Chair's Welcome 2019

Our Association’s 150th anniversary year provides opportunities to recall the achievements of our distinguished predecessors, to reflect on current times and to look to the future. It is a great honour to be asked to be Chair in this special year, and I hope to make the most of all these opportunities on behalf of our members and the wider markets that have provided their support over many decades.

The year of 1869 was a turbulent one for the British and global economy, with many business failures resulting from speculation and a period of depression.  Change was very much in the air. It was the year that the “Cutty Sark” was launched; it was also the year that Suez Canal was opened, starting the gradual decline of the great sailing ships. Against a background of uncertainty and increasing complexity in every aspect of maritime trade, the Association was formed with the same objectives we have today:

“The promotion of correct principles in the adjustment of Averages, uniformity of practice amongst Average Adjusters and the maintenance of good professional conduct.”

Reliance on custom and usage in the adjustment of claims was being displaced by the increasing number of judgements from the Courts on maritime matters – as Richard Lowndes put it in 1873, adjusting was becoming a science, and markets were expecting a rational and reasoned approach rather that unexplained black arts.  The markets therefore expected what we would now call “transparency” and this has become one of our key objectives in recent years – our website provides a bank of information and guidance that we continue to add to, and the opening up of the examination system  has provided access for many young professionals to the principles and practices that make up the science of adjusting.

The response in terms of membership of the Association has been very gratifying. In 1902 the total number of Members (now Fellows), Associates and Annual Subscribers etc. came to 257; the equivalent figure is now  over 500 and, just as importantly, my guess is that the average age of that membership has probably never been younger. Certainly, the range of countries represented has never been wider.

As well as giving ourselves a pat on the back for what we have done well in the past, I hope that we can use some of our time this year to ask the markets we serve what we could be doing better or differently, or both. We will only be able to celebrate future anniversaries if we remain useful and relevant to the commercial world of the future. Happily, we already have a definition of that ‘usefulness’ to work with –

“The use of the adjuster individually is to grease the wheels of commercial machinery, to do work which neither the assured nor the underwriter have either time, training or inclination for, in such a manner as to expedite settlements without resort to the expensive machinery of the law :  His duty 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 manner as to facilitate an agreement between them”. 

 Those words, written by Ernest Robert Lindley in 1904, have often been quoted simply because they cannot be improved upon.

I look forward to the events during the next twelve months and would like to thank Ann Waite and the Committee of Management for all the work that has already been done. Together with Keith Martin and Willum Richards, they are also due a warm vote of thanks for successfully steering the Association through the process of incorporation, which will put us on a sound legal footing for the future.

Richard Cornah

Chair & Honorary Fellow of the Association of Average Adjusters