Gillian Martin, Managing Director of Marine at independent broker SSL Endeavour, defies the stereotypical rhetoric about the industry, turning her attention to what needs to be done to drive confidence in marine insurance market

Recent negative press about the insurance market has stirred up strong feelings. At a time when the industry is doing its best to move forward and remain relevant, we are reminded of the well-worn phrase that this is a ‘male, pale and stale’ sector.

To be frank, while no-one would condone the disgraceful behaviour outlined in the above article, I was taken aback by the piece. In my experience, the image it paints does not reflect the true changing face of the London insurance market, where I increasingly see women thriving around me.

Marine insurance, in particular, has always been considered a traditional and historically male dominated sector within insurance. But in truth, the sector has a lot to celebrate when it comes to female leadership.

To namecheck just a few, the marine insurance market boasts Dorothea Ioannou as Chief Commercial Officer of The American Club; Amy Dallaway as Senior Marine Claims Director at MS Amlin; Heather Clarkson who is Managing Director of marine at Ed and Lucy Clarke, President of Marsh JLT Specialty.

Women can and do head up companies in the sector – achieved on merit not because of a gender quota – and I do not hesitate to congratulate them on their success.

But while crucial strides continue to be made to enable women to succeed and go further than they’ve ever been able to before, issues like the gender pay gap and female leadership will continue to present a challenge.

It is down to everyone in this thriving industry to be aware of that and promote equal opportunities to succeed. And the world is watching closely.

Tough times for the marine insurance market ahead

However, outside of this discussion, there is perhaps an even more urgent identity crisis happening at Lloyd’s.

The marine insurance market was hit with a stick last year by the Corporation following a tough year of losses, resulting in an exodus from the market. In my experience to date, 2018 was the most difficult year of trading for marine insurance.

But where is the leadership to help revive this historic and important sector? The focus should be on resurrecting this as opposed to getting hung up on old phrases about the aesthetics of the market.

The next deadline for new interim business plans in July comes at a critical time for marine. The Lloyd’s leadership team must inject some positivity, innovation and space to breathe to allow the market to do what it needs to do to build up the marine books again. Confidence is badly needed.

Instead of entering this crucial period with determination, Lloyd’s businesses are on the back foot, trying to second guess the Corporation. What Lloyd’s perhaps needs to remind itself of is that marine does not begin and end in this market, and there is already much  business being placed elsewhere.

Marine ambition

Notwithstanding this backdrop, at SSL Endeavour, our commitment to the international marine market has not waivered as we look to grow.

First and foremost, our responsibility is towards our clients and because of that, Lloyd’s is just one of the market’s SSL Endeavour deals with.

We have a strong presence in Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey and in Asia. With a 97% client retention rate over five years, we pride ourselves on giving our clients the very best service as a true independent specialist.

Moving forward, I can’t help but think that instead of agonising over its own reflection, Lloyd’s needs to hold a mirror up to the rest of the world – it should be their clients’ faces they see. The marine market has always been at the heart of Lloyd’s, but now it needs to rely less on sentiment and history and be innovative, special – and specialist.

Business plans and ambitions in this market need to reflect the true nature of the risks mariners face today. We should all have the confidence to produce effective insurance products that respond accordingly while maintaining underwriting discipline.

Take it from someone who is not male pale and stale: this is where the more immediate focus on leadership should lie.