Specialty insurance lines exist to provide protection where the standard insurance companies decline to go—difficult, unique, or otherwise unusual exposures (e.g., insuring a ballerina's legs or a company that manufacturers explosives) that may present particular or higher than typical degrees of risk or product liability. This market, estimated at more than $50 billion in total premiums, by its very nature involves professionals—insurers, underwriters, brokers, and agents--who have specialized expertise, knowledge, and experience in underwriting these risks. Over time, they bring new policies to the marketplace to offer protection as coverage needs and risks evolve. The quintessential provider of such coverage is the venerable Lloyd's of London, the world's leading marketplace.
Centuries of coverage for unique circumstances
The origin of Lloyd's of London dates back to about 1688, initially a coffee house where proprietor Edward Lloyd served sailors, shipping merchants and others who congregated and discussed business and other deals, including insurance.
Lloyd's is a collection of approximately 100 underwriting syndicates that work together and compete to offer unique coverage, becoming famous along the way. Over the years, Lloyd's has made a name for itself by offering such head-turning policies as these in the marine, aviation, catastrophic, and professional indemnity markets:
Betty Grable's legs: The iconic blonde actress and dancer, famous for her World War II-era pinup photos, was regarded as having the most beautiful legs in Hollywood. The movie studio that employed Grable insured the pinup queen's gams for a reported $1 million by Lloyd's of London.
Chinese artifacts on display: Lloyd's provided coverage for a 2,000 year-old Chinese wine vessel which incredibly still held the wine, which had long ago turned blue with age. The wine jar was to be exhibited in France at a collection of ancient artifacts.
Snow for Christmas brings gifts: Lloyd's provided a $1.5 million policy for an auto dealership in Nebraska that, in a sales stunt, announced it would pay $10,000 to anyone who purchased a car from the dealership during the month of December in the event that more than four inches of snow fell on Christmas Day. Had it snowed (which it didn't), more than 65 new car owners would have qualified for the money.
When it comes to specialty insurance, for hundreds of years Lloyd's of London has exhibited how innovation and creativity in underwriting established a reputation for the market that remains just as necessary today as it was during Betty Grable's heyday.
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