The search for cover

March 26, 1999

Behind closed doors and using sealed bids, Wolverhampton University is choosing a new insurer for its Pounds 100million estate.

By the start of the new academic yearthe university wants to have secured a policy that offers it the best value for its money.

"Zurich Municipal is our current insurer and has insured us for the past three years. We would like to change insurers by August 1," says Gary Sproston, financial directorat Wolverhampton.

The change is taking place in two stages. Wolverhampton has chosen a broker, now the broker has to find the best bid for theuniversity's assets and liabilities cover.

Tony Lea, clerk to the board of governors and an insurance expert, says:

"We need comprehensiveinsurance, which will cover buildings against fire and other perils, and we indicate how much self-insurancewe would consider.Price is the majordeterminant."

Mr Lea estimates that there will be a difference of about Pounds 20,000 between the highest and lowest quote that the university will be offered for the same cover. The premium is likely to be a few hundred thousand pounds.

"The university needs a wide range of cover. As well as worries such as buildings burning down and computers being stolen, it is also looking closely at any liabilities.

"We need to have good employer's liability insurance as there have been a number of small accidents recently involving cleaners slipping over.

"We also need product liability and professional indemnity insurance because we make glass in our studios for the local market and interactive CD-Roms for the foreign market.

"The impact ofthe year 2000 was a question I posed, butI was told that theinsurance market has decided it is a foreseeable event and therefore cannot be insured against. If, however, as a result of a heating control crash, our pipes froze, burst and flooded the university we would be covered under perils insurance."

Mr Lea has also looked closely at legal expenses insurance. "So far we have never had to use this, butstudents are becoming far more litigious, and universities are in the firing line."

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