Rising Star Emily Weiss Schaffer Sees Endless Career Potential in Insurance for Young Art Fiends

Many fine arts brokers come to the industry with a deep passion and knowledge of art history. For Emily Schaffer, it gives her the ability to protect what she loves as well.
By: | February 2, 2024


Come see the Stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the best brokers in the commercial insurance space, Risk & Insurance®, with the sponsorship of Philadelphia Insurance, is expanding its coverage of the Rising Stars, those brokers who represent the next wave of insurance brokering talent.

Look for these expanded profiles on the Risk & Insurance website and in your social media feeds throughout the year.

We recently caught up with Emily Weiss Schaffer, assistant vice president at Risk Strategies and a 2023 Fine Arts Power Broker.

Risk & Insurance: What led you to a career in the insurance industry? How did your studies influence your career path?

Emily Weiss Schaffer: I studied Art History and Studio Art at Skidmore College, and knew I wanted to be in the art world in some capacity. Unfortunately for myself and, I think, so many art graduates, fine art insurance was not an area that was covered in school. I had never even heard of it until I was already two years into living in NYC and working at Artnet.

I was introduced to someone at Risk Strategies (DeWitt Stern at the time) and after meeting and interviewing with other team members, I learned that fine art insurance was not only an integral part of the art world, but a career path where I could really grow. What better way to translate my love of doing, seeing, and talking about art than being a steward and protector of the arts?

R&I: What excites or challenges you about working as a fine arts insurance broker? Why are you passionate about this job?

EWS: The least surprising answer is, of course, access to so much art – from art fairs and gallery openings to artist studio visits and collector tours, I am surrounded by the thing I love so much. But something else I am passionate about is connecting with and helping others.

I am someone who thrives on human connection, and a key part of being an effective broker is communicating with clients and helping them solve problems. I am happy to be their sounding board and all-around risk advisor.

R&I: Fine arts brokers work with a variety of clients, from museums and private collectors to art shippers and artists themselves. How do you approach working with each type of client?

EWS: It is a real benefit to our clients that Risk Strategies has such a wide breadth of Fine Art clients, and that we don’t specialize in just one sector.

My colleagues and I each handle a diverse book of business that contains different types of fine art clients from private collectors to dealers to packer/shippers. This allows us to understand all sides of a situation.

For instance, when reviewing a loan agreement for a collector, we know what things make sense to push for and what not to because the gallery would never agree. We can put ourselves in various scenarios and see the bigger picture. At the end of the day, I think listening to my clients and truly understanding their concerns and goals is the best way to approach being their broker.

R&I: Who were your mentors? How did they help you build a career in this industry?

EWS: Steve Pincus and Mary Pontillo (herself a Fine Arts Power Broker winner many times over) have been my mentors since the beginning. Mary has always supported me in whatever I do and has coached me in various aspects of my career. I have worked closely with Steve on large accounts over the past 13 years and he has provided an endless wealth of knowledge.

R&I: What would you say to a young person, perhaps someone who studied art, about a career in insurance?

EWS: I would tell them to seek out and speak with professionals in various industries that are connected to the arts as it will open their minds up to a career in the art world that they would have never known about.

I would tell them to ignore their initial reaction to the word “insurance” and welcome a career path where they are challenged daily to be analytical and thoughtful problem solvers with an opportunity to see and discuss as much art as they desire. &

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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