As Tropical Storm Arthur moves its way up the east coast, brokers have an opportunity to turn catastrophe into a bigger book of clients.
For Christiane Fischer, president and CEO of AXA
Art Americas Corporation, her company came into its own during the baptism by fire that was Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“It was the second day of my vacation with my family, we saw the footage on television and I said to my husband, ‘Sorry, we have to head back to the city. This is the end of my vacation,’” says Fischer. “As I was driving back to the city I called the office and said, ‘We have a problem here. Here’s the first thing we need to do: hire a helicopter; hire an amphibious vehicle; and get your hands on as many generators as you can. And get in contact with some disaster recovery teams.’”
By taking a proactive approach, Fischer and AXA Art not only saved the treasures at the New Orleans Museum, but had collectors bringing their valuables to the museum.
“Every private collector had brought their valuables to the museum,” says Fischer, who had to explain that as an insurer responsible for the contents of the museum, she couldn’t have them on site unless they were clients of AXA Art. “But it all worked out fine and it was a great story for us, because we had been so proactive and had been so engaged with our clients. It gave us a huge amount of credibility in the market, coming in without a lot of bureaucracy.”
As for Tropical Storm Arthur, forecasters are predicting that it should only reach Category 1 hurricane strength as it tracks northward.
Going the extra mile is what builds customer loyalty, Fischer points out. A good example of this is how she assisted a client who – although he hadn’t suffered an art loss – was in a desperate situation to find adequate accommodations for an ailing 90-year-old mother requiring special care.
“We’re an insurance company; not a booking agent. But we found him a climate-controlled room for his mother,” says Fischer. “That was more important than anything else that we could have done for him; his mother was of the greatest value.
“Now, he tells everyone that we are the best insurance company. You can’t buy that kind of advertising – well, we did; we paid for the hotel room!”
Fischer says that you don’t have to sacrifice the bottom line to have this type of relationship with your clients.
“I’m not in the philanthropic business; I’m in the for-profit business,” she told Insurance Business. “But the best way to do business is to be completely involved in the community you are doing business in. And it is good business practice to give back to the community that you are in.”