When CHP decided to revamp its film product, it went behind the scenes to find out what was missing. We speak to the broker that is now ready for its close-up
The scene opens with insurance broker Andrew Leen arriving at a film screening. Leen is the head of Performance, a specialist scheme developed by Cadogan Hanover Park (CHP), which offers insurance to the film and media industry. He and some of his colleagues are attending the screening of a film by one of their clients. Having turned up in their usual suits and ties, they look somewhat out of place surrounded by media types in jeans and casual clothes.
“You must be the money men,” someone quips.
“Actually, we’re the insurance brokers.”
“But insurance brokers don’t come to things like this,” comes the reply.
Leen laughs as he remembers the incident, and says: “We thought: actually that’s something we can do differently from our competitors. Let’s make sure we mix with people in the industry so we can find out what they need.”
Building these relationships has been an important part of the scheme’s evolution. But the story starts back in 1996, when CHP originally decided to create a specialist product for the film and media industry. It was underwritten by Aviva, which saw potential in the concept and already had a strong relationship with CHP.
The initial policy wording combined commercial covers, including technical equipment liability and business interruption, as well as protection for production budgets against injuries to cast and crew, damages to material and loss of other facilities that the production relies upon.
There was also alternative hire costs to replace equipment lost and damaged on a shoot, and cover relating to risks where hired equipment is damaged. Hire firms specialising in camera kit could also benefit from the scheme – for instance, with cover if equipment is hired using false ID and is then stolen.
To reflect the project-by-project approach of the industry, short-period policies covering productions of 90 days or less were made available, as well as more traditional annual policies.
Leen joined CHP in 2005 and was tasked with developing the scheme. He says: “At that point, it had been running pretty well for 10 years. I was brought in to examine it and see how we could take it to the next level.”
It was a process that would take some years to come to fruition, with a number of changes not implemented until 2009. This was partly down to the great emphasis put on consultation before implementing any major changes: both Aviva and Performance’s client bases in the film industry were consulted.
Performance had previously been part of CHP’s commercial schemes department. Although it is still part of the same parent company, it launched itself under a separate brand identity, trading under its own name, in January 2009. In March that year, the scheme rephrased its policy wording.
Leen initially approached Aviva to work on this in 2007, spending the next two years in discussion with the insurance provider on the best way to achieve this. Leen also gathered views from filmmakers, production companies, hire firms and post-production firms.
This last group was a part of the market that Leen was particularly interested in engaging with. “Post-production companies would phone us and say they were working on a client’s material, and ask if we could insure them against damaging it. We always had to say no. But when you have to say that so many times, you start wondering why it’s not possible. And the answer to that was that it’s hard to quantify what the cost of the production is,” Leen says.
“So we went to Aviva and told them we had found a gap in the market. And when we launched the new policy wording, we launched a new cover called ‘post-production indemnity’. Basically, in the event of a claim we go to the production company whose work our post-production client had damaged and establish how much it’s going to cost to redo the lost work. Our client’s policy then pays them to reinstate that element of their production where they haven’t insured it themselves.”
The new policy wording introduced several other covers, including legal expenses, personal accident, directors’ and officers’ liabilities, and business travel. It also widened elements of the existing cover, allowing more flexibility – for instance, ensuring that clients were covered if they needed to work abroad at short notice.
In May this year, a further change shifted all the short-period policies to an automated, online system. This allows 24-hour access to clients for kit insurance, employers’ liability, public liability and producers’ indemnity. It also reduces administration costs so that Performance can pass the savings on to customers and offer a more competitive price.
The scheme caters to a wide range of clients, which Leen describes as ranging from “one-man bands to multimillion-pound post-production houses” and also include studios, sound studios, production companies and hire firms.
Client retention is good. Leen says that most of the business they lose is because of small clients having to take a year off from filming to tout a project round the marketplace. And obviously the credit crunch had an impact on the film industry.
But Leen says the current mood is optimistic. He comments: “There has been some dismay at the abolition of the UK Film Council. But generally I would say that the clients that have come through the last few years believe the climate is looking more optimistic and it’s time to be getting on with things.”
Engage your audience
Feedback from such clients is important. Performance builds its relationships in a number of ways: conducting workshops with the Guild of Television Cameramen as well as offering insurance advice to the organisation’s members through articles penned by Leen in the Guild’s in-house magazine.
Performance’s staff regularly attend screenings and even jetted out to the Cannes film festival this year. Keen to support the industry, it ran a short film competition last year, with a gala awards and screening ceremony held at BAFTA headquarters. The winner received a cheque for £5,000, with runners-up getting free post-production and equipment hire to help with future projects.
Performance was also one of the sponsors of the first Croydon film festival in April and has offered marketing support to first-time filmmakers putting on screenings.
The benefits of maintaining this level of engagement are two-fold. There is the obvious public relations advantage (most new customers come from referrals). And keeping in touch with the industry also means that Performance can continually reassess the services it offers.
As Leen says: “We gauge opinion from the film industry because, at the end of the day, we are their insurance brokers. We may know insurance, but we need to know what works for our clients.” IT