Having handled in excess of 1 million cases with a market value approaching £2 billion, it has been another busy year for Octavian. With a buoyant secondary market, inflow volumes from home and trade cellars have continued to rise, as has the need for our services. Demand for condition imaging has increased by 30% year-on-year and we completed 91,000 condition images in 2018. We have seen a marked increase in inspections from private customers seeking reassurance of provenance, clear identification of ownership, impeccable security and quality of insurance. And as an inspirational location, we are thrilled to have featured in Channel 4's ‘Hidden Britain by Drone’ - available to view ‘On Demand’ - and graced the pages of ‘The Sentence is Death,’ Antony Horovitz’s latest murder mystery!
Ever conscious of our environmental impact, we have introduced lighting sensors to help reduce energy usage against rising costs and upgraded to dehumidifiers that run more efficiently at our temperatures. We are also mindful of reducing the amount of plastic sent to landfill and where possible use our own branded wooden cases rather than cardboard packaging.
We are soon to deliver a more customer-friendly, intuitive and secure online environment. Our customer portal will offer increased functionality with drinking windows, up-to-date market values and having listened to feedback, far greater focus on wine and portfolio management. Enhanced security features have taken longer to develop than we originally anticipated. For this we apologise, but we wanted the site to be as robust and secure as it could be. We hope you find it worth the wait.
In addition, new ‘Exchange’ functionality will allow our customers to trade through a closed peer-to-peer environment, negating the need to send cases to other warehouses in order to release value. This update will include the ability to see how long each case has been in our care, irrespective of how long it has been in your account. When polled, 67% of our customers stated they would pay more for an Octavian stored case. Now we will be able to demonstrate that our storage pays for itself.
On the safety front, plans are also underway to update our nitrogen delivery system in the case of a fire. While underground storage is naturally safe due to its inaccessibility and low level fire risk, in a year where Ocado saw a large warehouse destroyed we feel it timely to review our fire risks and mitigations. Many warehouses would use water, but we appreciate that when safeguarding rare and high value collections, water damage would be too grave.
Within a relatively old-fashioned industry that still works largely on trust, sadly it is increasingly the case that unscrupulous people are entering the market. In one recent instance, an individual who managed wine on behalf of clients raised collateral against their collections, only to sell the portfolios and disappear with the proceeds of both the sale and funds from the bank, leaving the true owners and the lender out of pocket to the tune of £millions.
Such events are driving Octavian to be increasingly diligent in customer verification. We also ensure that owners’ names appear on cases for clear identification. Should collateral be sought via a bank or financial body, we ask to be informed and if we are involved, provide both bank and customer visibility of the stock with agreement from both parties before its release.
Similar safeguards are in place when it comes to insurance. You may have heard of a recent instance in which a commercial customer tried to claim on their own insurance following a warehouse break-in where some basic security measures were deemed to be lacking. Months later and the claim is still
ongoing. The moral of the tale is if you are insuring yourself, be sure to check the small print and know exactly what is covered. Many policies exclude losses such as those over a period of time through theft.
Octavian customers however can rest assured that we have secured exceptionally high insurance cover, with full compensation available should the unexpected happen. Assets are protected physically and financially - finer, safer and ultimately, more valuable.
I hope you enjoy this issue.
Vincent O’Brien, Managing Director