Chris Collidge, of Collidge and Partners, tells us how the insurance business and his family firm has evolved to keep up with the needs of 21st century boaters.
Photography by Andy R Annable
How did Collidge and Partners begin?
My father, Pat Collidge, set up the business in the mid 1980s. It started offering general insurance, but evolved into marine insurance and insurance for the inland waterways when he identified a market.
Did you always know you would go into the business?
We lived on the banks of the River Avon, and I was always interested in the water; I swam in it, and almost drowned in it! I used to go fly fishing, but I didn’t see my career there.
I went into banking first of all. It wasn’t for me, but it gave me a good grounding in financial planning.
How many members of the family still work with you?
Sadly, my father passed away in 2005. My wife Jo is a partner; she acts as company secretary and does the accounts. My daughter Gemma does new sales and renewals. My sister Vickie looks after new business.
How has the business changed?
In the 1980s companies tended to specialise in coastal boats, the Broads, or Lake District; the inland waterways market was almost ignored. Also, there weren’t as many boats. As years passed, the number of boats and manufacturers increased. The marinas got more professional and wanted insurance for boats for sale. When I joined the firm, I went into sales, and drove around the marinas talking to people, finding out what they needed.
Do you insure all boats?
We also do boat-shares, hire fleets, tenants, hotel boats and skipper charter boats. And we do light informal trading schemes, for example we have a boat that sells ice cream and a lady who makes postcards and decorative items.
What sort of things should boaters insure against?
Flooding for a start. This could be from severe weather as with last year when a number of boats sank. A few years ago some boats drifted into a flooded field and as the water went down they were stranded, but the ground was too soft for any vehicles to rescue them. They sank in the mud, which then solidified like concrete, and cows were using them as rubbing posts – they were in a terrible state.
Or people do strange things, one couple didn’t put the weed hatch back on, panicked and their boat sank in a river navigation lane.
There’s the occasional fire, or trees fall across the canal, we had a claim because someone’s brand-new boat was almost totalled by a tree. Luckily, no one was hurt.
Boats bump into things or other boats, of course, particularly in summer, when the canals are at their busiest.
We insure against things like sinking, fire, explosions, theft, vandalism, contents, third party or public liability.
Has the cover changed?
There are some new items that need insuring solar panels, aerials, wind generators and expensive bikes – make sure you tell your insurance company about those. You have to evolve. As new innovations come along, we soon get to know, and work out cover.
Have claims for crime increased?
No, not that we’ve seen. Security has improved a great deal. Boats used to have wooden doors and a padlock. Modern boats have steel doors and alarms.
What was the strangest thing you’ve insured?
A few years ago we arranged insurance for a submersible two-seater for diving on wrecks, also a decommissioned lighthouse boat refurbished as a houseboat.
Do you have any tips?
Lock your doors, close windows and make sure you chain up bicycles on the boat – or at the pub. Boats in company are safer than alone, and so are people. Try not to leave a vessel moored and unattended for long periods. It becomes noticed and a possible target for thieves and vandals.
What is your ethos?
We’re professional in our field and we’re here to serve. We’re a family-owned company with a dedicated team of people who specialise in the inland waterways.
Do you have a boat?
Our family has used several boats, now Jo and I have a Hobby monohull sailing dinghy that we keep at home, and play with it at sea locally. Great fun!
How can readers contact you?
Call 01843 295925, or see collidgeandpartners.co.uk