Welcome from the Chair

12 May 2023

It is a great honour to have been elected Chair of the Association for the term 2023/2024, and it is a true privilege for me to chair a UK Association as a German national. I must admit I saw it coming, but as you very well know I put the chairmanship off for a few years, allowing other Fellows who were more senior to have their rightful term.  This resulted in the Association having its first overseas chairman with Willum Richards, and subsequently with Michiel Starmans its first non-British chairman, also based outside the UK. This shows that the Association is becoming even more international and more diverse. Another reason for my deferral was that I always felt that my term as chair would mark the beginning of a new phase for the Association, because when I qualified as a Fellow in 2011, a 15-year drought came to an end, during which only a handful of new Fellows qualified. It is unavoidable that future chairs of the Association will come mainly from the pool of young women and men that qualified after me. This does not yet apply to the new vice chair: I am most grateful to Chris Kilbee that he has agreed to assume this role for the next term and bring his considerable experience to the table.  

During the last one and a half decades the Association has done a great job in widening its appeal with the exams, qualifications, and various levels of membership, plus the acceptance of Fellows working for non-adjusting companies. The actual number of the Fellows has increased, with about half of them based overseas. There have always been Fellows working abroad, but what has changed is that in the past those used to be mainly UK nationals who were linked to a UK company and were often only posted for a few years. Nowadays there are several Fellows that have never worked and might never work in the UK. The same applies for many Associates, and I would expect the numbers to further increase over the next years.

In a way Covid has brought the world a bit closer together. Who would have thought a couple of years ago that we could have global hybrid Fellows’ meetings? Still, Zoom meetings are not the ideal way to form a bond between professionals, the personal contact remains crucial. It has, therefore, been suggested that in future the Association could or should do more for its international membership. But, in the words of Arnold H. Glasgow, “The trouble with the future is that it usually arrives before we‘re ready for it”.

We are currently compiling ideas as to how a closer contact with the international membership may be achieved, for instance by organising seminars and social events, not as a one-off but rather on a regular basis. The mistake often made with such projects is that they start over-ambitiously, and once it becomes clear how much effort and cost they involve, they fizzle out without any noteworthy result. We are thinking about seminars and receptions held in places other than London, possibly even a dinner event every so many years, in one of the major shipping hubs, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Piraeus, Tokyo, Rotterdam or Hamburg. Perhaps even in Liverpool, where an impressive number of young Fellows is based. Especially the younger generation of Fellows and Associates is invited to contribute their ideas and offer their active support.

This year we have seen some of the seasoned Fellows stepping down from committees and possibly pondering retirement, still, as mentioned earlier, the total number of practising Fellows has slightly increased. This is a positive sign, the Association is in a healthy shape, and there is potential to further increase the membership by promoting the Association through seminars and events. However, what about the profession of the Average Adjuster, is that safe as well? Unfortunately, not as safe as it should be, and I am referring here mainly to the independent Average Adjuster. We pride ourselves in our ability to adjust claims in accordance with our known standards, and to provide independent and unbiased advice to shipowners and to the marine insurance industry, often on a 24/7 basis. Leading Marine Insurers and Brokers are relying not only on our proven educational background but on the fact that we look back on several years, quite often decades, of claims handling experience. It is no secret and perhaps no surprise that over the years, they have shown a desire to enhance their in-house expertise by employing Fellows of the Association, and we have to acknowledge the attraction for both sides. More expertise should always be welcomed; however, we should complement each other rather than compete. Should the trend continue that Marine Insurers steer towards adjusting claims in-house, this will limit the business opportunities for truly independent Adjusters, which in the long run could render an adjusting career, and the training ground, less attractive. It is no coincidence that there are currently only a handful of countries where young people seem to consider a future in average adjusting.

We are living difficult times, the world is facing challenges of various categories, geopolitical, environmental, economic, technological and societal. Insurance cover against war risks, natural disasters and widespread cybercrime is more important than ever, and that means that there will always be a need for claims adjusters, problem-solvers and mediators. This is our role, this is what we are good at, and we must ensure that we continue promoting the value of our services.

I would like to thank both Ann and Tristan for their continued hard work as well as valuable contribution, and the members of the Committee of Management for all the assistance, support, and guidance, which I have received during the past term and which I will continue to require in the coming year.

Burkhard Fischer