People at IUMI: Viviene Pearson, Chief Executive, The South African Insurance Association (SAIA)

How long have you been associated with IUMI?

My personal association with IUMI started around four years before the IUMI Cape Town Conference took place in 2018. The Association of Marine Underwriters (AMUSA) in South Africa is the marine insurance division of the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) and agreed to host the 2018 conference around 2010 with the approval of the SAIA Board. The IUMI Conference had never before been hosted on African soil and SAIA was honoured to host it.

As I had personally never been a part of the marine insurance industry, I realised that in order to successfully host this conference, I had better learn about this business class, IUMI and the nature of the IUMI conferences very quickly! To achieve this, I joined the executive members of AMUSA at the IUMI conferences from 2014 in Hong Kong. SAIA’s financial exposure to organise the IUMI conference was potentially almost half of our annual budget and we always aspired to host the best possible conference for all the marine specialists who would spend their time and money to come to South Africa in 2018.

The exposure at the IUMI Conferences in Hong Kong, Berlin, Genova, Tokyo and subsequent conferences have been excellent learning grounds and I now know the marine insurance to be an important and very interesting industry.


What is your IUMI role today and what does it involve?

I am still very involved with IUMI, albeit not at a Technical Committee level. I have participated in all the Secretaries Meetings since I started attending the conferences and learnt a lot about the organisation and the intricacies of marine insurance. I have given input into the IUMI agenda when appropriate, and have built valuable relationships with the Secretariat, other IUMI office bearers, and my colleagues from the insurance associations across the globe.

From a SAIA and AMUSA perspective, we constantly create awareness about IUMI’s education offerings, and I am happy to say that the South Africa marine insurance market do attend and make use of opportunities offered by IUMI in this regard regularly.

SAIA and AMUSA also very much support and advocate for IUMI’s focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, which is a fairly recent addition to IUMI’s key focus areas. In a recent meeting with IUMI, I have also shone the light on the “S” part of ESG which I believe should also be addressed together with the “E” part as social issues such as inequality in economies and political and social stability worldwide have been identified as major risks in recent years, together with the very topical climate change and associated issues. The socio-political risks are very relevant to the marine insurance industry as the transport infrastructure ecosystem is often one of the targets in political and civil unrest actions.


How do you see the current state of the marine insurance sector?

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy and many other areas of life in general must be mentioned here. The sustainability of the insurance industry in general is closely related to the sustainability of the broader environment. With economic growth impacted by the pandemic, the restrictions around free movement of trade, and many other challenges in the wake of the pandemic, it is not surprising that this has had a major impact on the marine insurance sector. Even though these pressures are diminishing, it will take some time to recover to pre-COVID-19 conditions.


What do you see as the biggest issues currently emerging in the marine insurance sector?

Having already mentioned the negative impact of the global pandemic on the marine insurance sector, I will add the following challenges (and opportunities) which will impact insurance in general, and marine insurance in particular:

  • The sustainability of the environment, i.e., climate change.
  • Unequal (therefore unsustainable) economies with relatively low growth in many areas.
  • Political and social instability impacting the environment marine insurance operates in.
  • Advances in technology linked with increased cyber risk.
  • The urgent need to transfer highly technical skills to the new (and ideally more diverse) generation of marine insurance practitioners, i.e., education and training.


What benefits do you get from being associated with IUMI?

The sharing of information, knowledge and ideas within the global marine insurance market, the lobbying and leadership provided on topics of relevance for the marine insurance sector (including on topics that are not necessarily naturally attractive in view of the uncomfortable changes that inevitably will follow…), as well as the education initiatives driven by IUMI are invaluable. 

Other than that, the networking opportunities and friendships that develop over time through-out the IUMI network are amazing!


If you could change anything at IUMI, or marine insurance in general, what would it be?

A few years ago, I would have said a more forward looking and open-minded proactive approach was needed by IUMI, but I believe that the current path IUMI is on demonstrates that this has already happened!


And what do you like to do away from the office?

Although COVID-19 has put a spanner in the works in the last almost two years, I have always loved travelling within South Africa and elsewhere and have visited many countries over the years, often a bit off the beaten track. One memorable event as an example was a road trip through thirteen states of the United States of America in 2008 where we overnighted in small motels in various interesting small towns which tourists do not often visit. This was how I first got an inkling almost a year before the global financial crisis in 2009 from having breakfast just outside the small town of Gorham en route from Maine to Vermont where we overheard two locals predicting that the unrestricted lending practices were bound to result in a disaster at some point not in the far future!  (At the time we did not fully understand the significance, but when the crisis happened there was a distinct “aha!”  moment!)  In addition, I also love to attend live sports and music events although recently I had to watch these on television, and reading where I prefer – by far – fiction as I read more than my fair share of reports, facts, stats and the like at the office.