Choosing a general aviation insurance broker
Specialist insurance brokers from Hayward Aviation Ltd, LL Johns and Willis Aerospace share their advice on how to choose an insurance broker.
The role of an insurance broker is far greater than simply finding the cheapest insurance coverage for the client. A good broker will advise you, make sure that you have the right cover for your needs and help you if you need to make a claim.
For these reasons it is extremely rare for any client to approach insurance companies directly and even the largest operators will use insurance brokers. The good news for aircraft owners and operators is that the insurance broker market is very competitive. The right broker is out there – you just need to find them.
Unless your aircraft is with a third-party aircraft manager or with an aircraft operator – who will, typically, include it in their policy – you will need to find an insurance broker to negotiate the best available coverage for you.
Aviation insurance brokers can be split into two groups: large international brokers like Aon, Marsh, Willis and others; and smaller, usually specialist general aviation brokers. The choice depends on your preference – although as business aircraft insurance is a specialist field, it is highly recommended that you use a broker that is experienced in this market.
When approaching a broker, you should feel confident in questioning them on their experience and asking for specific examples of cases they have dealt with in the past. We asked three experienced brokers for their advice on how to choose a broker. Read on for the questions that you should be asking…
How much aviation experience do they have?
“You need to ask questions like: Does our broker have significant leverage in the aviation insurance marketplace?” says Phil Elson, practice leader at Willis Aerospace – Corporate Aviation, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers. “If they’re pumping millions into the industry, that’s a good sign that they do and that they can use their leverage on your behalf.”
How much do they care about you?
Matthew Day, a director at Hayward Aviation Ltd – one of Europe’s largest specialist insurance brokers – says that experience and customer service are both incredibly important. “I think people in business aviation should choose their broker for the same reason that they are in business aviation; they need somebody who offers a flexible service every day of the week, that understands that your plans can quickly change and that price is not the be all and end all,” says Day.
“You should choose a broker who understands the business, who sees you as a person, rather than just another jet owner,” he adds. “I know clients that have called their broker and they have been greeted with an answer phone service – that’s not how business aviation works.”
Do they have sufficient contacts?
“You need to take into account the broker’s knowledge of aviation insurance, as well as their relationship with the underwriters,” says Steven Johns, president of LL Johns & Associates.
At the Lloyd’s insurance building in London – where roughly half of the world’s aviation underwriters are based – every day, insurance brokers, including Hayward and Willis, will approach underwriters spread across three floors to find the best deal for their client. They will speak to one syndicate and move on to the next, before moving back to the first again, bartering in a manner not too dissimilar to how a shopper would approach market stalls.
If a broker has a special request to ask an underwriter – such as insuring an aircraft that wishes to fly to a high-risk area the following morning – the underwriter will be more likely to oblige and prioritise the request, if they have a good relationship with the broker. This is why it is important to choose a broker who really knows the market and has a sufficient contact book to match.
Do you want them to have a global presence?
“Aviation is a global business, so I would recommend that a corporate jet owner should try to align themselves with a truly global broker,” says Elson. “If you have an issue with something that happens thousands of miles away, it could be a great help if your broker has an office near where the problem is.”
However, not all brokers agree that this is necessary. Smaller brokers will sometimes argue that few brokers actually have general aviation specialists in all these offices and there are international claims handlers like Airclaims that support all brokers and underwriters in the event of an accident.
How good are they at handling claims?
Elson agrees and suggests that you should ask the broker questions to prove their worth. “You need to be confident that your broker can demonstrate their experience in handling claims,” says Willis’ Elson. “Asking for examples of the type of claims they have dealt with in the past can give you a good idea of their experience.”
He adds: “Claims handling is a specialist area within aviation insurance, but some brokers don’t even have a specialist dedicated aviation insurance claims team.”
Can they provide contractual advice?
Elson says: “Not all aviation insurance brokers are equal when it comes to offering contractual advice. Some have specialist teams dedicated to helping clients with aviation insurance contractual issues – but many do not.
“It gets down to how much effort your broker puts into this,” he says. “If your broker renews your coverage year-after-year and you are not seeing any policy improvements, I would question whether they are really doing the best job.”