The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) Asia Forum held in Shanghai recently was a ground- breaking affair in more ways than one.
It was the first time IUMI has held a gathering in China working in partnership with its local member the Shanghai Institute of Marine Insurance (SIMI).
With more than 400 delegates representing senior management from right across the spectrum of China’s shipping industry, it seems remarkable that China was not even an IUMI member until 2015.
And IUMI’s strategy of holding more events and gatherings in Asia seems to be paying off handsomely.
The IUMI Asia Forum in Shanghai was the second edition of the event following on from the first in Singapore in 2018.
IUMI’s bold move to embrace the Asia marine insurance community is right because after all, the region is the engine of world growth and trade and will be for the foreseeable future.
A while back there was a feeling that IUMI had become a little staid in its approach and that it had developed into a Europe-dominated talking shop.
Members in Asia felt they were getting insufficient value for their fees and there were rumblings of discontent.
So IUMI acted fast and decided to engage with the leading marine markets in the region and see what could be done to enhance Asian presence, interest and influence.
That resulted in the setting up of the IUMI Asia Hub in Hong Kong in 2016 and the decision to engage members in the region more directly.
This was backed up by the appointment of two senior market professionals in the region to act as IUMI’s Asia ambassadors. Agnes Choi is based in Hong Kong and Mike Davies in Singapore.
There is little doubt that marine insurance will develop at a faster pace in Asia than anywhere else and certainly at a faster pace than in Europe from where the majority of global premium income is currently derived (almost 50%).
Not only is premium income from marine insurance growing at a faster pace in Asia, the region already accounts for more than 30% of total marine market gross premium income.
It’s only a matter of time before the majority of global marine insurance premium income is derived from Asian markets – and that will be driven significantly by China.
Global marine insurance premiums came to US$28.5 billion in 2017, the last available year’s figures.
The event itself was a breath of fresh air and totally different to the set piece IUMI gatherings of old when country delegates laboriously read out country reports full of raw data with little or no analysis.
The one and a half day gathering, which was so expertly put together in conjunction with SIMI, was notable for some high calibre speakers tackling the major issues of our time in terms of the shipping industry, risk management and global trade.
The old version of IUMI gatherings precluded almost all outside entities and were purely underwriter-only events.
But the decision to be more flexible in who attends and who speaks has been an inspired move.
The China event had a range of speakers from the global reinsurance market, legal experts, business consultants and even marine brokers.
And issues such as IMO 2020, technology, trade tensions, protectionism and digital disruption were discussed frankly and openly.
The rule is: No adverts for companies or products and speakers stuck to this by and large.
The event was ground-breaking for other reasons and these give a clue as to how the future of marine insurance and indeed that of shipping and global trade will pan out over the next phase of what is the Asian Century.
First, and in stark contrast to so many shipping and insurance events in Europe and other places, the age profile of delegates was probably under 40.
But these are not office juniors turning up to tick the box on the road to professional qualifications.
Delegates at the Asia Forum held senior positions. They are the next generation of leaders and they came to network, discuss and learn.
The intention was clear: this generation is intent on assuming the mantle of the old guard.
Paying lip service to change is the fate of each new generation: but one senses this generation really will do things differently.
Secondly, it was refreshing to see so many female delegates at the forum.
In an industry still heavily over-represented by men, around 25%-30% were women. It’s not the parity which it should be, but China leads the way on getting women into senior positions in shipping and marine insurance.
That alone will surely lead to dramatic changes in the way the marine business and maritime insurance in particular will be conducted in future.
IUMI’s mission is to truly represent a global community of marine underwriters and continuing to engage with the vibrant markets of the Asia region is one sure fire way of succeeding in this.
Edward Ion was the moderator of the 2nd IUMI Asia Forum held in Shanghai in May 2019