(Reuters) — Some 90% of the priceless relics and art works housed within the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral were saved from Monday’s devastating fire as contingency plans to evacuate the treasures worked, a leading insurance adjuster said Wednesday.
Insurance adjuster Michel Honore, the director of fine art at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., has been given the task of assessing any damage to the cathedral’s “Trésor” or treasure.
The contingency evacuation plan included putting priorities on objects for removal, Mr. Honore told Reuters, adding “the plan itself worked perfectly and was adhered to the letter, and that is why the contents lost is not as severe as might have been feared.”
He spoke by phone from Paris after attending a meeting of adjusters — specialists appointed by insurers to investigate claims on their behalf — at a site close to the cathedral.
Officials have said that emergency workers formed a human chain to whisk items out of harm’s way during the blaze.
Notre Dame’s treasures are made up of 1,000 to 1,200 items including precious metals, traditional church dresses and paintings. More modern items also include a gift to the cathedral from Pope John Paul II.
“One of the first items to come out was the crown of thorns and the remnants of the crucifix. They were on the top of the list and they were taken out in priority in strict application of the plan,” Mr. Honore said.
The crown, made of braided reed brought to France from Constantinople in the 12th century, has been revered as an object of Christian worship for centuries. Remnants of the crucifix refers to relics believed by Christians to be part of the cross where Jesus died.
Mr. Honore said most of the large paintings in the cathedral seemed “to be OK,” but they would need closer inspection by specialist restorers for traces of soot or deposits from the fire or firefighters’ water.
“There is great optimism that the main organ in the cathedral will remain unscathed but again it needs close checking for acidic deposits,” he said.
While most of the valuable items were removed, some had to be left behind, though it was unclear how many.
“The items that could not be removed on the night of the fire are in the process of being checked and wrapped and removed from the premises and are being stored in the Louvre Museum,” Mr. Honore said.
The items at the top of the priority list were relocated to Paris City Hall and will in all probability be taken to the Louvre for safer keeping.
The cathedral is owned by the state, and major European insurers expect France to bear the bulk of the cost of rebuilding.
Two insurers including Axa ART, a unit of AXA SA, have an insurable interest in the art works within the cathedral, Mr. Honore said, adding five adjusters had been commissioned. He did not name the other insurer.
Matters of faith and state were separated by law in France in 1905. Items that predate the law are insured by the state and are not insured on the open market.
With the exception of relics such as the crown of thorns, an inventory is carried out on a regular basis to value the artifacts and in the event that an insured item is destroyed, the insurer would pay out. Insurers would also foot the bill to restore any items that are damaged, Mr. Honore said.
AssuredPartners Inc. on Tuesday said it has acquired Augusta, Georgia-based Cohen-Bailie Insurance LLC and Donald H. Bailie Agency Inc.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The team of 17 employees will remain under the operational structure and leadership of President Hal Cohen. The agency currently reports $2 million in annualized revenues, Lake Mary, Florida-based AssuredPartners said in a statement.
“Cohen-Bailie Insurance LLC and Donald H. Bailie Agency Inc. have had a prevalent influence in Georgia and South Carolina,” AssuredPartners President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Riley said in the statement.
AssuredPartners is the 12th-largest brokerage of U.S. business, according to Business Insurance’s latest ranking.
(Reuters) — French insurer Axa SA on Tuesday said it provided insurance coverage for two of the contracting firms that were working on Notre Dame’s restoration prior to the blaze that devastated the cathedral.
The fire ripped through the cathedral’s roof, where workers from a number of contractors had been carrying out extensive renovations to the spire’s timber-framed supports. Police have begun questioning the workers involved, the prosecutor’s office has said.
In a statement released Tuesday, Axa said its staff were cooperating fully with investigators.
The French insurer also said it provided insurance coverage for some of the relics and religious artworks displayed in the cathedral.
An Axa spokesman declined to estimate the company’s potential liabilities associated with the damage caused.
Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz has said there was no obvious indication the fire was arson and they were working on the theory it was an accident.
The French state’s policy is to bear the cost of reconstruction of historical monuments such as Notre Dame cathedral in the event of disasters.
President Emmanuel Macron has said France will launch a fundraising campaign to rebuild Notre Dame. Several of France’s business elite have already pledged several hundred millions euros to help.
While some of the large paintings at Notre Dame could not be taken down in time, the country’s culture minister, Franck Riester, said a number of the many artworks in the cathedral had been rescued and put in safe storage.
The Hilb Group LLC has acquired Springdale, Arkansas-based Walker Brothers Insurance Inc., effective April 1, the broker said in a statement Tuesday.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Walker, formed in 1932, focuses on commercial property/casualty insurance for small to medium-size businesses, the statement said.
The firm’s employees, including President Mike Luttrell, have joined Hilb and will continue to operate out of their office in Springdale, the statement said.
Hilb “is committed to building a distinguished network of nationwide agency partners, and Walker’s “strong Arkansas presence supports the growth of our organization’s footprint,” Hilb CEO Ricky Spiro said in a statement.
The Hilb Group, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is a portfolio company of Boston-based private equity firm Abry Partners LLC.
AssuredPartners Inc. on Monday said it has acquired Baldwin-Cox Agency LLC of Dallas.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The agency currently reports $9 million in annualized revenue, Lake Mary, Florida-based AssuredPartners said in a statement. It specializes in construction bonds but also handles other property/casualty and employee benefits business.
Baldwin-Cox’s 35 employees will remain under the operational structure and leadership of President and CEO Bill Baldwin.
AssuredPartners is the 12th-largest brokerage of U.S. business, according to Business Insurance’s latest ranking.
CHICAGO — The explosion of technological applications and the growth of data analytics is reshaping the insurance sector, a panel of industry CEOs said last week.
The introduction of artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies will automate some work carried out by humans but will also allow companies and their staff and enhance their service offerings, they agreed during The Institutes’ Future of Risk conference in Chicago.
However, they diverged on what effect technology would have on employment levels in the sector.
“If technology is not part of every conversation, you’re not dealing with the subject correctly,” said Dave North, chairman and CEO of Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.
Technology pervades every part of the business, from basic office services to financial reporting to employment screening, he said.
Improved data analysis, in particular, is having a significant effect on companies in the insurance sector, said Janice Abraham, president and CEO of United Educators Insurance, a Bethesda, Maryland-based reciprocal risk retention group that provides coverage for educational institutions.
“Data-analytics is huge for us. It’s changing the way we underwrite, the way we prospect for new (clients), the way we handle claims. It’s the area we are looking to hire, it’s really changing the way we think about business,” Ms. Abraham said.
Twenty years ago, for example, United Educators’ application form for coverage was about 15 pages long. “Now, for the most part, we don’t need an application, we can price it from internal and external data,” she said.
Removing the need to manually gather basic risk information allows the insurer to focus on emerging risks, such as sexual molestation, Ms. Abraham said.
Two years ago, United Educators did not have a data analytics department, but now it has one with a staff of six, she said.
“There’s a huge amount of change, but at the core of what we do, the business stays the same: We take people’s risk,” said J. Patrick Gallagher Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
“Data will allow us to specialize down to the minutest risk, it will allow us to have information about what are the risks out there that are emerging … so you will see a tremendous amount of change in how we do it, but the essence of what we do is going to stay the same,” he said.
One of the changes that technology allows is providing data to support insurance purchasing decisions for clients, Mr. Gallagher said.
Brokerage clients demand more information, he said. “They want to know ‘how do I know I’ve got a good deal’ … which is why being able to show them what’s going on in their vertical is really, really important.”
Employment outlook up for debate
While the executives on the panel agreed technology will improve productivity in the insurance sector, they offered different views on what it would mean for employment in the sector.
“I actually think we’ll be doing more with less people,” Ms. Abraham said.
Clerical tasks will be automated, so staff will need to be helped to develop new skills, she said.
But artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological advances will create better jobs for people in the business, Mr. Gallagher said.
Improved technology will allow staff to focus on solving problems, Mr. North said.
“I resist the notion that technology is going to replace human beings. I don’t sit in conversations saying, ‘That’ll be great, build that and we can replace 10 people.’ It’s 10 people that get to be more powerful, do more things, be more productive and be more benefit to our customers because of technology,” he said.
For example, about half of workers compensation claims cost less than $500, which are not worth spending much time analyzing and processing, Mr. North said. The handling of those risks can be automated, which would free people up to focus on more complex and costly exposures.
“We should stop worrying about stuff that our data says is just not going to be a problem,” Mr. North said.
Insurance value stocks making new highs for 2019: all 3 of these can be called “value” because of their low price/earnings ratios and because they trade below book. That’s the beginning of the classic approach to identifying value as described by Warren Buffett’s mentor at Columbia University, Benjamin Graham.
You can read about his approach in his book, Security Analysis, or in the much more direct version, The Intelligent Investor. My screen for these only includes those with a steady stream of earnings, which are paying regular dividends and where debt does not reasonably constitute a threat to long-term viability.
Here’s what came up after markets closed for the week:
AXA Equitable Holdings, Inc. trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol EQH. The insurance broker, based in New York City, was established in 1859.
The stock’s price/earnings ratio sits at 6.9 — this, at a time when the current p/e of the S&P 500 has reached 21.7. AXA Equitable Holdings now trades at a 13% discount to its book value.
Earnings over the last year have been excellent and the 5-year record of earnings is positive as well. Right now, long-term debt slightly exceeds shareholder equity, a concern. The company pays a 2.33% dividend.
AXA Equitable has moved from 15 at the Christmas Eve, 2018 low to its present price of 22. That’s about a 50% gain in a very short period of time, not the kind of move you might typically expect in a low p/e stock in the insurance business.
Lincoln National Corporation is Radnor, Pennsylvania headquartered and trades on the New York Stock Exchange. According to the company’s website, they’ve been around since 1905.
You can buy a share of the company today at a 4% discount to book value. The price/earnings ratio is down there at 8.77. Lincoln’s long-term debt is exceeded by shareholder equity. The dividend yield comes to 2.28%. This last year’s earnings have been quite good and the record on the 5-year time frame is positive as well.
In late December of last year, Lincoln traded as low as 48 and at the close on Friday had rocketed up to just under 65. This is an extraordinary upward move in a very short time for a staid, old insurance stock.
MetLife, Inc. is New York Stock Exchange listed and based in New York City. This is another insurance company which has been around for awhile — their website says 145 years.
This well-known insurance company can be purchased for 85% of its book value. The price/earnings ratio is a meager 9.29. The earnings record is positive for this last year and also looks good on the 5-year look. MetLife pays a 3.66% dividend. Shareholder equity is greater than long-term debt. The stock hit as low as 39 late last year and now trades at about 46.
It’s peculiar to see these old school value stocks in this typically sleepy sector moving up so quickly. It’s almost as if something unusual is up.
I do not hold positions in these investments. No recommendations are made one way or the other. If you’re an investor, you’d want to look much deeper into each of these situations. You can lose money trading or investing in stocks and other instruments. Always do your own independent research, due diligence and seek professional advice from a licensed investment advisor.
Business Insurance is launching a conference to examine the insurance needs of the rapidly expanding cannabis and cannabinoid industry.
As more and more states allow the legal sale marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, the cannabis industry is becoming big business with a need for the full range of financial services, including insurance.
While the insurance industry has been wary of providing coverage for the cannabis sector in the past — in part due to the continued conflict between federal and state law on the legality of marijuana production and sales — more insurers, brokers and agents are participating in the market.
The Business Insurance Cannabis & Hemp conference will be held in New York in October and will examine everything from property/casualty coverages for cannabis manufacturers and distributers, to directors and officers liability coverage for any company connected with the sector, to implications for the workers compensation market.
To learn more about the conference, click here.
A federal appeals court has upheld dismissal of sex and race discrimination claims filed by a former New York City employee but reinstated her retaliation claims.
Robin Collymore, a black former project manager for the Emergency Communications Transformation Program In New York City’s Department of Information and Telecommunications between August 2015 and June 2016, claimed that over those nearly 11 months she was the victim of sex and race discrimination.
She said she was also the victim of retaliation for first reporting the discrimination against her, and later reporting that her supervisor had violated the agency’s code of conduct when he instructed her and other employees to hide documents during an ongoing investigation by the Department of Investigation, according to Thursday’s ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in Robin Collymore v. City of New York et al.
She filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York, which dismissed all the charges. A three-judge appeals court panel unanimously upheld dismissal of the sex and race charges but reinstated the retaliation charges.
The panel held that Ms. Collymore had failed to allege that an indirect supervisor’s unwanted touching was because of her sex, and allegations her supervisors yelled at her and scrutinized her work more closely than white employees’ work are insufficient to establish a race discrimination claim.
However, she has established a retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, said the ruling. Her allegation that after she complained about the supervisor’s sexual harassment her supervisors forced her to work through her lunch hour, despite knowing she needed to maintain a specific lunch hour to prevent migraines, “plausibly states a claim for retaliation,” said the ruling.
Her supervisors forced Ms. Collymore “to choose between reporting discrimination and maintaining her health. It is therefore plausible that a reasonable worker in Collymore’s position would decline to report discrimination in order to conserve their health,” said the panel, in reinstating her retaliation charges, and remanding the case for further proceedings.
Ms. Collymore’s attorney Special Hagan, of Low Offices of Special Hagan in Saint Albans, New York, said, “It was a strong retaliation complaint.”
Ms. Hagan said Ms. Collymore filed seven complaints during the 10 months she held the position, and experienced “any number of retaliatory actions,” including supervisors speaking against her at her unemployment hearing.
She said she still believes the court was wrong in dismissing Ms. Collymore’s sex and race discrimination claims.
A New York City attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Retaliation charges accounted for the largest number of charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Commission in fiscal 2018 for the eighth consecutive year, representing more than half of the total charges filed, according to a report the agency issued Thursday.