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May 22, 2018

What can haute cuisine teach us about insurance consolidation?

On a recent trip I took to Rome, a simply prepared tagliatelle Bolognese spurred an unexpected rumination on raw materials and on the masters of craft who turn those materials into a sum greater than their parts.

While it is difficult to have a disappointing dining experience in the Eternal City, one restaurant stood out as being truly exceptional. The head chef at this particular establishment was a famous advocate of the farm-to-table movement. He insisted on using only the finest organic ingredients from area farms, including the restaurant’s own garden. Tomatoes. Basil. Olives. Artichokes. Ingredients that could be pulled from the ground or plucked from the vine in the morning and be used in a patron’s meal that evening: When these foods were combined with the chef’s imagination, experience and attention to detail, gastronomical greatness ensued.

Now, it may sound like a bit of a stretch, but in the moment between the perfect pinot nero and the cacio e pepe, the thought struck me that a skilled insurance provider is remarkably similar to a culinary artist. The chef is keenly aware of the terroir—the environmental factors that affect an ingredient’s flavor. Likewise, an adept agent understands the unique environment that is the affluent lifestyle. His or her ability to source the best policies with the most appropriate coverages from the most appropriate carriers and create a comprehensive risk-management program for successful families truly mirrors the ethos of a renowned chef.

Unfortunately, many people believe that standardized insurance policies built for the masses will adequately protect their assets, properties and lifestyle. Perhaps once upon a time, earlier in their lives, that was true. But, as the years passed and success became something to be cherished instead of chased, these same individuals outgrew those coverages and left their assets dangerously exposed. And, at that point, they had neither the inclination nor the knowledge, desire or time to assemble adequate coverage from assorted sources.

Which, of course, is where the insurance agent comes in.

There are only a handful of carriers with the ability to cover high net worth (HNW) individuals, and the skilled agent knows the ins and outs of them all. Just as important, this agent grasps the not-so-common risks that accompany a certain kind of lifestyle. He or she doesn’t hesitate to recommend a “haute couture” endorsement for a client’s Hermès Birkin crocodile handbag (which isn’t technically priceless, but it may as well be).

What’s more, the agent understands cyber liability, liability for household employees (EPLI) and excess liability coverage against catastrophic exposures, plus the right mechanisms for addressing these exposures. All are second nature to an experienced agent.

With the practiced skill of a Michelin-starred chef, an agent who specializes in working with successful families and individuals can handle the intricacies, and sensitivities, of today’s HNW client in ways that à la carte brokers and carriers are simply unequipped to handle.

Consolidation puts one agent in charge of everything—like a chef—and brings organization, clarity and responsiveness to a client’s needs. All exposures, no matter how rare, are dealt with; coverage overlaps are minimized or eliminated; billing is reduced to a single account; and clients know they are dealing with companies that consistently keep their promises.

To answer the question posited in this essay’s title, the answer is . . . “Plenty.” If you are a person of certain means with complex exposures, some of which you may never have even considered before, chances are that finding a single, experienced agent to handle your needs is a wise move.

If you wouldn’t want a dozen chefs mucking about with your spaghetti ajo ojo e peperoncino, there’s no reason to seek out multiple agents—working in silos, no less—and piece together a hodgepodge of coverage that may offer much less coverage, and peace of mind, than you think. One agent. One comprehensive coverage strategy—like the master chef serving up another perfect plate, guaranteed to leave a better taste in your mouth.

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