Turn to specialists for cover on quality street

Edmund Tirbutt reports on the upper end of the home contents market

BIG IS not always beautiful, especially when it comes to insuring beautiful things. For better quality homes, standard household policies from large composite insurers are rarely competitive with high net worth policies provided by specialists.

Nevertheless, Hiscox Underwriting, which has the largest share of the high net worth market, estimates that more than 95 per cent of homes with contents worth more than pounds 75,000 either use a standard contents policy or fail to insure their possessions.

Anyone with buildings worth more than pounds 200,000 and contents worth more than pounds 75,000 is likely to benefit from switching to a specialist. (Many do not realise they are in this category because their homes are underinsured.)

"In our experience most savings are between 25 per cent and 40 per cent," says Richard King, director of Artscope International, specialist brokers. "You would also expect to get more flexibility and security, including depreciation cover."

The high net worth players point to a number of factors that make wealthier households better risks. Security is generally tighter, and art and antiques appeal less to burglars than televisions and videos. Owners tend to treat their possessions better and are less likely to make fraudulent claims.

The main savings tend to be on contents. Hiscox's 606 High Value Household Policy, for example, charges no more than 30p per pounds 100 of cover for items such as pictures, books, collections, antiques and furniture. General contents, such as electrical equipment, carpets and clothes, would not cost more than 90p per pounds 100.

This means that a household with around pounds 80,000 of contents (60 per cent general contents and 40 per cent antiques) would pay no more than pounds 530 a year - under half the cost of most standard policies.

High net worth policies can enable numerous additions to be kept in a single tailor-made package. They can extend to second homes, small boats and even to horses and ponies. The approach is more convenient and cost- effective than buying cover for individual components.

The availability of depreciation cover (to pay for loss of value as well as restoration in the event of damage) is also of paramount importance when art work or antiques are involved.

The value of a slightly damaged piece of Chinese porcelain after repair could, for example, be only half that of an identical undamaged piece. Nevertheless, a standard household policy would only pay for the cost of repairs.

Depreciation cover is offered by all the four main established high net worth players - Hiscox Underwriting, Cox Underwriting Services and Wellington Personal Insurances, which are all Lloyd's service companies.

Masterpiece is a dual venture by Chubb Europe and Sun Alliance.

"The four main players have gone to great lengths to get it right and in most cases there is no need to look further afield," says Beryl Anstee, underwriting manager at Towry Law. "They can give you the best cover at the most competitive premiums and have an excellent record when it comes to claims paying."

Their policies, while taking a broadly similar approach, all have their own idiosyncrasies.

Wellington's Gold Cover, for example, is unusual in having an extension for private motor vehicles (including collector's cars), while Cox's Personal Insurance Portfolio is notable for offering free annual travel insurance for the entire family.

A minefield of smaller print variables in fact makes it difficult to select the policy most suitable for one's own particular needs. The help of a specialist intermediary is essential in most cases. Even the product providers themselves tend to direct inquirers towards a suitable broker.

Towry Law (Slough branch), Artscope International (Farnborough) and Penrose Forbes (Banbury) are all intermediaries with good reputations. Such specialists, while primarily inclined towards the "Big Four", can also draw on their knowledge of certain niche players.

Norwich Union's Highline can be especially competitive at the lower end of the market, while those with unusually valuable art collections may benefit from dealing with Nordstern Art Insurance.

Independent's Home by Design is also well thought of. It provides policyholders with a free comprehensive appraisal of the home, which includes advice on security and risk management.

Particular care should, however, be taken over many of the newer policies.

Experts stress that some pricing is unrealistically low and that some of the wording in the policies often leaves much to be desired.

They also say that composite insurers, while not providing high net worth schemes as such, are offering massive renewal discounts on standard household policies in a deliberate attempt to rival the specialists.

They are, however, simply providing high sums insured without tailoring the cover to clients' needs, say the experts.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea