Bulletproof Insurance is a new service that looks set to take on shooting organisations – but MD Nathan Walton says he’d rather work with them than against them. Huw Hopkins finds out how Bulletproof works
The UK’s shooters are a responsible bunch. They play by the rules. They ensure licenses and certificates are up to date, and protect themselves and others with practical solutions like ear defenders and shooting glasses. Some of them also take out another form of protection: insurance.
Organisations such as BASC, the CPSA and the NRA offer insurance to their members as part of an all-inclusive package that includes tuition, safety and legal advice, as well as other auxiliary benefits like community spirit and dates for your calendar.
It’s a hugely desirable and essential thing to have, but when taken out of this context, the word ‘insurance’ still conjures up negative images: people in call centres, often in a different country, with no idea or empathy of a problem that may arise in a unique situation. But Nathan Walton wants to overcome this and persuade shooters to take out specific insurance packages without signing up to an organisation. He’s launched Bulletproof Insurance, said to be the only company offering recreational shooters comprehensive cover without joining an organisation.
Nathan says he’s not anti-organisations, just filling a gap in the market: “There are 700,000-800,000 certificate holders in the UK, of which 500,000 of them don’t belong to any kind of organisation, which leads us to believe that there are a hell of a lot of them that don’t have insurance.”
But what does he know? For one, he’s the founder of JSW Insurance Services, which is now part of the County Group – one of the UK’s top 50 brokers – and a keen shooter who was a member of a shooting organisation for years. The company also has other well-known shooters attached to it.
“I got into shooting a few years ago on a recreational basis and met Lachlan Nisbet, and that’s where the ideas were first formed. Lachlan’s a lawyer but he would be the person to deal with a call on the policy or the policy holder needing advice relating to shotgun licences for Bulletproof. He then introduced me to Helena Venables (née Douglas) who’s been instrumental with helping us launch and getting in front of the right people.”
It’s certainly in front of them now, with a number of articles already appearing in the shooting press. But ultimately, Bulletproof’s success will hinge on the product being offered. Here, Nathan is confident: “This is a first-resort policy. You don’t have to prove you’re not covered elsewhere like some of the membership organisations. You’re covered for full liability of up to £10m and legal expenses arising out of certificate issues and revocation, which the policy covers up to £150,000. We are using a company called HCC International, which is a well respected, A-rated, financially strong insurance underwriter that specialises in shooting. There will soon be cover for employers’ liability should there be a casual employee engaged by the syndicate to load or drive, and personal accident in case someone is disabled through a shooting incident – which will include weekly benefit and some capital benefit under personal accident. There will also be cover for cancellation if someone pays out for a shooting day that’s cancelled, cover for equipment and ultimately for gundogs. We will bolt on these additional policies quickly.”
Insurance is a complicated game, and the Bulletproof Insurance also works with another company, Qdos Underwriters, which helps place the risk. But the nuts-and-bolts idea is that from £29.50 a year, the company will cover individuals for legal expenses and personal liability, which is competitive with shooting organisation rates for insurance.
Individual cases will be a big focus for Bulletproof, and Nathan recalls some of the situations that Lachlan explained to him where insurance would have helped: “There was a client who had an antique shotgun that was handed down through generations and was hanging on his wall, and the police turned up and noted that the shotgun wasn’t on his ticket. The licence holder can face a prison sentence in that situation. We’re also mindful of the of the amount of older people within the industry who regularly use shotguns to go clay or game shooting and we will be talking to insurers about increasing cover up to the age of 85. I don’t think any insurer will give carte-blanche cover to people over the age of 80, but many individuals will be able to make use of the personal accident bolt-on, which will be a slightly higher cost.
“It’s a situation that has comparisons with driving. If you hit 80 as a driver, you have to reapply for your license every 12 months because the authorities think your reactions are slower, but it is something we’re looking into.”
Individuals aren’t the only focus though. Chasing down people to each take out a cover worth less than £30 is a tough job, but Bulletproof hopes to team up with some organisations and work on a contract basis.
“We’re itching for a conversation with BASC because we think we could work in tandem with them. The association does wonderful things over and beyond insurance and we’re not in the market to replace BASC with other services, we just want to offer more choice. Our target market is those who don’t have insurance, but hopefully our product will be of interest to membership organisations.
“We’ve just done a block-policy for a syndicate of 50. The group disclosed its members’ names to us, the insurer has charged a lower rate and members pay for it as part of their fees. We want to get lots of customers through the Bulletproof website but that is going to take some time. What helps is when we can sell multiple covers. We want to arouse the interest of membership organisations in the hope that we can put forward a proposal to represent their insurance interests at the appropriate time. We’ve already had verbal confirmation from some that they are happy to let us pitch for the insurance work when it is up for renewal.”
Nathan expressed on several occasions that he simply wants to plug an expansive gap in the market. It’s undeniably the case that many members of BASC, the CPSA, the NSRA and others have joined up only for the insurance – and they may be tempted away by a cheaper service. But that’s not who Nathan is gunning for in the long term. Bulletproof Insurance, he says, hopes to work alongside thosee groups rather than being a cause for them to fear for their membership.
“The hope by the end of the first year is that we’ve performed a strategic alliance with a membership organisation and are well on the way to hitting our targeted numbers for the individual covers. With the time and effort expended in getting to this stage, we’re confident that we’re going to get what we need. We have a comprehensive marketing and sales plan that we will visit every month to ensure we’re where we thought we’d be at each point.”
In essence, it’s a very different service to a shooting organisation, and should therefore attract a different audience. Organisations provide a lot more in some ways – advice, coaching, community and fighting for the sport. Nathan Walton isn’t trying to replace those things with Bulletproof, but to exist alongside them. You may be a critic of companies that try to make money off shooters’ need for insurance – but if Nathan Walton’s plans run like he hopes they will and a partnership with an organisation comes off, even the staunchest opponent could end up being covered by Bulletproof anyway.