Banks of all sizes typically buy extortion and ransom insurance, but they are paying more attention to the issue today as bank executives travel more for both leisure and business.

Travelers Advantage for Financial Institutions offers bankers access to crisis managers who specialize in resolving kidnapping and extortion situations.

Control Risks Group, an international company employing former intelligence and law enforcers, immediately dispatches an expert to any hostage scene once contacted by Travelers. The company handled about 40 such problems last year.

"They are the quarterbacks-they assist with negotiations," said William Demers, Travelers product manager for extortion and ransom insurance.

Just as an HMO gives entree to a group of doctors, the insurance policy gives community banks affordable access to Control Risks.

"Once we're on the ground and operating, there are no insurance concerns," said Richard Fenning, a New York-based Control Risk director. "We're not there to contain the underwriting expenses.

"One of the first jobs we do is inject as much calmness as possible," he added. It's also important that a bank continue to operate, Mr. Fenning said: "The whole bank can't come to a standstill because one poor person has been kidnapped."

It's extremely rare for Western bank executives to be kidnapped, Mr. Fenning noted. But the world has changed so much that bank executives are now traveling to far-flung countries that once were inaccessible for political reasons, he said.

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