A high tech start-up is promising to raise the standard for determining “insurance to value” by giving property/casualty insurance companies and brokers access to real-time data on their upscale insureds’ property and possessions, making it easier for the industry to update coverages and settle claims.
The firm, Trōv, offers a cloud software that lets individuals track and value their property and possessions. Trōv customers create digital lockers where they store data on their personal belongings including art, cars, wine and jewelry, and determine the items’ values. They can then choose to make their confidential information available to their insurance broker, planner, tax preparer, appraiser or other service provider when a need arises.
Users can also automatically add new acquisitions to their personal Trōv upon purchase via electronic receipts and – soon – through a mobile application Trōv has in the works. As items are added to the locker or as values change, Trōv notifies the policyholder who can alert his or her insurance broker so that the items are properly insured.
“It’s all about actively managing tangible wealth much like people have been managing financial wealth,” says Trōv founder and CEO, Scott Walchek.
Walchek said his company has already convinced five insurers — ACE, American International Group (AIG), Fireman’s Fund, Hiscox UK and PURE — to agree to provide premium discounts to qualifying policyholders who activate a Trōv account. The discounts will vary by insurer but could be as much as 20 percent.
“It makes sense because we are reducing the risk,” he says.
Trōv has also lined up insurance brokers including Hub International, Lockton, Brown & Brown, Willis and others to offer the service to their high-end clients.
“This is a turning point for insurance carriers, for whom active management of valuables and contents is now a reality,” said Walchek. “Trōv exposes changes to the values of insured items, and connects insurers to policyholders’ acquisitive lives to ensure tangible assets are always accounted for and – with accurate insurance-to-value – always protected.”
Walchek said the way insurers are now valuing their clients’ possessions leaves them and their clients at risk as they often use incomplete and outdated information.
“Insurers have long relied on limited information about their clients’ possessions, which has led to inaccuracies and undue exposure,” he says. “Since Trōv collects more information, regularly revalues insured possessions, and also enables information to be collected at point-of-sale, policyholders and brokers are connected and informed like never before.”
Walchek said he believes that many insurers do very little now beyond an initial one or two hour home inspection to understand their insureds’ possessions and their value. They use a percentage to value total contents and ask the homeowner to make a list of valuable items and their worth. It is rare for an insurer to later return to update these inventories and values, he said.
“We have spent a lot of time with the risk assessors and we found there is a real need for what we are doing—exposing the changing values of what they are insuring,” he said.
He said he made cold calls himself to P/C insurer CEOs to convince them that there is a better way.
“I challenged them that the core of the P/C insurance world is this notion of insurance-to-value and that value for 150 years has been rather opaque,“ he told Insurance Journal.
According to Walchek, the way Trōv adds transparency to the changing values of possessions can improve both the underwriting and the claims processes.
“They [CEOs] all resonated with it,” he said, noting, however, that it has been a slow process—15 months— getting them onboard.
As part of the process, ACE and AIG have done successful pilots with some of their high net worth policyholders, he said.
“The bottom line for ACE and its clients is – with more information about their valuables, clients can make better decisions about how to insure them,” said Bob Courtemanche, chairman, ACE Private Risk Services, in a statement provided by Trōv. “We can use real-time valuations to help our clients maintain the right amount of coverage and also decide what items should have the added protection of a valuables policy. This could be a key differentiator for ACE and for the individuals who depend upon us to protect their most valued possessions.”
AIG thinks the system will also help with claims.
“Instead of storing this information on spreadsheets, hard drives, or in file cabinets – data about tangible assets will live in Trōv’s private online digital locker, where clients will be able to manage new purchases and monitor changes in value of their tangible assets,” said Jerry Hourihan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, AIG Personal Lines. “Working with Trōv to maintain a complete updated record of their property will make the insurance process, including claims settlement, more efficient and seamless.”
“With access to up-to-date, qualified appraised values in the Trōv, we can tailor policies and serve our clients in ways never before possible,” said Jim Kane, president of insurance broker Hub International Personal Insurance, in a statement.
Trōv is banking on the industry realizing that there is a gap between what their insureds’ tangible assets are insured for and what they should be insured for. Walchek said his company has done research into this misalignment and will release data in the near future on how big this gap is.
The idea that the wealthy are not properly insured is not new. This past spring, ACE issued a white paper, Wealth at Risk: How High Net Worth Families Overpay to Be Underinsured, arguing that many high net worth families do not carry enough liability coverage or enough coverage on their homes and collections of jewelry, art, wine and other precious items, especially if they rely on a direct writer for their insurance and do not use an independent agent or broker.
Digital lockers for personal inventories are not new either; Allstate has offered one for years. But Trōv.com (the name is meant to remind people of treasure trove) is more than an inventory — it is like a membership in a special club. In addition to the insurance discounts and professional appraisals, a Trōv membership provides benefits from various high market vendors and service providers including art storage (Atelier and Uovo), art conservation (The Conservation Center), antique restoration (Dale Nichols), estate planning (Estate Managers Coalition), interior design (iMatchDesigners), luxury travel (Absolute Travel) and wine consulting (Grand Cru).
A Trōv membership costs $4,300 for the first year and about $20 a month thereafter. For insurance customers, membership includes a full day in-home visit by a Trōv-qualified and trained appraiser from a preferred provider (currently Pall Mall and Heritage are Trōv’s preferred providers) who collects the initial data and assesses values in accordance with currently accepted insurance schedules and inputs the data to start the Trōv account.
In addition to insurers offering premium discounts, some of the brokers offering Trōv as a value-added service may help defray the cost of joining, according to Trōv officials.
Trōv, which is based in San Ramon, California, and has an office in Atlanta, will initially target the approximately 5 million high and ultra-high net-worth individuals in the U.S. who are the most acquisitive and own the largest number of tangible assets. Trōv is currently available in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Cypress in addition to the U.S. and has plans to expand to other countries in the year ahead. Trōv plans to ultimately expand to include affluent and middle-income demographics as well.
As high-tech as Trōv is, it does not completely eliminate humans in the insurance-to-value process. Trōv uses professional appraisers it has trained in how to use its software. They spend between 8 to 10 hours in the home of an insured collecting data, laying out everything in the Trōv floor plan and assigning values to the items using indices insurers accept and recognize. Then on a regular basis those same appraisers go back into the Trōv with the user’s permission and re-appraise and update the inventory as appropriate.
However, while Walchek thinks there will always be the need for a “human eyeball” in the process to verify the authenticity of property, he also envisions a day when more of the process will be automated and it will utilize Trōv’s own valuations and indices that will be accepted by insurers.
Walchek is a serial high-tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist. His resume includes Macromedia (now Adobe); consumer commerce search leader C2B/Inktomi; co-lead investor and founding director of Baidu, China’s dominant search engine; and founder and CEO of electronic debt exchange DebtMarket Inc. (now Intercontinental Exchange).
Trōv has been privately capitalized for $6.8 million. It has been built in part through the acquisition of two tech firms: Varda Inc., which provides the foundation for Trōv’s web-based property management platform and Asset Archives, a 10-year old company providing digital documentation and appraisal services for residential contents and collections.
The company says that in its first year of operations, it has amassed a database of more than 238,000 unique assets with total replacement value of greater than $1.2 billion, and customers throughout the U.S. and U.K.