Get the basics right

By: Paul March, managing director of Horizon Underwriting Managers

It’s an old adage – even something of a cliché these days – but getting the basics right is probably the most important endeavour in any business. None more so than in the marine insurance space.

Marine Insurance is an incredibly niche business. We often hear it referred to as a ‘niche within a niche’. The exposures can be huge, and many brokers are understandably a little circumspect when it comes to handling marine business. But by bringing it back to the basics, there is nothing to fear.

The nature of Marine Insurance means the industry has to work extra hard to keep standards high.

Often people concentrate so hard on the business of doing business that they lose focus of the important touch points that keep the business coming in. These include seemingly straightforward things like answering the phone, responding to messages and emails and explaining the cover offered.

A client shouldn’t have to wait weeks for a response to a simple change in their policy. Where their basic needs are not being addressed, many clients and brokers simply move their business to more responsive operations, who are able to get their queries sorted in a heartbeat. A lot of the problems stem from a lack of good talent in the industry. This is not unique to Marine Insurance.

Sadly, it’s a phenomenon that plagues many areas of insurance – as well as professional organisations in other sectors of the economy. Finding, training and retaining people who are competent and passionate about Marine Insurance is becoming more and more of a challenge. There is no such thing as immediate gratification in this industry.

Success only comes with experience, which only comes with time. Yes, it’s important to have potential, education, mentorship and all those good things. But in this industry, it’s experience that counts. And the only way to gain experience is by putting in the time, which brings us back to the basics.

The South African Marine Insurance industry is doing a lot to assist the market to improve their understanding of marine insurance.

The Association of Marine Underwriters of South Africa (AMUSA) offers a range of courses to bring the insurance industry up to speed on Marine Insurance principles and trends. By its very nature, marine is a global class of insurance that is governed by global rules and regulations. So education is key in making sure that risks are covered adequately and in accordance with international laws.

None of this is rocket science. Service your clients, have the right resources in place, and know what you’re selling. If you get these basics right, success will follow.