Oddly for a woman who organises the insurance for some of the rarest and most expensive musical instruments in the world, Claire doesn’t play a note. “I can paint and draw but I’ve no musical talent” she laughs, which raises the question: how did she get where she is today?
Claire works for specialist insurance broker H.W Wood Limited. She’s based in the City of London but the firm has offices all over the world. By her own admission, she just ‘fell into’ her career. “When I was 19, I was interviewed to be an assistant in a broking firm,” Claire explains. “I worked my way up and by the time I was 25 I was managing the department and had grown the business. I just went from there. Now I’ve been in the insurance industry 26 years”.
According to Claire, her job is extremely varied and involves meeting many people of different nationalities and backgrounds. “My clients are musicians, orchestras, collectors, also dealers and instrument makers. Most are based in Europe, but our firm also deals with other countries including Canada and Australia.”
The instruments she helps insure can be the working instruments on which musicians perform, or they could be expensive collectors’ items. “An individual instrument could be worth £1,000 – that’s our starting point – and go right up to £20m for a Stradivarius violin or cello. For collections, they could be valued at anywhere between £20,000 and £100m.”
Claire’s asked to help insure some very unusual instruments, too. Aside from the odd set of bagpipes, the strangest thing she’s been called on to help with was a set of instruments made from matchsticks.
“Exhibitions can be very challenging,” she says. “There’s a lot of organisation, a lot of instruments under one roof plus they all have to be transported to and from the site. Exhibitions require a great deal of planning and plans can change in an instant, but if your lucky enough to see a completed exhibition it makes it all worthwhile.”
What Claire likes most is to see the instruments themselves, not just their values on a spreadsheet. “It’s great to see the money listed on a sheet of paper become something you can see and touch. It’ easy to see just values, but I love to see what I’m actually insuring.”