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From the Front Lines: Classic Cars

Independent agent Morgan Duffy has a "very positive outlook" for the future of the classic car insurance market. "People always complain that the millennial generation doesn’t want anything to do with collector cars," he says. "But when I go to the trade shows, I don’t see it."
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ClassicCarsFTFLMorgan Duffy

Hayden Wood Insurance Agency, Inc.
Southborough, Massachusetts

How did you get started at your agency?

It’s a family agency. My grandfather started it when he got back from World War II. When I was in college, majoring in business, I started working for the agency as a file cleaner-outer. Then, as I was graduating, I transitioned to working full-time and ended up being hired as a CSR.

When my father and my uncle both passed away, I’d been here for about eight years, and I was the only family member of my generation that wanted to work there. I had a very good relationship with my grandfather, and I thought it would be cool to see his business continue for three generations.

Why classic cars?

When I first started at the agency, it was a very stereotypical small-town New England insurance agency. But in 2008, auto insurance was deregulated in Massachusetts, which really changed the marketplace. Giant agencies and banks were acquiring agencies. And then there were the big direct sellers entering the market who treat insurance as a commodity rather than the tailored protection it should be.

But as I watched it change, I started to see the writing on the wall. When you’re watching rates and commissions drop and seeing all the smaller shops closing up, there are only a few directions to go: buy, sell or niche. I’ve always had a passion for cars, so I decided on the latter. It worked out very well for me and was a big turning point for the agency.

Biggest classic car changes?

In the world of collector cars, we see things change depending on the generation that’s currently getting into cars. The brass-era cars used to be what people focused on, but that dropped out of favor and the muscle cars came in. And then, people really started focusing on cars from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Now, we’re going through another phase with the kids who were into cars in the ’80s and early ’90s. At one point, you couldn’t put a truck in a collector auto policy, but now trucks are collector’s items.

Biggest classic car challenges?

Understanding the product. There are a lot of differences between the carriers. There are not a lot of players, but there are enough that you really need to understand the nuances and what they’re looking to write.

Another challenge is making sure what you’re providing your client is the right fit because, depending on how that client is using the car, there can be a lot of differences in risk.

Future of classic car insurance?

I have a very positive outlook. If you’re only focusing on one segment and don’t stay up to date with what constitutes as collectability, then you’re going to have a negative perception. People always complain that the millennial generation doesn’t want anything to do with collector cars. But when I go to the trade shows, I don’t see it. Their tastes are different, but that doesn’t mean they’re not into it at all.

We’re very big in racing, and one of the products we provide is on-track physical damage. I see that hobby growing, even with younger kids. Also, if someone’s into racing cars, a lot of time that transitions into collecting cars.

Advice for a fellow classic car insurance agent?

Follow the trends and keep track of what’s popular. In your head you may not think it’s collectible, but don’t write it off, because it might be—it’s not for you to decide. Also, take the time to really understand how the client is using their car, use the markets you have and then you’ll find the right place for it.

Favorite classic car success story?

For a claims success story, we had a client who had a custom vintage car—a 1938 vehicle that was worth $1.6 million. It was being transported from show to show in an enclosed trailer, and somebody rear-ended it when it was stopped in traffic. The client was super appreciative that we had taken the time to understand what his car was and that it needed to be treated at a concierge level. By taking the time to understand your client and what they’re doing with their vehicle, you can turn a horrific experience into something positive when something bad happens.

While we do offer our own collector auto program, we still represent all the top providers, such as AIG, Hagerty & Grundy. Overall, it always comes down to doing what’s right for the client and having multiple options prevents that old adage of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole becoming a reality.

Will Jones is IA assistant editor.

Sunday, August 2, 2020
Classic Cars