Trusted partners are priceless in art and antiques claims

With the value of precious items on the rise, the steps insurers and policyholders take both pre-loss and post-loss can have a significant impact on claims performance. By Richard Wakeham, UK Head of Private Clients, Crawford & Company®

In May, the Rockefeller family’s art collection could be the first to exceed $1bn at auction. If this huge landmark is indeed breached, it may not be for the last time. And it’s not just art valuations that are hot at the moment. Gemstones and jewelry are also realizing very high prices.

As the value of art, antiques and other precious items continues to rise, so do claims values. Before an item or collection is insured, it should be accurately surveyed and valued – not just once, but on a regular basis to reflect current market movements. Many art pieces or collections are insured on a valued basis, so pre-loss valuations are vital, particularly in the event of a total loss.

Keeping sums insured up to date makes insurers’ and adjusters’ jobs much easier. It also makes the policyholder think about what they have acquired and disposed of, allowing them to prioritize and optimize their risk management.

Ideally, owners should revalue their portfolios annually. Often they don’t, though some insurers will insist on an annual valuation if the collection is particularly large or valuable.

Much of the time value is just an opinion. It’s not a science but an art, and it’s important to be pragmatic. Working with trusted advisors is therefore essential in the claims environment. Crawford°, for example, has partnered with renowned auction house Bonhams to ensure valuations are made with confidence and consistency, both before or after a loss or in the event of recovery, salvage or loss of value following restoration.

Fast response

Due to the ease of communication in the social media age, claims performance is perhaps more challenging now than ever as claimants are often impatient to get their claims resolved as quickly as possible. Having the right experts on hand is hugely important, and knowing who to call in the event of a loss should be central to any disaster response plan.

Policyholders, brokers, insurers and loss adjusters must all work closely together, in conjunction with a team of experts that could include valuers, surveyors, disaster recovery experts, carriers, restorers, forensics teams and salvage experts.

If there is a large loss, it must be acted on straight away, day or night. This is not just good service – it can also significantly reduce the cost of the claim.

Damaged items should be stabilised and, if necessary, an appropriate carrier should be engaged to remove items and transport them into the right hands. Often items are unique, so having the correct contractors on hand – an artist’s preferred restorer, for example – can make a big difference when it comes to minimising loss of value.

Steps may need to be taken at the scene to mitigate further loss, such as removing paintings from a damp atmosphere or cleaning off smoke to prevent secondary acid damage. Once the present threat is dealt with, it may then be necessary to consider existing risk management protocols and install preventative equipment to minimise the risk of a similar loss happening again.

If a damaged piece is recovered and restored, the item may again be valued to inform settlement negotiations. Salvage is also an important service to offer. If a policyholder does not want something returned after it has been damaged, knowing where to go for an effective disposal, which can significantly reduce insurers’ indemnity spend, is important.

Improved claim performance ultimately comes down to service, speed of response and having the right individuals with the correct skillset and knowledge attending to the loss. If all these components are present, the rest should fall into place.

To find out more about the Crawford Arts & Antique Service, contact Richard Wakeham on

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