After 31 years (almost 170 dog years) as the face of insurance giant MetLife Inc., the company said October 20, 2016 that it is launching a new global branding effort, marking the end of a long relationship with Charlie Brown’s beagle and the Peanuts crew.
“We brought in Snoopy over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant,” said Esther Lee, MetLife’s global chief marketing officer. “Snoopy helped drive our business and served an important role at the time.”
But MetLife is spinning off its domestic retail life insurance business to focus more on corporate clients. Snoopy does not appear to hold the same marketing swagger with corporate America.
POOLER, Ga. _ Waist-deep floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew coursed down the street in Pooler and seeped under Lori Galemore’s doors, swamping the carpets and furniture as she and her three sons retreated upstairs, where they stayed until firefighters arrived by boat.
Galemore and her neighbours in Pooler, a community about 35 miles inland from the evacuated Georgia coast, were deluged not by seawater driven ashore by the hurricane, but by rain and runoff that overwhelmed a drainage ditch at the end of their cul-de-sac.
“Everybody said, ‘You’re not in a flood plain. You don’t need flood insurance,” Galemore said Wednesday as her husband and sons threw out soggy furniture, waterlogged books, towels and blankets and wet chunks of drywall. “And flood insurance is expensive. Who wants to pay that?”
Galemore’s story is all too common. Many Americans don’t have flood insurance, some because they don’t want to pay for it, some because they don’t see the need for it.
Even in high-risk flood zones where homes are required to have such coverage, the compliance rate nationally was only 53 per cent as of 2015, according to the government’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Industry officials say it is a troubling situation, especially since the risk of flooding appears to be on the rise.
“We seem to be having more and more flooding events, be it climate change or other things. We’re seeing areas that are experiencing flooding events that may not have experienced them in the past,” said Cynthia DiVincenti, a vice-president at Aon National Flood Services.
Ordinary homeowner insurance typically covers wind damage _ torn-off roofs, fallen trees _ but not flooding. Banks require homes in high-risk flood zones to buy flood insurance, but even then the percentage of properties that are covered is well short of 100 per cent. It was 57 per cent in Florida, 72 per cent in South Carolina and 81 per cent in Louisiana, the National Flood Insurance Program reported.
Worse, lots of flooding takes place outside those designated hazard areas. That was the case when heavy storms flooded parts of South Carolina last year and an unnamed storm recently inundated the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area. The damage in Baton Rouge was put at $660 million, and most people there had no flood insurance.
“Flooding is the most common and costly disaster we see in the United States,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Rafael Lemaitre. Flood claims have averaged more than $1.9 billion per year since 2006, according to federal officials.
Flood insurance in low- to moderate-risk areas averages $400 to $600 a year, according to FEMA. FEMA, through the National Flood Insurance Program, offers flood insurance because it’s generally not profitable for private insurers to sell it.
Matthew sideswiped Florida and Georgia last week before blowing ashore briefly in South Carolina and unloading more than a foot of rain on North Carolina, where it triggered disastrous flooding. The U.S. death toll is well over 30.
Walter Coker’s fish camp on the Matanzas River in Crescent Beach, Florida, was inundated. The 4-foot surge destroyed a warehouse on the property where he stores furniture imported from Indonesia. The boat slips he rents out were torn apart, with the huge wooden pilings used to hold the docks jerked out of the river bottom. Floodwaters inundated his bait and tackle shop, ruining the coolers that hold bait and beer.
Coker didn’t have flood insurance.
“I did look into it. It would’ve been very expensive,” he said. “It’s one of those things you don’t buy it on something you don’t think will happen.”
The floodwaters were waist-high inside Kathy Finger’s elegant two-story brick home with crystal chandeliers in Nichols, South Carolina. Now she is unsure how to proceed without flood insurance.
“I wouldn’t imagine that hardly anyone had it,” the 67-year-old said of her town near the Lumber River. The river had never overflowed before, and no one had any reason to fear it would, she said.
Homeowners without flood insurance may qualify for federal grants for shelter and food, but those are typically small sums and aren’t meant to replace all losses. Homeowners can also apply for low-interest disaster loans, which must be repaid.
Paul Mueller estimated his Pooler home has up to $80,000 worth of damage from the foot of water in his house. Like his neighbours, Mueller doesn’t have flood insurance either.
“We’re all in the same boat here,” he said. “If we had trees to come down on our houses, we’d have been covered. That’s the sad truth.”
A few hours after midnight on Monday morning, Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in her Paris hotel of what is now estimated to be more than $10 million worth of jewelry — a story that has captivated the media, both in Europe and the U.S., in the days since.
As there is little chance the jewels will be recovered, Kardashian is now presumably about to enter into a complicated claims process with her insurance company — most likely Lloyd’s of London (which specializes in insurance for multimillion-dollar gems), according to Scott Andrew Selby, co-author of Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History.
But how much Kardashian West will receive for the loss (assuming, of course, that each piece was insured) depends on a number of factors, including the category and conditions of her coverage. “It all depends on the type of jewelry coverage the customer purchased,” Janece White, North American vice president of underwriting and jewelry specialist at Chubb Personal Risk Services, a multinational property and casualty insurer, tells Billboard. “Was it worldwide coverage? Was there a maximum amount of coverage provided while traveling? Were there any restrictions with regard to the security required while traveling with the jewelry? In some instances restrictions are placed on the policy, which require that when traveling the jewelry be kept in a secure hotel safe — not the room safe.”
The conditions of Elizabeth Taylor’s insurance on the famous, 69.42 carat Taylor-Burton diamond, for example, specified that Taylor should only wear it in public 30 days per year and when protected by security guards, according to Lloyd’s. If anything had happened to the diamond while violating those conditions, she would not have received the full value of her claim.
Assuming Kardashian West is indeed insured, and was following the dictates of her policy to a T, the claims process will still be complicated. “Very high value, unique and rare items can be tricky to replace with pieces of ‘like kind and quality,’ which is the standard for most insurance companies,” Heather Perkins, head of underwriting at Los Angeles-based jewelry insurance specialist Lavalier, tellsBillboard. “So a multi-million dollar claim like this one is going to be difficult, both to investigate and to resolve.”
It is common for those who own jewels as pricey at Kardashian West’s to wear imitation jewelry while traveling — something White strongly suggests for other owners of high-ticket items. And if an imitation set is not an option, storing the jewels in the hotel security safe when they aren’t being worn is a must. “I would also be wary of making my whereabouts known, as individuals who could wish me harm could use that information,” she adds. “And lastly, because even when all precautions are taken, sometimes bad things happen. I would want to make sure I had the best insurance coverage in place to protect my valuabl
NEW YORK _ A 91-year-old former chief executive of insurance company AIG seemed eager to defend himself Tuesday against civil fraud charges, insisting he had no reason to attempt to hide several hundred million dollars in losses from the auto warranty wing of a mammoth business operating in 137 countries.
During testimony in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Maurice Greenberg said American International Group Inc.’s accountants and lawyers did explore in 1999 and 2000 how to convert the large insurance underwriting loss in the auto warranty business into an investment loss.
Assistant Attorney General David Nachman asked the former multi-decade AIG chief executive if converting underwriting debt into investment debt would allow the company to report higher underwriting income and lower investment income.
“It could be,” he said. “I don’t know.”
New York state has accused Greenberg and AIG’s former chief financial officer of manipulating AIG’s accounting records in 2000 and 2001 to hide hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from investors.
The state wants state Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos, who is hearing the trial without a jury, to ban Greenberg from working in the securities industry or as a public company executive. It also seeks $53 million, including bonuses Greenberg received in the years he was alleged to have manipulated the company’s finances.
Greenberg said he wasn’t concerned about the company’s bottom line in 1999 because the losses were such a small part of the company’s operating revenue.
“It was a minor effect on our overall results,” the World War II and Korean War veteran said during daylong testimony that was set to resume Wednesday.
He said he got immersed in the troubles with the auto warranty business “to teach a lesson to management that had concocted a bad deal and had to learn from that.”
“The main issue for me from the beginning was to teach a lesson to our people,” Greenberg said.
Nachman cited email and other correspondence Greenberg had between 1999 and 2002 to refresh his memory about the auto warranty program and told Greenberg that he suspected he had reviewed the materials himself as he dealt with the state’s accusations and prepared for trial.
But Greenberg was dismissive of the litigation, saying “other things are far more important than this.”
He added: “I did not think this was an important matter for me,” especially since it occurred more than 15 years ago.
AIG, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008 at the height of the financial crisis and received about $180 billion in bailout aid from the government.
Greenberg was forced out in 2005 after leading the company for more than 37 years after he replaced founded C.V. Starr, who died in 1968.
The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) launched a blistering attack on the auto insurance industry, claiming an upper-income motorist with a drunk-driving record — in most instances — could still pay lower premiums than a moderate-income motorist with a clean driving record.
A CFA report released Monday singled out GEICO and Progressive (PGR) as the worst offenders among the five major auto insurers for “penalizing” moderate- and lower-income drivers, while the largest car insurer, State Farm, came out as the best.
The other two insurers covered in the report were Allstate (ALL) and Farmers.
GEICO could not immediately be reached for comment, and Progressive declined comment, but James Lynch, vice president of research for the Insurance Information Institute (III), which represents the auto insurance industry, said the CFA had “shoehorned” the study to get the results it wanted.
“Insurers don’t look at your income,” said Lynch. “They just look at your risk of having an accident.”
But the CFA said the factors it used reflected income. It looked at prices by getting quotes in 15 major cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles for two typical female drivers.
One was deemed to be a bank executive with a Masters degree who was a married homeowner and had the same auto insurance coverage for three years.
The other was supposedly a bank teller with a high school diploma who was an unmarried renter, and hadn’t had insurance for the past six months. Both 30-year-olds drove an older Toyota 10,000 miles a year and had been licensed for 14 years.
The results of the 600 requests for coverage that the CFA made to the five insurers were startling, according to its Director of Insurance Bob Hunter.
“In 70 percent of the cases where a comparison was possible, a moderate-income driver with a perfect record was charged more for basic liability insurance than a high-income driver with a recent DUI (driving while intoxicated) conviction,” said Hunter.
Even more disturbing, said Hunter, insurers would offer an online quote to the upper-income DUI driver while refusing even to provide a quote to the moderate-income driver with the same risk.
The CFA report also rated upper- and moderate-income motorists for other bad driving factors, such as at-fault accidents where an injury occurred, moving violations and multiple violations, and got more or less the same result. In the worst case cited, nine out of 10 times Progressive charged the “safe” moderate-income driver more than the wealthy DUI-convicted driver.
Hunter said the insurers target wealthy drivers and are willing to forgive their faults in order to market other products to them, such as life, banking, business, yacht and airplane insurance.
Only in California, with its strong consumer protections against using economic factors, did moderate-income drivers always pay less, said the CFA report.
The CFA has been in a long-running battle with car insurers, urging limits on how economic status, as measured by job, education and especially credit rating, can be used to decide how much drivers should pay in premiums.
But the auto insurance industry believes these are legitimate psychological factors in judging a driver’s future performance. “They’ve been used for 30 years, and most state regulators approve them because they’ve been shown to be effective,” said the III’s Lynch.
For example, people with low credit scores are viewed as “risk takers” who do so both with money and on the road. Other factors the CFA used, such as being unmarried and having a lapse in insurance coverage, also raise red flags with insurers.
Hunter pointed out that not having an auto insurance policy could mean the applicant had served in the military overseas, but insurers look at data — not at individuals.
“Frankly, it’s hard to get coverage at all if you’ve had a DUI,” said Lynch. “In order to get it, you have to go through a rigorous process, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do it online or over the phone in any case. An offer of coverage is just an offer — until you actually sign up.”
But the CFA and III absolutely agree on one topic: Shop around for insurance, and don’t accept the advertising you see on TV as gospel. Hunter also said online sites advertising insurance quotes are limited because they accept commissions from insurers that advertise on them, and they don’t show quotes from insurers like USAA that don’t pay commissions.
Echoing a refrain made famous by GEICO, Hunter said, “An hour of research will save you $125 on your car insurance premium.”
Hub International Limited (Hub), a leading global insurance brokerage, announced today that it has acquired the shares of Sarjeant Insurance Brokers Limited (Sarjeant). Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Based in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, Sarjeant specializes in providing property and casualty insurance solutions. Randall Maxim, Sarjeant’s President, and Patricia Hanmer, Sarjeant’s Vice President, will join Hub Ontario and report to Barry Hogan, President, Hub Gamble Division.
About Hub’s M&A Activities
Hub International Limited is committed to growing organically and through acquisitions to expand its geographic footprint and strengthen industry and product expertise. For more information on the Hub M&A experience, visit WeAreHub.com.
About Hub International
Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Hub International Limited is a leading global insurance brokerage that provides property and casualty, life and health, employee benefits, investment and risk management products and services from offices located throughout North America. For more information, please visit hubinternational.com.