People at IUMI: Mark Edmondson

By Mark Edmondson, Head of Marine, Chubb Global Markets and IUMI Ocean Hull Chair

  • How long have you been associated with IUMI?

My first involvement with IUMI was attending the Paris conference in 1997. Since then I have attended numerous conferences and meetings, more recently in my capacity as chair of one of IUMI’s Technical Committees. I was elected a member of the Ocean Hull Committee under the chairmanship of Lars Rhodin in 2012, succeeding Lars as chair in 2014 at the Berlin Conference.

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

My role within IUMI is Chair of the Ocean Hull Committee (OHC), one of seven Technical Committees (TC) that support the work of IUMI. The TCs are really the engine room of the organisation in that most current (and future) technical, political and regulatory issues that affect the marine insurance industry are discussed and debated within those committees.

With the ever-present spectre of anti-competition regulation, around which IUMI has some very strict governance, the work of the technical committees largely relates to issues that impact the risk environment. This can be at a technical, environmental, political, legal or regulatory level.

The current composition of the OHC consists of members from the most prominent national associations where ocean hull business is underwritten – UK, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, USA, Japan, the Netherlands and the Committee’s most recent addition, China. Importantly, OHC has recently recruited as members Paul Hill from Braemar and Richard Neylon from HFW, and as a result has direct input from prominent members of the surveying and maritime law communities.

Preparation for the annual conference and delivery of an interesting, informative and thought-provoking workshop at each conference is of course an important function of the chair and the OHC, focusing on topical issues that affect modern day and future hull underwriting, but the modus operandi of IUMI has evolved into a role that has become more influential throughout the course of a year. Each TC has an important role to play in analysing, commenting on and raising the profile of any specific issues and thereby supporting the role of IUMI as it provides its members with guidance or lobbies various other organisations such as IMO, IACS, BIMCO, Intertanko, ICS and so on.

  • What benefits do you get from being associated with IUMI?

There is of course a hidden commercial benefit from this type of work which is not easy to quantify, but particularly in today’s world of instant and widespread communication, there are numerous opportunities to raise your profile and that of your employer. It also means there is nowhere to hide! IUMI has assumed a more influential, higher profile position in the maritime world which certainly focuses the mind of anyone involved in the work of the union.

To me, and this sounds obvious, our role as underwriters should be far more risk focused – developing knowledge, expertise, experience and contacts within the industry is a vital part of that role and chairing a technical committee for IUMI provides more opportunity to do exactly that. During my tenure as OHC chair I have met and discussed aspects of risk and technology with a wide variety of experts, many of whom I would not have had the opportunity to meet outside of my IUMI role.

Another aspect and hidden benefit of the role that is perhaps not often mentioned is the opportunity it provides for personal development, particularly for the younger underwriters in our industry. Delivering a presentation to 500 plus delegates at an overseas conference where many have travelled half way around the world to hear your words of wisdom is certainly one way to quickly learn presentation skills and develop one’s confidence!

After 33 years in marine underwriting, there is also an element of giving something back to the industry and particularly supporting the development of our younger talent. This is particularly relevant in an underwriting environment where many years of what seems like a perpetually soft market has in my opinion deprived many young underwriters of the fundamental skills of hull underwriting and understanding of risk and its implications.

It’s often easy to become market-centric in your thinking, particularly working in Lloyd’s I suspect. Aside from the commercial benefits, working with IUMI does provide a much wider experience of the industry – whilst the day job always takes precedence.

  • If you could change anything at IUMI what would it be?

There is no doubt that IUMI is a more modern and relevant organisation than ever with successful initiatives such as the Political Forum instrumental in that process. Under the focused stewardship of John Miklus, the Education Forum and its output has become extremely effective and over a short period of time. I think it’s important that IUMI invests as much as possible in continuing that process. Developing younger talent is an absolute pre-requisite for the future health of our industry and for IUMI, that has got to be a high priority. Other than promoting education, reducing the cost of attending the conference and involving young underwriters in some of the work of the technical committees are other ways in which IUMI can perhaps create more interest and help develop that talent.

The vast majority of education initiatives within our industry, including at IUMI, tend to concentrate on practitioners who are already part of the business. Acknowledging that resources within an international association such as IUMI are finite, targeted advertising of marine insurance as a career amongst undergraduates and pre-school leavers would be a good investment in my opinion.

One of the most significant developments within IUMI during recent years is how China has become an increasingly active contributor within IUMI and its technical committees. However, there are some notable absentees at the IUMI ‘table’, including some of the largest and fastest developing economies in the world. It’s an issue that IUMI is working hard on to address but by definition, it’s vital that some of these important nations take part in the research and debate undertaken at IUMI.

No effective development can take place in any organisation without good communication and the dissemination of information through IUMI Eye, webcasts and workshops has improved a huge amount over the past five years or so. IUMI certainly needs to continue its already considerable efforts to increase the coverage it provides, the audience it reaches, and the range of subject matters covered.

  • How did you reach your current position in marine insurance?

I was fortunate to study for a Nautical Studies degree at Plymouth which has been incredibly vocational during my career, particularly during the early stages. A combination of shipping transport, marine law, maritime economics and naval architecture is an excellent basis for working in this industry. I joined Eagle Star after graduating in 1984 and the London subscription market in 1989 in their underwriting room in the old Institute of London Underwriters building.

Although earlier in my career I underwrote a wide variety of marine lines including offshore energy and marine liability, hull was always my focus. I now head up the marine portfolio for Chubb Global Markets, the London Market wholesale operation of the Chubb Corporation.

Over the years I’ve served on various market and industry committees, including Lloyd’s Register’s Classification Committee, and London’s Joint Hull and LMA Marine Committees, addressing an extremely diverse range of issues, some fascinating but not all!

  • And what do you do away from the office?

Cycling, sailing and tennis are what I enjoy. I ride whenever I can find time, often with a group imaginatively named the London Insurance Peddlars, and keep a 19’ Cornish Shrimper on the River Dart which I sail only too rarely.