have a good understanding of their customers and their needs.

“You’re protecting their lifestyle so it’s essential you understand what they do and what’s important to them,” says Joan Sell, private client manager at The Clear Group. “You can then use your insurance expertise to build the right cover for them.”

Expert service

As well as understanding the individual and his or her needs, Marcus Rennick, head of estates and private clients at James Hallam, says there needs to be a much more joined up service in the HNW market.

“You need to engage with other professionals such as tax advisers, security advisers and lawyers to provide a client centric solution,” he explains. “You can’t approach this type of business from the perspective of an insurance broker looking to sell a policy; you have to look outside the box.”

It’s also likely that you’ll need to call in experts who specialise in the items HNW clients want to insure. As an example, Barry O’Neill, managing director of Home & Legacy, says he works with specialists, either his firm’s or a client’s own contacts, to determine an appropriate insurance solution. “You don’t need to be experts in all of these areas yourselves, you just need to know how to access the expertise,” he details.

A contacts book for a HNW broker needs to be made up of people with a huge range of value adding abilities. As an example, Rennick says that when one of his firm’s clients buys an expensive piece of jewellery, in addition to a jewellery expert, they can provide details of a trusted safe provider.

“We have relationships with a variety of professionals and providers that we can recommend to our clients,” he adds. “This enables us to offer a complete solution.”

Alongside this, brokers need to keep abreast of the latest developments that could benefit their clients. Sara Simmons, head of HNW at Covéa, points to connected homes and devices such as smart water detection systems or leakbots.

“A leakbot can benefit clients and insurers by shutting down the water system and reducing damage,” she says. “It also gives brokers an opportunity to engage with their clients outside renewal with something that’s relevant.”


HNW clients can also have very different expectations from a communications perspective. While the general market may have shifted almost wholesale to sending policy documents and renewals by post or email, face-to-face remains a firm favourite among HNW individuals.

However, there are signs that this is beginning to change. Covéa has recently gone paperless for all its documentation. “We asked brokers and clients every year and, although we’ll keep other options available, demand swung to electronic communications this year,” says Simmons.

A similar picture is emerging at Home & Legacy. O’Neill says that although an ultra HNW client would still warrant a visit, if a client came through an online search, a face-to-face meeting would not necessarily be appropriate.

He adds: “Overall we’re finding that clients are more comfortable with online communications, particularly for some of the basic documents. As long as you give them the choice, it works.”


Celebs such as Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson may have had their naked photos stolen, but the assets of less high profile HNW individuals are also under attack from the cyber criminals.

In the HNW sector there are two main strands to cyber crime, according to Richard Breavington, partner at law firm RPC.

“On one hand there’s the reliance on technology, which could be targeted with ransomware, but there’s also the risk of data being stolen and used to blackmail an individual or even to commit a more traditional crime such as burglary.”

This is particularly worrying when you consider the type of data at stake. Emma Bell, director of partnership at broker SPF Private Clients, points to the theft of a HNW individual’s iPad as an example.

“This could contain the family’s personal details, their passwords, credit card information, travel arrangements and so on. It would be easy to commit all sorts of crime.”

As well as their own personal details, those of friends and acquaintances could also be at risk. Similarly, as many HNWindividuals are successful business people, there could be sensitive corporate details too.

Ironically, even the insurance schedule can be a prized possession in the wrong hands. This can contain details of everything from a client’s art or classic car collection through to the location and type of safe they have.

But while the risk may be very real, the insurance industry is only just beginning to respond to it in the HNW sector.

“Products have further to go to be competitive enough,” says Bell. “The insurers need more claims data to be able to see what’s really needed in this market. I’d like to see it included within standard HNW policies. Risks change so cover should too.”

More options are now emerging in the insurance space. Zurich Private Clients is introducing cyber insurance in early 2018.

“It is a failure on the industry’s part that there isn’t a whole range of cyber products embedded within other covers,” says Jason Connon, national development manager at Zurich Private Clients. “In our defence, although there’s a real need, there’s not much demand yet.”

He believes the insurance industry has an important role to play in raising awareness of the risk. “Insurers and brokers need to educate their HNW clients on the risk but also the steps they can take to manage and prevent it.”

This type of advice could include covering the basics such as password protocols and ensuring software is up-to-date, through to more specialist support with cyber security and encryption.

“Where a broker is able to demonstrate their client has a robust approach to risk management, they’ll get the benefit in a lower premium,” says Breavington. “Providing advice on managing this risk is a valuable part of a HNW broker’s role.”


But, given the potential size of a loss, many HNW individuals have very different expectations in the event of a claim. “I’ve had a client call me at three in the morning as their house was on fire,” says Sell. “You do get to know them well. If a disaster happens, they’ll call you.”

As well as the personal touch, it’s essential that any claim is dealt with quickly and efficiently. O’Neill says there needs to be a clear route to follow. “Once the initial panic has been dealt with, it’s all about how you gather the necessary information and communicate with your client,” he  notes. “Keeping them aware of what’s happening helps to create a good experience.”

Some brokers have also set up specialist services to support their private clients in the event of a claim. James Hallam is one that provides a claims advocacy service. “We’ll work with the insurer and one of our trusted loss adjusters to support our client. Often the loss adjuster will have been involved when the cover was taken out so they’ll understand the nature of the loss,” says Rennick.

“Providing a high level of service at the time of a claim is where a broker can really demonstrate their value.”


Although the HNW market is an attractive one for brokers looking to flaunt their client relationship skills, it’s not an easy one to crack. Brokers considering coming into the market have a number of options. “Brokers could build links with professional advisers for referrals or, if they’re active in the commercial market, they might want to explore cross-selling to the directors of these businesses,” says Simmons.

Growing an existing book of business is also challenging. Some HNW individuals will have inherited their wealth and trusted advisers, others will have received a recommendation from another adviser or a friend. Sell points out that nine out of 10 of her new clients come through personal recommendations.

But, while it may be tough attracting clients in this market, once you gain one, they could be yours for many years. “If you look after your clients, renewal retention is very high,” says Sell. “It’s a demanding market but a rewarding one too.”

Personal security

A year on from being robbed of £8.7m of jewellery at gunpoint in her hotel in Paris, Kim Kardashian is still traumatised by the incident.

But this event also highlights the need for HNW individuals to take their personal security very seriously.

Although few are as high profile as the Kardashians, Giles Greenfield, CEO of Markham Private Clients, says the HNWlifestyle can make them a target.

“Whether you’re well-known or you simply have some of the trappings of wealth, it can attract the attention of criminals,” he explains. “As well as theft, they can be victims of crimes such as kidnapping and extortion. Sometimes it’s opportunistic but, at the top level, it’s often planned.”

Take the burglary at John Terry’s Surrey mansion earlier this year as an example.

Although he wasn’t hurt, it was part of a series of carefully planned burglaries on luxury homes in the area, including some where the occupants were present.

Prevention should be the first line of defence.

“At the ultra HNW end of the market it may be advisable to have security guards but the key piece of advice is not to be ostentatious,” says Greenfield.

“If a client likes to drive around in an Aston Martin, get tinted windows and keep the doors locked.”

As well as minimising the risk, it’s also prudent to put measures in place should the worst happen. This should include a response service, giving access to security experts who can advise on the most appropriate steps, but also some insurance cover to provide the individual with financial compensation in the event of a loss.

While it’s possible to cover off some of these elements, Greenfield has worked with AIG to develop an appropriate product, AIG Crisis Solutions. This gives unlimited access to response consultants as well as a package of cover including ransom reimbursement for kidnap, extortion or hijack, personal accident and additional costs, which could include counselling after an aggravated burglary or plastic surgery after an acid attack.

“Personal security is an issue for many HNW individuals,” adds Greenfield. “By acting in an advisory capacity in this area, brokers can provide considerable reassurance.”