Welcome from Ann Waite, Honorary Chair of the AAA 2024/2025

10 May 2024

Chair’s Welcome

As with the last Honorary Chairman, Sir Nigel Teare, I am not and never have been, an Average Adjuster. I am a Fellow, but of the Chartered Insurance Institute, not the Association of Average Adjusters. However, my career within the shipping insurance arena, the majority of which has been spent within claims, has meant that I have immersed myself in marine casualties, the majority of which involved average adjusters.

Burkhard Fischer mentioned in his welcome last year, how the Association is becoming more international and more diverse. Being elected as the first woman, not to mention not being an average adjuster nor a Judge, certainly supports that and is indeed a huge honour; I hope I can live up to the expectations.

After spending many years as a broker in the international marine world, one important principle has always been paramount in my thinking - that communication between those involved in a maritime casualty is essential to the smooth resolution of claims for our mutual clients, the shipowners.

Interestingly when Charlotte Warr and I founded IMCC (International Marine Claims Conference) back in 2004 the theme of the first conference was ‘Communication is Key’. We realised that marine insurance is a global product underwritten across the world often on a subscription basis. To ensure that the best possible service is provided to the buyers of insurance, it is essential that clear communication exists between all parties involved facilitating professional handling of marine losses. Average adjusters are pivotal in that process. As mentioned by Burkhard last year, adjusters (whether within a broker or insurer or an adjusting firm) are problem-solvers and often adopt the role of mediator and as Burkhard said ‘More expertise should always be welcomed; however, we should complement each other rather than compete’.

There is no excuse today for not communicating well with our maritime ‘family’. When I started in the industry, the choice of communication methods was air or sea mail and you had to book an international trunk call days in advance if you wanted to speak to someone. An overseas business trip involved long periods of time travelling as it was the only way to actually meet and speak with clients, adjusters, lawyers, surveyors etc. Then arrived the overnight telex promptly followed by the fast-fading facsimile! Today we can be in touch 24/7 but the tendency is to use the phone for email, Whats App, messaging or social media rather than for actually speaking to each other.

Sadly, it seems that the art of face-to-face verbal communication is diminishing far too rapidly. I am not sure why, but it is a trend that, in my opinion, does not aid the resolution of complex claims matters.

The ability to read the emotions and nonverbal communication of another person increases understanding and elevates relationships and is how trust is built. If you don’t know someone and have not built trust, how can you discuss delicate matters and possible solutions outside the entrenchment of the written word?

A maritime casualty often involves members of the AAA from all spheres of the marine claims community – in addition to the average adjusters, a casualty will likely involve surveyors, insurers, brokers, salvors, lawyers, barristers, judges to name but a few. They come from every corner of the world – at the last count the Association had members represented in 37 countries.

The adjuster is a key part of nearly all hull and machinery claims and most probably the party closest to all the relevant information. Average adjusters are detail people, analysing the facts and applying the principles of adjusting in an equitable manner. Their skill set, when combined with their problem-solving capabilities, puts them in prime position at the centre of the claim. As E.R. Lindley said in 1904:

"The use of the adjuster ………………….is to act fairly to both parties to the contract of insurance or the contract of carriage, to set down all material facts, withholding nothing of importance, to present the figures of the suggested settlement in such a manner as to be capable of being easily grasped, and above all, in all cases wherever definite law or practice is not clear, to place the matter before the parties interested in such a manner as to facilitate an agreement between them"

Combine that independent stance of the average adjuster with good communication between all parties, and resolution of claims should be possible without resort to the courts. I would therefore urge  all parties involved in maritime casualties, if not already doing so, to build on existing and new relationships facilitating a much easier conversation in difficult times.

Last year, in recognition of the growing number of AAA members in Southeast Asia, I was delighted that our current Vice Chairman, Chris Kilbee, inaugurated an Asian gathering. I am hopeful that such regional gatherings will continue and aid communication amongst our claims’ community, whilst not detracting, of course, from our Annual Conference and Dinner in London and at The Savoy each year.

So, following on from the above, please follow the AAA on LinkedIn and visit our website regularly and share our posts with like-minded individuals, whilst not forgetting to create dialogue, especially verbally.

Lastly, I would like to pay tribute to the Fellows who give so generously of their time, many of whom have full time jobs. Having been the AAA Secretary for the past eleven years I have seen firsthand the enormous amount of time that they give to support the AAA, whether it be with the examinations, the advisory, the financials and of course the Committee of Management.

I wish the Association a successful year and I look forward to being a small part of that over the forthcoming months.

Ann Waite
Chair, Association of Average Adjusters 2024/2025