IUMI 2022: Observations

The International Union Of Marine Insurance (IUMI) met this week in Chicago, its first in-person event since Toronto in 2019. While the focus was understandably on the happiness amongst all that face-to-face meetings were back, it was also clear that the pandemic has resulted in some changes to conferences and to their organizers in the insurance industry.

It was distinctly unfortunate for IUMI that its secretary, Lars Lange, tested positive for Covid-19 on the Friday before the event was scheduled to take place. This put extra strain on the already high workload of outgoing IUMI president Richard Turner and on Hendrike Kühl, IUMI’s Policy Director.

What would normally be considered one of the “drier” parts of the opening day is the report of the secretary-general and council approvals/decisions. However, tucked away within this presentation (Richard Turner stepping in admirably for Lars Lange) were some indications of the changes afoot at IUMI.

Turner did not downplay the challenges that the pandemic brought for IUMI. The annual conference is a significant revenue generator, and to lose it two years in a row necessitated some cutting of expenditure. He also noted that, still, most meetings were now held either online or at the very least in a hybrid form.

In fact IUMI performed well, financially, in 2021 (although a small loss is now anticipated for 2022, as expenditure has gone up as a result of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions). The top line gain of about €75,000 was reduced to €57,500 because €17,000 was allocated to the contingency fund. This has now reached €563,000, enough to keep the association operating even if it generated no income at all for a whole year.

IUMI has four tiers of charges, based on the size of the market of the member country. It bases its increase on the German inflation rate (as it operates out of Hamburg) and so a 3.1% increase was announced. Given the inflationary threat in Europe as a whole, there has to be a strong likelihood that next year the rates for all four tiers will rise by more than this.

The policy statement (read out in full at the beginning of all face to face IUMI annual meetings) indicates the extent to which IUMI’s committee is aware of regulatory dangers. The statement emphasizes the extent to which IUMI is in no way a price-setting cartel. At any presentation, discussion along the lines of “rates are too low” are carefully worded along the lines of “there is currently an absence of technical adequacy in this sector”.

It was noticeable this year that many of the committees were in the process of undergoing a considerable change in personnel. One of the most radical was the Facts And Figures Committee, when new chair Jun Lin had to step in with a little less than a month’s notice. In mid-August it was revealed that Phil Graham had resigned as global head of marine at Chaucer. While it was not officially confirmed, and the ramifications for his position as chair of the IUMI facts and figures committee remained unclear, by the time the conference started there was no Phil Graham at the ball. Jun Lin performed excellently in his new role, given the short notice he had that he would be required to appear in Chicago as committee chair.

IUMI is undertaking an ongoing revision to its Articles of Association – the first major self-reassessment for about a decade. A final proposal was sent to the IUMI Council on August 18th, and three notable innovations were:

A sharpened text that puts ESG and Education more firmly at the heart of the association’s self-vision.

The introduction of a new post of vice-president, renewable annually, the role of which would be to step in at short notice for the president should that be necessary.

IUMI is also assessing its communication strategy. What should it communicate, to whom, when, and how?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that, at least in the short-term, the shadow of the pandemic will continue to hang over all large conferences. While the fear that people would stop coming out of their home offices and that we would enter an all-virtual world, has turned out to be untrue, with attendances strong everywhere, it has also become clear that there is much more focus on precisely what such conferences, or indeed any face-to-face meetings, are for. It is, in the main, accepted that there is an intangible benefit to meeting people in person, often at a conference, which cannot be replicated by solely online meetings or events. But there looks to be a desire on the part of companies to turn that intangible feeling into something that is tangibly measurable.