Weatherbys, its parent company, was founded over 250 years ago by solicitor James Weatherby. Seven generations later it remains a family run business and has diversified from its roots in horse racing to form Weatherbys Banking Group.
Since its launch under Duncan Gourlay in 2015, Weatherbys Private Bank’s Scotland Office has grown from servicing clients mainly based in Edinburgh, with an initial client base developed through connections with legal and accountancy firms, to national coverage with clients based in the far north to the very south of the country.
Working with intermediary partners is a particular strength forDuncan and his team. They understand that a multi-disciplinary, expert approach is required for each individual client. Through collaboration with intermediary partners, they deliver tailored solutions that meet the unique requirements of each client, while delivering the exceptional levels of service for which they are recognised in the industry.
“We work alongside other professionals and add our expertise aspart of a seamless client service. Our core values of integrity and trust form the foundations of our approach and aim to complement the unique relationship you have with your clients, and we will work alongside you to enhance and safeguard this.” – Duncan Gourlay, Director, Weatherbys Private Bank
With a client base spanning from small business owners and young entrepreneurs through to landed estates, providing unparalleled service through a hands-on approach with a focus on the traditional values of integrity, care, courtesy, accuracy and reliability, is central to Weatherbys’ success.
The private banking offering includes current accounts, online banking, deposits, lending, foreign exchange services and investment and wealth advice. In addition, Weatherbys Private Bank’s Scotland Office has specialist services for sports professionals and insurance offerings for a range of assets.
Their experience in rural property, farms and estates means they understand the unique financial requirements of these clients and can identify what matters most to landowners – combining day-to-day banking requirements with more strategic investment and borrowing needs.
The value placed on these businesses – which often, like Weatherbys, have been run by families for generations – is mirrored in the bank’s traditional approach, in which its bankers serve a limited number of clients and are able to devote their full attention to one-to-one relationships.
While longstanding values are front and centre in everything it does, Weatherbys Private Bank’s Scotland Office also recognises the importance of looking forward in a quickly changing world.
Recent projects have included powering innovation in rural communities, helping clients diversify their income using the latest sustainable technologies.
Having kept in touch with clients throughout lockdown using phone calls, video calls and emails, the team at Weatherbys Private Bank’s ScotlandOffice – Director Duncan Gourlay and Private Bankers Hayley Robinson and GraemeBuchanan – are now back, travelling across the country meeting clients in person.
Investments can go up and down in value and you may not get back the full amount originally invested.
So why does Unoccupied Property Insurance often present significant challenges to clients and those looking after their financial affairs?
The answer is straightforward - that the circumstances of providing cover for an unoccupied property, and the insurance policies available, are unusual and sometimes poorly understood.
Taking time to understand the circumstances should make finding the right solution easier too.
The most important thing a solicitor or executor should know at the outset is that arranging via an experienced insurance broker, who will be aware of the advantages and restrictions of the products available, can be the safest route to follow. Not all registered insurance brokers have knowledge of these products so it is important to source one who is.
However, solicitors should be aware of other challenges they may encounter before approaching a broker. Considerations will include:
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
What makes Unoccupied Property Insurance different to other types of policies?
What changes when unoccupancy commences?
It might seem logical that an existing insurance policy would continue to cover a property after a homeowner’s death, so long as the premiums continue to be paid. However, any continuation in the cover is not automatic and is typically restricted to 60 days. It varies from insurer to insurer with some stopping cover immediately.
In such circumstances, it is vital that a solicitor knows where to go to arrange insurance even if only informing the executor who may take on this task themselves.
Another defining characteristic of Unoccupied Property Insurance is that policies carry several restrictions. Perhaps as would be expected, this means that the cheapest policies may be very limited in what they offer.
What problems are you likely to face and what pitfalls can arise when arranging this cover?
What barriers are in the way?
Imagine yourself in a scenario in which a family member gets in touch to inform you that the client has died and they are unsure if the property is insured.
Indeed, dependent on how much the client was in charge of their affairs, the property might have been uninsured for years. Or, alternatively, it could be difficult to know whether the property is insured because paperwork is not readily available.
A solicitor or next of kin may have to assume the worst-case scenario. The priority is to quickly secure protection.
Searching online to solve this problem may prove to be adequate but one does not have time to check all the conditions and clauses – go to someone who does and who can respond quickly.
A solicitor might encounter circumstances in which an insurance claim on an unoccupied property arranged by an executor or guardian is turned down. Even if the solicitor was not responsible for arranging the cover, they will still be expected to remedy problems that arise in dealing with the estate.
If the solicitor arranges new unoccupied property insurance, they must be sure that the broker clearly details any conditions affecting the validity of claims on the policy and that these are obvious to the executors. For example, fortnightly inspections of the property are recorded - so that there are no surprises in store in the event of a claim.
Even if the executor is arranging the cover, the solicitor, as the lead in winding up the estate, should emphasise the desirability to use a registered insurance broker and that the policy is required to meet the specific circumstances of unoccupancy. This should ensure that client expectations are in line with the features and limitations of the cover provided.
Executor attitudes can often be clouded by the rush to get the estate wound up but it is important to take time to protect probably the largest asset in the estate either by having access to a solution if there is doubt about the existence of insurance cover or making sure that one has time to arrange cover if the current insurer ceases cover after 60 days.
By using experts in this field both the solicitor and/or the executors remove an area of concern and transfer responsibility to the broker who will not only arrange cover but handle any claims should they arise.
What are the common features of Unoccupied Property Insurance?
Are there any onerous terms and conditions?
The market for Unoccupied Property Insurance is relatively small. Some insurers will simply not consider such risks and, while it is true that the claims experience is typically worse in commercial properties, any vacant property is a target for thieves and vandals.
In addition, there are some features of unattended domestic properties - those with older heating systems, for example - that can quickly deteriorate.
Range of Cover
A chosen policy should extend to contents and valuables if needed although any valuable items should be removed to safe storage or a local auction house as soon as possible.
Properties will normally require to be inspected every 14 days. This can be carried out by the executors or, if they live remotely from the property, then often this is completed by the Property Departments of solicitors. It is important to record the dates of the visits and any actions that were carried out.
The heating system is also important because the most common household claims are as a result of water damage. Heating should be maintained at ten degrees Celsius or turned off. The latter is always recommended as older people tend to have older heating systems.
Loss resulting from theft can be restricted to forcible or violent entry or exit ie a narrower definition than in a standard household insurance policy.
Alarm systems etc should be maintained but it is unusual for insurers to impose any additional theft protection measures.
Subsidence is also a consideration especially if it is envisaged that the property will be on the market for some time. The reason for this is that it is sometimes difficult to determine just when subsidence started and unoccupied property insurers are keen to wipe the slate clean and obtain the opinion of a Chartered Surveyor before granting cover.
Some policies will grant cover for a limited period at the outset of the policy subject to verification from a Chartered Surveyor but such opinions typically cost no more than £150. Most solicitors have good relationships with local surveyors so this should not pose a barrier to obtaining this cover.
The most valuable asset in an estate should not burden the client or their solicitor with any major problems. With the right approach to Unoccupied Property Insurance, simple and robust solutions are at hand.
Savendale Insurance Services can facilitate the introduction of good brokers who can advise solicitors or executors. Please contact us if you have any new cases that need cover or existing ones that cause you concern – see www.savendale.co.uk or phone 0131 473 1048.
Most negative perceptions associated with PoA - that it is open to abuse and misuse - only apply in a small minority of cases. By far the bigger problem is inadvertent mismanagement.
Why? Typically, it is because the knowledge and skills of attorneys vary enormously and can shift over time. Mismanagement can happen when the attorney has misunderstood or underestimated their responsibilities, or when their ability to carry out the wishes of the granter has altered due to changed circumstances.
In her recently published book Power of Attorney, the former Public Guardian in Scotland, Sandra McDonald, sums up the position very succinctly:
The vast majority of attorneys bend over backwards to do a sterling job but they may, innocently, overlook something which leads to a loss of money that you would have been due. There are a small number of attorneys who become tempted by the money available to them and use it for their own purposes.
One way to mitigate against uncertainty in relation to estates or financial affairs is to offer protection through bonds or other insurance products.
Savendale, a leading provider of insurance services to the Scottish private client solicitors sector, believes that a £50 compulsory Power of Attorney bond is a solution that merits further consideration.
Ian Burrell, Savendale Managing Director, joined forces with bond underwriting experts CLS Property Insight (CLS PI) last year to create Savendale powered by CLS PI. With a focus on private client solicitors and their needs, Ian and the CLS PI underwriting team have rapidly become the voice of authority on product developments that would benefit the management of Scottish estates.
The company has established a presence in the area of assisting Adults With Incapacity (AWI), highlighted by Ian’s recent participation in the Law Society of Scotland’s AWI, Guardianship and Elder Client Conference (alongside CLS PI’s Underwriting Director, Roy Partington) and the Scottish Paralegal Association Conference.
It is also an approved provider of Guardianship Bonds - which fulfil the same function as Power of Attorney - by the Office of the Public Guardian.
Ian understands that there can be valid objections to a PoA bond. However, he believes they are outweighed by the fact that appointing PoA is generally based on two concepts which are prone to unforeseen errors of judgement - firstly trust and, secondly, assuming an understanding of future events.
Savendale Insurance Services’ Bonds of Caution - underwritten by CLS Property Insight - enable you to secure the assets and estates of your clients in the most straightforward way, with a simple application process (no unnecessary questions!) and a quick turnaround time.
Here, CLS PI’s Underwriting Manager Chantelle Wren explains how keeping it simple pays off for you as a legal professional.
“We make ordering as simple as possible. Guardianship bonds can be processed fully online - clients can log on to our platform, insert some information and get a fully sold bond within seconds.
“For Executry Bonds, most applications come in via email. Although this process is not fully online yet, clients still favour us because of how quickly we handle the process - not just in the quote but the end-to-end service.
“We only ask for information that we need. There is no box ticking or added questions because it has no benefit to our clients and we are not trying to upsell other products.
“We are helpful on the other end of the phone. We deal with things much faster at our end and the clients get their bonds faster. We respond to emails within 48 hours and we can get bonds to clients within a week.
“Even now, when it’s not possible to attend events or speak to solicitors in person, clients have access to our calendar- if they want to book an appointment they can arrange an online session and meet ‘face to face’ in a video call.
“Ian Burrell, Savendale’s managing director, has specialist knowledge of the Scottish solicitors market which is almost exclusively our client base for these products.
“Our clients feel very comfortable knowing that they are getting the fastest service available from a very experienced bonds provider. We issue our bonds with confidence - the financial strength rating of our insurers (Great Lakes Insurance SE) is particularly good.”
Savendale’s Bonds of Caution are issued in partnership with industry-leading underwriters CLS Property Insight, whose years of specific expertise and world-class NPS score of 81 add up to a guarantee of high-quality customer service.
Adding to the sum, the AA- financial strength rating of CLS PI’s insurers, Great Lakes Insurance SE (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Munich RE Group), can offer you total peace of mind for your firm and your clients. When you’re securing their assets, that’s everything.
There is another important part of the equation, too, although Savendale’s Managing Director Ian Burrell might not care to be reminded of the next impressive number.
Ian has over 40 years of experience in insurance services and a decade in the private client solicitors’ sector, making him uniquely placed to guide you through your transactions with a maximum degree of confidence.
Here, CLS PI’s Marketing Manager Karen Gannon explains some of the details behind these figures, and what they mean to Private Client solicitors using their services.
“Savendale is a new name but CLS has always worked with Ian on these products. Customers have always dealt with Ian and he’s managed the relationship.
“Backing Ian up, we have a dedicated Client Services team to help customers before, during and after the process.
“Our NPS score is a customer loyalty and satisfaction metric. We react quickly to feedback to shape our products and services in the future, to fit our clients’ needs and demands.
“Clients can pick up the phone to us at any time.
“Our capacity on Executry Bonds is £10m, one of the highest limits on the market. We can go higher and provide bespoke solutions for large cases. All of this is enabled by being insured by Munich Re and its AA- rating.
“So while Savendale might be a new name, it’s backed by CPS PI’s expertise in underwriting and the security of Munich RE.”
Savendale’s steady hand inspires confidence when your ways of operating as a legal professional have changed so substantially - and are potentially more open to risk.
Gillian Campbell, a partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP, explains the importance of being able to insure clients’ assets, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic period, we have been really busy administering executry estates. Unfortunately, some of these deaths have been COVID-19 related.
“One of the insurance products we find ourselves needing from time to time is an indemnity for lost share certificates. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, where a single person has died, the executors and families may find it difficult to search the person’s house for share certificates and documentation of that kind. This makes it more likely that certificates are not found.
"Other intestate products can form a part of the business we do as private client solicitors, but there are particular requirements we have at the moment.
"Bonds of Caution, a form of financial guarantee that is designed to protect beneficiaries from incorrect distribution of the estate by the executors, are usually required in Scotland before permission is granted to administer a deceased’s estate.
“When you consider the potential risk associated with intestate products in the current climate, it is important that law firms have ready access to insurance products such as Bonds of Caution."