As our reputation as a leading private client broker grows, so does our expertise in farm and estate insurance.
In January this year Will Johnson joined us as a partner to found our Penrith office and brought with him the experience of working for the NFU Mutual in Lancaster after a degree from Cirencester. With a brother as a land agent and a father a retired land agent, Will is steeped in the management of the countryside and is ideally placed to manage the insurances of farms and estates all over the North of England and Scotland. Then in July Andrea Taylor arrived from Lycetts after 12 years in their Newmarket and Edinburgh offices looking after bloodstock as well as farm and estate clients. Andrea is the daughter of a Lockerbie farmer and it is hard to think of a better qualified team to represent us. Penrith is so well placed geographically that most of the North is within easy reach of our office which means that they can easily deliver the hands-on personal service that is at the core what we offer.
In a parallel move, Martin Wright joined our Swindon office as a partner in July. Until then Martin had worked for the NFU for all of his career and for the last twenty five years as the group secretary of its Wotton Under Edge branch in Gloucestershire. Located between Cirencester and Tetbury, this branch was the NFU Mutual’s leading office for the insurance of farms and estates in the whole country and so we are absolutely delighted to have someone of Martin’s calibre join us. He is a key signing and the depth of his experience is already proving invaluable to us and our clients.
Between Will, Andrea and Martin, Weatherbys Hamilton is now in a very strong position to challenge the established players in the farm and estate market represented principally by RK Harrison, Lycetts and the NFU. Quality of advice is just as important as premium and we are very well positioned to provide our clients with the best of both worlds. With the rest of Weatherbys Hamilton growing strongly in its core areas of private client and equine insurance, we are very confident that we are providing products and service that clients are finding increasingly hard to obtain elsewhere.
The incomparable Sir Mark Prescott is often quoted as saying that 90% of horses spend their lives trying to kill themselves, with 95% of their grooms aiding and abetting them. The Fire Services in this country definitely fall in to the remaining 5%.
Stephen Howard’s ex-racehorse, Pacco, is yet to truly test the Prescott theory but prevention is better than cure. The stalwart of our Wellingborough office was fortunate to have a demonstration at his yard last weekend from the Wellingborough Fire Service’s ‘Animal Rescue Team’, highlighting the various dangers and the best ways to avoid them. This particular Fire Service is one of the leading crews in the country, rescuing horses that have become cast in their boxes, fallen into watercourses, or become entangled in a horsebox or trailer partition.
Their equipment and techniques were first developed in North America and Canada nearly 20 years ago and these dedicated teams now ensure that 90% of all horses they are called out to survive. The most common scenario is freeing a horse that has become cast in its box or whilst out in the field. Normally they can simply be pulled over using a lunge line, but if the horse has been down for some time they are often too exhausted to stand or help themselves. The crew attach webbing straps around the horse’s flank and girth before they can manoeuvre them to safety and then if necessary winch them up off the ground to allow the blood to circulate around their system. The Wellingborough Service has a specialist all-terrain vehicle for this purpose, which can also be used to extricate horses from ditches or deep water.
Transporting horses exposes them to another range of dangers, especially when the vehicle in question is not fit for purpose. Sadly the team reported that far too many of the boxes and trailers that they attend are poorly maintained and there is a proliferation of modified LCVs which have not always been adapted correctly. Rotten floors, low partition walls and simple mistakes such as leaving feed just out reach, can lead to disaster. There was no shortage of gruesome imagery to accompany the talk, but thankfully a large number of horses now survive these ordeals because of the fire team’s experience and proficiency with cutting equipment.
Fire services across the country are adept at saving both human and equine lives.
As we pride ourselves on being a people business it is gratifying that Our Team is consistently the most visited page on our website. In the last year it has been visited more than twice as often as any other page and shows that most people are naturally curious to know more about the voice on the other end of the telephone. There is no doubt in our minds that Weatherbys Hamilton will need to keep abreast of technology in the years ahead if it is to give its clients the best of both worlds, but that should never be at the expense of employing people of the highest calibre that we can find.
Any comparison with Scrooge is entirely unmerited but we abandoned the concept of an office Christmas party a long time ago. Instead we have always thought it better to have our annual get-together in February or March when there are fewer distractions and Our Team tends to need cheering up at the end of a long winter. In recent times we have been to Lille for lunch on the Eurostar, to the Stoop to watch Harlequins, but this year we embarked on a GPS treasure hunt with various challenges along the way. This took place in and around Covent Garden and Whitehall, followed by a high-speed voyage down the Thames in Ribs. All extremely good fun and the rather sober photos of Our Team that feature on the website give no inkling of the raging competitiveness that lies beneath the surface.
At the risk of shattering a few illusions, we are posting a few memories of the day but can assure you that the next time that you pick up the telephone everything will have returned to normal! Our Team remains our strongest asset and long may it remain so.
Monday 22nd February was a really significant day for us as it marked the opening of our office in Penrith. Will Johnson, previously with NFU Mutual in Lancaster and Howden Private Clients in London, has joined us to run this office which is brilliantly well placed to reach clients all over the north of England and Scotland. 1b Hobson Court is on the Penrith 40 Business Park which is only 200yds off the M6/ A66 junction and links all points of the compass very easily. One of our priorities is to be able to look after our clients by visiting them whenever they want and so to be able to reach the likes of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York or Manchester in two hours or less adds a huge dimension to our business. We are already operating from Newmarket, London, Swindon and Wellingborough and though it might be a bit early in our development to talk in terms of national coverage, we are genuinely able to deliver what we promise, which is a personal, face-to-face service as an absolute given. Our Penrith office will provide the same range of private client insurances that our others do and we feel that we can justifiably be described as a serious new force in a sector where brokers are in danger of forgetting their clients in the rush for consolidation.
To celebrate our opening, the £15,000 Weatherbys Hamilton Chase was run on the same day 20 minutes up the M6 at Carlisle and we entertained some of the good and the great of Cumbria to lunch in a box with a magnificent view over the racecourse. The Jockey Club bought the course from its local owners some 10 years ago and have invested heavily in it. The result is a most attractive undulating course with excellent facilities, a fantastic stand and a track that is able to withstand nearly 30 days racing a year in an area where rain is hardly unknown. After surviving an 8am inspection the ground on Monday was heavy and inevitably the horses finished very tired. The low weights had a good day and our race was won by Courtdown Oscar who is something of a course specialist and trained by Philip Kirby at Middleham in North Yorkshire, emphasising just how accessible so many places are from the Penrith area.
Weatherbys Hamilton has come a long way in the three years since we started and has more than trebled its turnover. Starting with the nucleus of the Weatherbys Insurance bloodstock book, we have developed the strong following that we wanted for houses, cars, estates and the like and are extremely excited about the prospects for the next three years and beyond. Penrith is only the next stage.
We all know what is said about death and taxes and unfortunately the imminent rise in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) is one of those certainties. When we launched the WH blog earlier this year with the aim of bringing pertinent and topical news to you, we wanted to avoid where possible the often rather dreary, data heavy content that populates most insurers’ and brokers’ websites.
However, every dog has its day and we can’t ignore the imminent rise in Insurance Premium Tax. The Government announced in its post-election budget in July that IPT will increase with effect from 1st November from 6% to 9.5% of the premium that you pay, with the exception of travel insurance where it will remain at 20%. This will affect all insurance policies renewed or incepted after 1st November and represents an additional £35 for every £1,000 of household, motor, liability or bloodstock premium through us. This IPT increase does also have the potential to impact a policy that is already in force at 1st November, because any adjustments made to the policy after that date may be subject to IPT.
The increase in IPT is obviously part of the Government’s fiscal strategy to balance the books of the UK economy and will affect all UK based policyholders. However, the market remains extremely competitive for all the private client insurances that Weatherbys Hamilton provides and so hopefully the effect of the increase will not be felt too keenly. If you would like to discuss any other consequences of this change to you, please feel free to contact one of our team who can talk it through in person.
I have always been curious about sky-diving and David Bates has now satisfied my curiosity in the most satisfactory way by removing any necessity to do it myself. In the skies over Swindon our man intrepidly hurled himself in to space and floated safely down to earth to take up position behind his desk in the Swindon office the following Monday without a hair out of place.
After the initial disappointment of the jump being cancelled in June, I am pleased to say that I finally did it on Saturday.
It was all very relaxed and there were lots of people at the airfield which is just four miles from the office here in Swindon. There were people from not far away like me but others had come from further afield to take part. Some were doing it for charity, others just because they wanted to.
There isn’t much training as basically you are strapped to an expert and they do everything, so we had a 15 minute run through of what would happen and then waited to be called. Luckily I was in the second group to go up, together with somebody who had represented England at shooting at the Commonwealth Games. He was accompanied by his wife, who had only found out two days before as her husband had arranged it as a surprise ! Luckily she had always wanted to do it, but just didn’t know that it would be quite so soon after finding out.
Anyway, we jammed into a small plane which was quite exciting as I hadn’t been in one so small before and we set off to 9,000 feet above Swindon, from where it looks a lot nicer than it does on the ground. It was quite cloudy, so we were above the clouds and couldn’t see the ground, and then suddenly it was time to go. You don’t get time to be nervous because as soon as the door is opened, you shuffle to the opening and then you’re out.
The freefall was the best bit – you’re travelling at 200 feet per second – and we went through the clouds and then the ground was below. The parachute opened, everything stopped and it didn’t seem that we were moving at all, although apparently we were dropping at 1,000 feet a minute. The descent was good, it only took about five minutes and before I knew it we were back on the ground.
So thank you all for sponsoring me and if you ever think about doing it yourself, it really is not scary in the least and a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning.
With David Bates on the team is no coincidence that the Our Team page on our website is the most viewed. We are full of surprises, though perhaps some more than others!