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From the Front Lines: Special Events

"I'm starting to see more people buy these special event policies for even regular parties," says independent agent Phillip Lewis. "I think consumers today have more of a mindset that they don't want to be responsible for any exposure from an event, even those held at their home."
Sponsored by

Phillip J. Lewis

Agency Principal

Homestead Insurance Agency

Winchester, Virginia

How did you get started at your agency? 

My wife and I worked for my father in his insurance agency when we were in high school and college and ended up starting our own agency about seven years ago. We took over a couple of smaller Nationwide agencies and also bought a few smaller independent agencies.

Why special events? 

It's one of the things that fell into my lap when I was working with my father. A large organization was doing a big event where they leased a cruise ship and sailed to the Bahamas over a three-day period. We wrote the organization's regular commercial insurance already and they asked if we could cover the special event. I guess I threw myself into the fire at the beginning. But it was a great learning experience because we ended up having to go to Lloyd's of London for the coverage. The organization held the event for three years and we covered it for all three.

Biggest special events changes?

Most recently, a lot of people are asking if COVID-19 is a covered item under their policy. A lot of carriers haven't defined that yet, but I think they're working toward defining it in their policies.

There's essentially a couple of different policies and some people just want the liability aspect because they need the certificate of insurance to rent out the facility for a wedding or another event. Unfortunately, some people think that when they're buying these policies they are covered for cancellation in any type of situation, but that's a separate policy—an actual cancellation policy. On the liability side of the market, I've seen rates increase by 15% on average.

Biggest challenges?

In the current climate, I think the major challenge is the number of people needing to cancel their policies because they had to reschedule or cancel their event. A lot of hosts and venues understand the situation and people have been able to get their money back as long as they rebook with the same facility. In those instances, it just creates a little bit more administration for us. 

Future trends in special events insurance? 

I'm starting to see more people buy these special event policies for even regular parties, not just large events such as weddings. Now we're seeing policies being purchased for retirement parties and even gender reveal parties. I think consumers today have more of a mindset that they don't want to be responsible for any exposure from an event, even those held at their home.

I think we're going to see more agents getting asked about this coverage. It's a service that you can offer, another way to create a relationship.

Favorite success story?

The coolest thing was insuring the cruise ship event to the Bahamas. As the main acts, they had ZZ Top and Creedence Clearwater Revival one year and Journey another year. And when you're working with Carnival Cruise Line and you're leasing out one of their ships, you want every nook and cranny covered because you're assuming liability for the entire ship.

Olivia Overman is IA content editor.

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Monday, January 25, 2021
Special Events