Interview with Patricia Jones

August 1, 2014

As head of CLA Insurance, Patricia Jones helps CLA members manage their risks, working with everyone from rural homeowners to land agents responsible for some of the country’s largest estates. Here, Patricia tells us about the last decade and, having just signed another long-term contract with the CLA, what she expects in the next ten years

You started working with the CLA in 2002. What can you tell us about insurance for the average CLA member?

There’s no answer to that because there is no average CLA member – their properties and their activities are so diverse and their insurance reflects that. What is clear is that the risks facing people living in the country remain very different from the ones faced by people in towns and cities. We’ve used our long-term relationship with members to hone our offering to make it right for them. For example we’ve created a specialist rural home offering that takes into account that many rural homes have features you wouldn’t find in urban environments.

What was the biggest challenge CLA Insurance has faced?

The last few months has been one of our most challenging times. Storm and flood damage are always our most frequent claims, but the weather from October through to March meant that we saw claims double. Our claims team worked hard to deal with these, and did so without any drop in the standard of service our clients receive. In a way it was a bit like farming – when a job has to be done in a certain time, it has to be done and everyone pulls together to do it.

What are the main benefits for member of getting their insurance from you?

The first is our brokers’ rural expertise, which allows them to get to the heart of what members need. I was at a dinner recently and a land agent introduced us as brokers who don’t just do what our clients ask, but challenge them to find what they need. I’m really pleased we have that reputation. The second is the expert support we offer during the claims process. Claims can be complicated and we use our expertise helps clients get everything they’re entitled to. If you buy your insurance online, you don’t get this support; it’s something people don’t miss until it’s too late.

What do you expect to be the challenges of the next few years?

There are two legislative issues that we’re watching. The first is Flood Re, the proposed government scheme to provide affordable insurance for homes on flood plains. It’s not finalised, but as farmhouses are usually covered as part of a farm’s commercial insurances, they may be excluded from this. The other area is around livestock disease compensation. The government has been reviewing its policies on this issue for a couple of years and may remove the compensation provisions. We’re monitoring these potential developments closely and planning how we’ll look after our clients if they’re affected.

What have been your highlights over the last ten years?

Like many CLA members, our annual highlight is the Game Fair. We’ve exhibited at every one since 2003, and started sponsoring the Enclosure in 2005. We always enjoy the opportunity to meet existing members and greet new ones. We’ll be there again this July!

Top insurance tips for CLA members

1) Get specialist rural insurance. A person who lives in Chelsea and one who lives in North Yorkshire can have the same type of the car, but they won’t use it in the same way and it makes no sense that they pay the same for their insurance.

2) Declare what happens on your land. Even if it is on an informal, non-commercial basis, for example letting a Caravan Club use a field or a church borrow land for parking, owners could find they are exposed to an increased liability risk.

3) Make sure you insure the right thing, particularly if you’re a business. For example, if you have a sheep farm, many people will think that you need to insure the sheep themselves. Actually, we would say you need to insure the income from the sheep, which is more complicated but a more effective tool for making a farming business financially sustainable.

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