Travel Risk

High Net Worth Travel Risks

High net worth travel parties are choosing increasingly exotic locales for vacations.
By: | November 6, 2017 • 4 min read
Topics: High Net Worth

One benefit of being well off is having the resources to travel more frequently, in fine style and to more exotic destinations than those with less wealth. But such travel may exceed the scope of traditional travel insurance.


“The five top emerging destinations for travel for high net worth are places that probably they’d never go to in the past: Cuba, Iran, Iceland, Antarctica, and Mongolia,” said Heather Posner, director of high net worth at Burns & Wilcox.

“These are places that are unique and present unique exposures.”

High-value individuals and families are also more likely to travel with extended parties.

“When you have family trips where maybe they’re trying to get three generations of the family and there may be 35 folks traveling to Africa to do a safari… There’s a huge amount of things that can go wrong and could delay or cause that trip to be cancelled,” said Martin Hartley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of PURE Group of Insurance Companies.

“There are huge sums of money at stake.”

And while the risk of travel interruptions from terrorism or political instability is hardly unique to the high net worth, or to exotic locales, the wealthy can afford coverages that go beyond simple travel interruption coverage, providing assistance and logistical support, whether to restructure a trip to avoid trouble spots or to return home amid potentially trying circumstances.

Martin Hartley, EVP and COO of PURE

Other security concerns may be more specific to the high net worth, such as kidnap and ransom (K&R) coverage.

“We’re seeing a lot of inquiry around the area of kidnap and ransom,” said Susan Ogrodnik-Smith, Chief Sales Officer-Personal Insurance at HUB International New England.

While traveling with a security team remains largely limited to the ultra-wealthy, those with substantial assets are increasingly likely to take advantage of security training and briefings made available through their insurers, to proactively minimize such risks.

Another potential complication in coverages for these clients arises from support staff that may be employed to facilitate a particular lifestyle.

“Most of the workers’ compensation or employment practices liability coverage that somebody might have for their domestic help in the U.S. likely would not extend overseas,” says Lisa Lindsay, executive director at the Private Risk Management Association.

Because of this, some hire temporary help in their destination country, in which case a broker might need to partner with an overseas counterpart who has its own network and understands and can navigate local requirements and conditions.

Sailing trips can present particular challenges.

“The crew gets off the yacht and needs to go rent a car to go pick up supplies, and the minute…they’re on dry land doing work, they’re not covered,” says Lindsay.

“There’s a ton of complications around not just the vessel, but the liability and crew coverage. …It really absolutely requires that a high net worth individual be working with a yacht specialist and not just a not just a generalist.”

Heather Posner, director of High Net Worth, Burns & Wilcox

Medical coverage is another important aspect of travel coverage. High net worth insureds tend to be older than the general population and will want to ensure that accidents or illness abroad will be treated with the same high standards they expect at home, or that they can get home, if necessary.

Medical evacuation coverage, which generally only covers transport to nearby medical facilities, is often confused with medical repatriation, or transport back to the US, which is a much more costly coverage.

Increasingly, private clients look to medical concierge services to coordinate specialists, provide payment to providers (in cash, as is sometimes necessary), and, in the case of at least one company, to make comprehensive medical records instantly available.

“It’s nice to be able to have somebody there that will pay your bill [or] repatriate you,” said James Mead, CEO of PinnacleCare Private Health Advisory.

“But at the moment of the incident, it’s even better to have the information on your medical history available to you. That’s really one of the most valuable services we provide.”

As is true at home, one of the biggest issues when insuring high net worth clients abroad is liability.


“Most high net worth insurance carriers would be providing their policyholders with worldwide liability coverage,” says Lindsay.

“But with any insurance policies, then come the exclusions, like aircraft, chartering a boat over a certain size…That’s why it’s so important to dig into the real specifics of, ‘How do you vacation?’”

And even if your liability coverage is worldwide, it is best to check with your broker, especially before traveling to unusual destinations.

“Different countries certainly have different rules and regulations that may impact how a claim is ultimately settled.” Lindsay adds.

Ultimately, most aspects of travel, including liability, may already be covered under existing policies, but some prefer a little extra peace of mind.

“We’re seeing some of our high net worth clients obsess,” said Lindsay.

“I think I have coverage, I’m sure I have coverage, but…I’d rather just purchase it and be double-protected.”

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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R&I Profile

Achieving Balance

XL Catlin’s Denise Balan stays calm and focused when faced with crisis.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 6 min read

In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.

But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.


“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.

“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.

“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”

Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.

“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”

Yin and Yang

Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.

She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.

Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.

In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.

She was hooked.

Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.

She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.

As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.

She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”

“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.

After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.

“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”

She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.

“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”


She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.

After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.

In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.

“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”

Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.

“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.

“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”

Building a K&R Program

When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.

Balan during a retreat in Sicily, Italy, 2017

She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.

“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.

“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.

“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”

But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.


“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.

After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.

“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”

“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”

Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.

“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]