The Crew in Action - Early Days

A quick look at how we handled a claim for fire damage at a family run shoe making business.

Posted on 1st August 2018 Tagged in Commercial Lines Niche & Non-Standard Schemes Blog
Crew in action_Early Days

Put yourself in their shoes

Fire damages business and ruins lives. For small businesses, the physical impact of a fire and natural concerns for employees’ welfare may be further compounded by the anxieties of having to deal a complex insurance claim. “Will my policy pay out? What will it pay out? How long before decisions are made, what do I do now?”

For the Bolton brothers, a strong bond with their broker (Turner Insurance) meant Ageas could help them get back on their feet sooner rather than later. The story is a fitting testament to the true value of building long-term relationships with customers, and for brokers to work closely with insurers…

A growing business, damaged by fire

Under the brand name ‘Early Days’, brothers Paul and Chris Bolton had for many years carried on the family tradition of manufacturing infants’ shoes at a small business unit in Leicestershire.

Their philosophy was simple: as cheaper, overseas, mass-manufactured goods brought prices down, they believed a low-turnover, higher-quality business here in Britain would be better. Their approach paid off, with orders coming in not only from overseas, but also from Kensington Palace – even a young heir has been photographed wearing Early Days Shoes.

On the evening of 26 June 2017, a fire broke out at the Bolton’s manufacturing premises. Racing through the small industrial unit and consuming their machinery, the damage left 16 employees without work and a small but growing family business with orders in the pipeline and big questions as to ‘what happens next’?

Fortunately, Paul and Chris Bolton had a long-standing relationship with a local insurance broker, Turner Insurance. When the fire was out, and the two fire engines had left, Paul and Chris called James Fogg – their contact at Turner Insurance – to get the ball rolling with us.

“It’s a testament to Ageas’s process, they record their responses in minutes not hours.”

James Fogg, Turner Insurance


A team that takes action quickly

James called us at 9am, the day after the fire. By 9.15am we had taken the basic details, started the claim on our systems, and already appointed a loss adjuster – putting a team into place that could liaise directly with the policyholder from here-on in. This meant James had all the information he needed to further reassure his client, even though business had come to a devastating full stop overnight, the claim was in hand.

We never underestimate the value of these relationships and that reassurance for policy-holders. The damage caused by this fire was catastrophic to a business that had been set up in 1952, and some of the Boltons’ earliest concerns were how or if their ‘vintage’ machining equipment could ever be replaced.

To make matters worse, as with any fire on this scale, our experience shows us there is a necessary period of analysis and examination to find out how a fire started. This high-level vigilance helps us to prevent fraud and, ultimately, to keep premiums lower than they might otherwise be.

However, even though the loss adjusters always aim to move quickly, this is a difficult time for anyone who’s watched their business go up in flames. Having had the buildings examined as quickly as possible, we took on board the recommendations of the loss adjusters’ Immediate Advice report, and an initial reserve was recommended that would let us forward an interim payment  to Paul and Chris.

“This made a huge difference to my clients. The speed of that first payment gave them confidence to concentrate on rebuilding their business – it was going to be okay.”

James Fogg, Turner Insurance


Staying in touch, looking ahead  

Over the next couple of weeks, the loss adjusters provided a preliminary report and a forensic investigator’s report that isolated the cause of the fire. In this case, photos helped to prove that an employee’s faulty kettle had started the blaze – not the older sewing machines, as was initially suspected. However, the Boltons’ full gross profit policy covered this kind of liability in full and so the claim moved forward.

Keeping Turner Insurance up to speed, we stayed in close contact with the Boltons. Within a couple of days, the loss adjusters were able to examine the business’s accounts – noting a recent prudent increase in sums insured to reflect growth – and this became the first of several payments over the coming months, helping the business to get back on its feet.

We see our role as insurers not only as a means for satisfying eligible claims, but as a way back to prosperity for the people whose livelihoods are affected by this kind of incident.

We talked to Paul and Chris about the best way to rebuild the business. Even though much of the family’s older machinery was irreplaceable, some of the stock and the workshop’s materials had been salvaged with minimal smoke damage. The brothers were prudent, they kept recovery costs down by getting local help to clean those shoes; finding a local team to recondition machines that would let them start production again; and out-sourcing some shoe orders to a company that could meet their very high manufacturing specifications in the interim – a move that actually saw turnover increase over the coming months.

This rapid turnaround and our close working relationships saw ‘Early Days’ shoes back up and running in under 10 months. For the team at Ageas, this is a good example of how we work. As the crew behind you, our aim is to help Ageas’ customers get back on their feet – working together to achieve the best possible outcomes.

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