People at IUMI: Eric De Smet

By Eric De Smet, Manager, Marine & Transport, Baloise Insurance, Belgium

How long have you been associated with IUMI?

I have been attending IUMI meetings and the annual conference since 2001. It started when I was the managing director of a company that was a member of the Belgian Association of Marine Insurers (BAMI). It offered me the opportunity to become part of IUMI. 

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

After attending some general IUMI meetings I was asked to join the Inland Hull, Fishing and Yacht Committee. I then moved to the Cargo Committee for a time before being asked to join the Policy Forum. I am now a member of this forum and act as the liaison person between the Cargo Committee and the Policy Forum.

My role involves regular contact with Helle Hammer and the IUMI Secretariat. I attend all the Policy Forum meetings and provide input where possible. In addition, I represent IUMI at the European Union and European Commission DG MOVE SAGMAS meetings, which are stakeholder meetings on maritime security.

And what is your day job?

My day job is multifunctional. My main responsibility is for the claims department for marine and transport insurance at Baloise Insurance. Besides that, I am also the legal and compliance correspondent within our company, specifically for marine and transport.

I play an active part in Baloise’s international growth programme, particularly new business growth for the marine and transport division. Alongside this, I provide expert technical advice to the marine insurance underwriting team, and I am the company spokesperson for the marine and transport division should the need arise.

Within our national association, I am a past president but now act as member of the legal and compliance committee for BAMI (Belgium Association of Marine Insurers).

What benefits do you get from being associated with IUMI? 

It really is a ‘win – win’ situation. First, IUMI offers global insight into the market, providing information on practical and legal issues, as well as top quality data and statistics. As a company, Baloise Insurance strongly supports IUMI’s education programme and our employees regularly take part in the webinars.

IUMI is a great platform for networking and in getting to know other people in the industry. Marine insurers play an important role in world trade and influence global markets and IUMI gives the industry a recognised and influential voice. The information IUMI publishes is also very important to the shipping industry. 

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

To begin, I would like to note there has been a very positive evolution in the professionalism and the way things are done within IUMI. This is a continuing process. The establishment of the Education Forum has been a great initiative. However, I think the time is now right to develop an IUMI course or institute, building on the success and popularity of the webinars.  I think this would be of enormous benefit to the industry and would attract new people to our profession.

I believe IUMI could be more proactive in providing information on worldwide global claims of major impact. Events such as the Costa Concordia, Tianjin, MOL Comfort, to name a few, impact our industry greatly and many of us are involved, so it would be valuable to have a structured event reporting system to share the learnings and details as much as possible.

IUMI’s statistics are a great source of information but data from certain important countries is still missing and this could be improved. I would like countries in Africa and South America for example, to be represented in IUMI’s membership.

It would also be very helpful if a database of the latest compliance issues and economic sanctions could be created.  Finally, I believe more lobbying could be done to increase global market access, as there are still countries which restrict marine insurance to their own local markets. 

How did you reach your current position in marine insurance?

I am lawyer by education and my family was involved in shipping and port activities, so I was always drawn to this industry. Following my obligatory army service, I began working in 1983 and joined a Belgium shipowning company in the legal department but I was quickly transferred to a subsidiary towage, salvage and offshore company. I was the only lawyer, so I was involved in all things marine and learned a lot in 10 years.

This company was subsequently sold and I returned to the shipowning company and moved into an insurance company owned by the same group.

In 2012, the Baloise Group acquired our company and now we are the number one insurer in premium volume in our market.

And what do you do away from the office?

I like to travel, I enjoy cooking, gardening and cycling - I try to cycle to the office as much as possible. I am also very interested in reading, the news and art.