ANNABEL FELL-CLARK NAVIGATES THE ART INSURANCE LANDSCAPE
BY CLAIRE NAA
CEO OF AXA ART’S U.K. OPERATIONS PORTFOLIO INCLUDES U.K., ASIA, SCANDINAVIA, AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND
Ask Annabel Fell-Clark about her typical day and you’ll learn that for the CEO of AXA Art Insurance Limited, “the only thing that is routine about her days is the way her mornings begin.” Her 14-month-old sounds the alarm for his ceremonial breakfast in bed next to his parents after which mother and father drop him off to school on their bikes, allowing for a crisp ride through London and, for Fell-Clark, to the AXA Art offices.
Fell-Clark was appointed Chief Executive of AXA Art Insurance Limited in the U.K. approximately five years ago. In her role, she is charged with driving business strategy and growth for the U.K., Eastern Europe and Asian markets of AXA Art, the global art insurance brand which specializes in protecting art and collectibles, the contents of high value homes and buildings, musical instruments and insures private collectors, dealers, museums and exhibitions.
Since Fell-Clark’s selection, the operations she directs have grown by over 50% in revenues, with staff count roughly the same and profitability maintained. This consummate leader credits the contributions and expertise of her seven-member management team, six based locally in London and the other based in Hong Kong for these formidable results—especially since the global art market has experienced some very well reported hiccups over the past few years.
Industry peers are watching. AXA Art Insurance Limited recently won the coveted High Net Worth Personal Lines Underwriting Team of the Year and prestigious Underwriting Service Awards.
With Asia a significant part of her portfolio, Art+Living asked Fell-Clark for her views on operating in the Asian market and some challenges she faces there. “AXA Art is increasingly turning its attention to Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China, with Taiwan and South Korea featured as well,” she noted.
“Asia is experiencing explosive growth in both personal wealth and within the overall economy and is steadily being recognized as a destination for the art market. The prospects for us in mainland China are very exciting,” she said.
Perhaps the fastest growth has been noticeable in the Chinese markets where people are starting to be more interested in Western art now, as well as indigenous Chinese works of art. CEO Fell-Clark acknowledges that doing business in these markets represents some complex challenges, which include well publicized barriers to enter the local insurance industry. Licensing is a major issue along with the regions’ strict, regulatory restrictions as to how an insurance company can trade, not to mention the fact that physical infrastructure is inconsistent from one city to another, making risk control more complicated. Fell-Clark also recognized that while AXA Art currently employs Mandarin speakers in Hong Kong who can service the business, communication may not be necessarily straightforward. There are many cultural differences of which AXA Art needs to be cognizant and respectful in its dealings.
It takes years to build up networks of business partners in new territories, and China will be no different for AXA Art. The company is in the business of providing peace of mind for collectors. With the creative boom and exploding interests in art within the Asian markets, there are risks to assess, security issues to manage, specialized transit, security and fire prevention systems, packing and shipping conditions, relationships with specialist conservators to cultivate and, of course, the all-important claims processing. This is a tremendous opportunity to educate the stewards of art and collectibles within Asia about an available instrument to protect their new and rapidly emerging passion.
Fell-Clark is uniquely qualified and up to the challenge. A record of achievement in the industry to rival any, her upbringing within the arts—born into a family in the antiques business—and with her cultivated personal taste for 20th Century design and contemporary art, Fell-Clark is approaching this burgeoning virgin territory for the art market with much promise. Fell-Clark observed, “It’s definitely one of the most exciting parts of our business right now.”