How to insure an Olympic medal

08 May 2018

JLT has joined forces with Lloyd’s insurer StarStone to insure medals won by British Skeleton racers Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas made history at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on 17 February. In a gripping finish, Yarnold smashed the track record to take gold while Deas held on to her hard-fought-for Bronze.

The duo became the first British athletes to win two medals in the same event, in what was Britain's most successful day ever at the Winter Olympics.

Yarnold’s gold was an incredible achievement. The win followed previous World Championship, European Championship and World Cup successes and meant she became the first British winter athlete to retain their Olympic title, having first won Olympic gold at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Unsurprisingly, the medals won at PyeongChang have huge personal value for Yarnold and Deas, who was competing in her first Olympics.

"My bronze medal is unique and of real sentimental value, and it can’t be replaced,” says Deas. “It is the physical representation of the blood, sweat and tears that go into winning,” she says.
Both Deas and Yarnold clearly appreciate the pleasure and excitement that their success brings. “It’s the value of smiles. I know that it is something important when people hold the medal in their hands. They don’t look at me they just look at the medal and say ‘Whoa’,” says Yarnold.

Commenting on what the medals mean to her, Yarnold explains: “I love the fact that there are only three medals that say PyeongChang skeleton – gold, silver and bronze. They have a unique connection to each other.”

How to insure an Olympic medal

Travelling with valuables

Since winning in PyeongChang, Deas and Yarnold have taken their medals almost everywhere – to friends and family, schools visits and corporate events.

"The medals are really heavy, so it’s not like you can forget they are there,” says Yarnold.

The two athletes have to keep a close eye on their medals, which is easier said than done given the frenzy of activity that follows Olympic success.

Deas admits to initially having kept her medal in her sock draw, while Yarnold says that she has been known to leave her medal in the care of family members, including her nan.

But both athletes are now looking for a safe place to store their medal, and thoughts have turned to how best to protect them.

Unique risks in insuring high-value items

Given their symbolic and emotional value, Olympic medals are an unusual asset to insure, requiring specialist insurance, explains Lee Taylor, Senior Partner, Fine Art, Jewellery and Specie at JLT Specialty.

JLT recently worked with Yarnold and Deas to insure their medals in the Lloyd’s market.

“When it comes to high value or intangible assets like an Olympic medal, you need specialists like JLT and Lloyd’s. With the greatest respect to the athletes, the real value of an Olympic medal is not in the metal but in their achievement,” says Taylor.

He adds: “We have been able to provide cover on an ‘all risk’ and a worldwide basis, and for an agreed value that takes into account the athletes’ achievement.”

Insuring an Olympic medal is a “unique” proposition, explains Stacey Munton, Specie Underwriter at StarStone, who underwrote the risk.

Everyday personal insurance would not typically cover a high value or intangible asset like an Olympic medal.

Some insurers will cover the replacement cost of an item (the International Olympic Committee will replace a medal but it has replica stamped on the back), but this would not take into account the true value of the medal to the athlete, she says.

Insuring Lizzy and Laura’s medals shows the Lloyd’s market at its best, according to StarStone Underwriting Chief Executive Tim Fillingham.

“This is a great example of Lloyd’s specialism and flexibility. We are able to start with a blank sheet and work with JLT to tailor a policy that fits the needs of these athletes. You can’t find this cover on any comparison website,” he says.

Lost or stolen medals

The main risks for sporting medals are theft and ‘mysterious disappearance’, which is essentially a misplaced or lost item.

While Yarnold and Deas are keeping a close eye on their medals, Olympic medals have gone missing in the past.

In 2014, thieves stole the gold medal won by British curler Rhona Howie at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 – it was taken from the Dumfries Museum where it was part of a special exhibition.

US snowboarder Shaun White admits to having lost his Olympic gold medal several times – one time his mother took his medal to the dry cleaners.

Olympic athletes are a good risk in the eyes of specialist underwriters like Munton.

For example, the ‘moral hazard’ when insuring an Olympic medal is low, because the athlete will go out of their way to keep it secure.

And if a medal is stolen, the market for potential buyers is restrictive, she explains.

But athletes are not always seen as a good risk. Yarnold recalls how her home and motor insurers responded unexpectedly after she won her first gold in 2014.

“My driving ability had not changed and neither had the risk when I was driving, yet the perception of having won an Olympic medal affected my car insurance.

“And when I went to insure my home, my insurer was reluctant to cover me for fear someone may break into my house and steal my medal,” she says.

Sporting risk

Athletes can be perceived as risk takers, but the reality is surprisingly different.

Yarnold and Deas take a disciplined approach to risk and view the team’s ability to manage risk as a competitive advantage.

A skeleton run takes a lot out of an athlete. Yarnold’s top speed is 90 mph and sliders can experience 5G of pressure during a race.

“We have to weigh up the risks to performance and make sure we get to the start line in the best possible shape,” says Deas.

Winning the Olympics requires good team work, communication and preparation, according to Yarnold and Deas. “We are constantly thinking about ‘what if’ scenarios,” says Deas.

This level of preparation gives Deas and Yarnold confidence to perform under the pressure of competition. “When you know you have done the work, it is then just about execution,” says Deas.

For further information, please contact Lee Taylor, Senior Partner, Fine Art, Jewellery and Specie at JLT Specialty on +44 (0)20 74666249 or email lee_taylor@jltgroup.com.