4 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Local Horizons, Global Vision
18 Nov 1999 :
Since Church and General joined forces with global leader Allianz, the world has become a stable market for the Irish based Insurance company but, as Entertainment Media & Leisure and Marketing Manager Catherine Ryan underlines, they are just as committed to maintaining their local roots as well.

Catherine Ryan is the only insurance underwriter specialising in the film industry in Ireland. She began working in insurance eighteen years ago and spent twelve of these working with the film industry. Now comfortably leading a new team towards even greater specialisation, Catherine Ryan and Allianz Church and General look set for an exciting future. “With the film industry there is always a challenge. Each film you underwrite is very different and brings different aspects to the job” she explained.

One aspect of her job, which keeps her focus international, is their close links with another Allianz Group company, The Fireman’s Fund. With a deceptively ordinary name, this company is a world-leading specialist Hollywood insurer with more than 60 years experience in the entertainment insurance business. Best known for its work on the silent classics such as the first Charlie Chaplin films, the Fireman’s Fund continues to underwrite Hollywood’s most popular Oscar-winning films.

During her career to date, Catherine Ryan has seen a strong growth pattern in the Irish film industry. Her first underwriting role for the film industry was on the Irish film Eat the Peach. “As a result of that experience I was asked to look at the portfolio of business which existed at that time, which was only two or three projects in development. That grew substantially with the introduction of section 35 and 481 and consequently so did my job,” she explained.

Her new team is focused on consolidating the Irish market and also looking to new opportunities which the Allianz partnership has created. This partnership signals a significant development for the industry. “It offers the market access to the best international expertise, combined with enormous financial strength,” Catherine Ryan explained. Allianz is one of the world’s leading insurers. It was ranked number three in the world by the Wall Street journal last year and with the recent acquisition of Assurances Generales de France (AGF) it is now easily the leading insurer in Europe.

The company was founded in 1890 and is headquartered in Munich. Following the purchase of a controlling interest in AGF, Allianz and AGF have a combined total value of more than €300 billion.

So where does that leave the humble Irish short or indigenous small producer? Catherine Ryan stresses the point that the individual Irish production is more important than ever. “The reason we look at the smaller productions as well as the large productions is that we see it as a longer term investment in the Irish industry. On a small production your exposure levels might be different but you still have to underwrite an individual account,” she explained.

Catherine Ryan admits that producers new to the industry sometimes don’t appreciate the importance of insurance. ”We find that people only realise that insurance is important when they have a claim. What people tend to do is cost a budget but not speak to an expert to find out what their true insurance line should be. We would strongly advise that they contact a professional broker early on, when they are developing a budget. We can work with them in conjunction with the development of that project,” she said.

She maintains that it is never too early to consider risk. Even before a company approaches potential funding sources. ”Even if they don’t consequently receive funding we can still work with them. Its not a waste of time. It’s as straightforward as, when you develop an idea and you have an idea of the type of budget requirements you need. Then, at that stage phone a broker, we can talk about a rough idea of your premium level and at least it will give you a guideline of how much you should be putting in your budget.”

With her own careful management Catherine Ryan is about to dissolve her own unique partnership with the industry here. She is bringing in another underwriter to the Irish market thus giving up her position as the only underwriter for the Irish film industry. “We have a strong team which we have developed and recently we brought onboard a new film underwriter, Lisa Whelan. She is continuing to be trained within that area to a specialist skill level. She will then be able to work on the more complex projects and so become the second person who can underwrite film.” Catherine Ryan explained.

This strategic move reflects the changes which are about to come for Catherine and the company. As of January 2000 and as a result of the partnership with Allianz, Church and General will be entering the UK market, something which was not possible before. “Its part of our position as a more global player. With effect from January we can underwrite in the UK market and not just for Irish business,” she explained.

Catherine Ryan is assured of the future growth of her own department and the company and she sees it as a great challenge. “I think that my job will change as the technology in the industry changes. We have to be more aware of the technical implications on a project, with computer-generated images and other technical expertise coming onstream. I think that will change my job and in that I see a great challenge and welcome it.”

With a future as international as that envisaged by Catherine Ryan, the industry looks very exciting indeed.

Allianz Church and General can be visited at www.allianz.ie

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