What a difference a year makes! I don’t suppose anyone other than the most skilled pandemic experts with a sharp eye on the future, could have predicted the extraordinary events that have occurred since the IUMI community gathered together in Toronto last September.
Our common theme in Toronto was ‘Confronting the chaos for a sustainable future’. We could quite easily have stuck to the same theme for the upcoming conference. The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with global trade and caused widespread disruption. There is hardly an area of people’s lives and livelihoods that has been left untouched. Neither has IUMI’s operating rhythm been unaffected: our secretariat has been largely home working and our normal pattern of international travel, engagement and conference activity has been heavily disrupted.
In this situation, it would have been quite a simple decision to drop this year’s main conference. It was obvious early on that travel would be very challenging and we had few certainties with which to plan a major global event.
Instead, we decided to innovate – and the result is our first ever online conference. In a further break from normality, we have opened up the programme to non-members, a step made possible by the revised format of the conference. We shall of course miss the opportunity to be in the fine city of Stockholm, which is a real shame. Delegates – both seasoned and new – will nonetheless experience many of the traditions of an IUMI conference, notably the rich technical detail that underpins the event.
It would be easy in these unprecedented circumstances to focus our programme on COVID-19 and little else. Indeed, the President’s workshop is fully devoted to considering the impact and ramifications of the pandemic. Many of our technical committees will have speakers addressing the same theme. Yet it would be a mistake to drill down only on COVID-19. There is much else going on. This year’s common theme – ‘Navigating changing climates; delivering expertise to shape the future’ provides a helpful tag line not only to think about the virus, but it enables us to reflect on other issues too – affecting both the short and the long term. Taken together, all of these threads have the potential to alter the landscape and prospects for marine insurers. They include macro-economic developments and geopolitical tensions, and the growing pace of data and digitalisation that is changing the framework of our industry. We must not forget, either, that the world is confronting a climate emergency. All these features will impact the risks we insure over the coming years and decade.
So there is much to discuss. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy our different conference format.