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Third generation broker starts specialty alpine business

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Brennan Edgar, a third-generation broker based in Victoria’s Cobram, has just established Alpine & Hospitality Insurance Services to specialise in the sector, which has undergone premium hikes of 300-400% and a contraction in capacity since the Black Summer bushfires.

Mr Edgar says he is able to offer full bushfire cover for the sum insured, backed by a Lloyd's of London exclusive facility.

“We are really concentrated on alpine and hospitality. Caravan parks – all that hard to place stuff at the moment, we can do,” Mr Edgar tells insuranceNEWS.com.au. "Coverage is a big one, there are not many left in the market that will even look at Alpine areas.

“We have good bushfire coverage which is one of the main issues – clients finding they cannot get bushfire cover. We have full bushfire cover for the sum insured but premium-wise they are probably paying 300-400% rate increases compared to a few years ago.”

The establishment of Alpine & Hospitality Insurance Services comes after QBE and Allianz left the space in recent years. ShieldCover also no longer offers liability cover for hotels, withdrawing in mid 2021.

“We lost the binder for this facility and regrettably had to withdraw due to the shifting market on these risks,” a spokeswoman tells insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Other cover providers do not offer to the full bushfire limit, according to Mr Edgar, and he says he has been asked to wholesale to other brokers struggling to get renewals.

“That’s all that’s left really,” he says. “Clients are very happy we can get them cover. Last year was harder.”

Clients are still facing a "pretty hefty premium,” he says, though a recent quote he provided was $4000 cheaper than the one business paid last year.

“My business is to try and get as many clients in the alpine as I can to then put pressure on insurance, and say ‘look here’s a big premium pool, what can we do with rates?’,” said Mr Edgar, whose grandfather started Edgar Insurance Brokers in 1947.

The underwriters have “probably 30 years collective experience writing alpine risk so they know it very well,” he said. “That has helped them get that facility going.”

Mr Edgar has a new hire starting in July to meet the amount of inquiries he is attracting, and says another will join in September.

“We are looking to really build and have quite a team,” he said.

The devasting Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20, which cost insurers more than $2 billion, burnt through about 187,000 hectares of alpine area, and Mount Hotham Chamber of Commerce president Steve Belli recently told ABC news said the cost of insurance for businesses had increased by up to 800% in the past three years.

One lodge paid $13,000 in 2018/19 and $122,000 in 2022, Mr Belli said, with some businesses deemed uninsurable and many struggling with the high costs as they try to find their feet financially post-covid.

"In the absence of insurance these places will just go into gridlock and they will not continue to operate,” he said.

Paddy Hoy, whose great grandfather established Hoy Ski Hire more than 80 years ago, told the ABC there was a “market failure” in insurance.

“We have very few players in the national or international market that will participate so there's no competition," he said.

Operators in the alpine regions have experienced “a hell of a lot of change” as covid has impacted them for some years, Mr Edgar says. They have “not been able to operate basically and at the same time they did not have an income”.

However, he sees little sign businesses will depart the space.

“Those guys are very resilient which is great – and I think they will have a big snow season this year,” Mr Edgar said.