From gentleman’s club to modern trade association, AIRMIC is very different from what it was. Its chief executive John Hurrell looks back at the past ten years and predicts more change to come
StrategicRISK could hardly have been launched at a better time. Whether by luck or judgment, it began life at the start of a decade that would see unprecedented change in the business environment with risk developing into one of the hot topics of the day. The publication has become a must-read for many risk managers, a fact that helps explain why it continues to prosper when several of its competitors have disappeared.
AIRMIC, too, has lived in interesting times. The level of professionalism expected by our members, the demands on their time, competition internally within their own organisations and external pressure from governments and regulators ... all have increased dramatically in the past ten years. The recession has put the spotlight on costs and forced many companies to change their business models. The growth of the internet has given us the ability and the imperative to develop the web as a communication tool.
As a result, AIRMIC has had to reinvent itself to remain valuable to members. It is impossible to be entirely objective about our progress, but two facts speak for themselves. The number of members rose by nearly 10% last year, a decent achievement during a time of recession. And a record 60% of members attended at least one of our events during 2009, showing that most are actively engaged, even discounting those who participate through our website and newsletters.
The level of participation is an absolutely key question, because AIRMIC has a small secretariat and is member-driven. We depend on risk managers to feel it worth their while to become involved in our activities – and they clearly do. It is fair to say that we are getting at least some things right.
Nonetheless, it would be crazy to declare victory. Risk is such an enormous subject that we will never do everything that all our members wish. In particular, there is a difficult balance to be drawn between insurance and enterprise risk, with different members wanting us to do more of one or the other.
In any event, we can be sure of one thing: the market will be very different in a few years. Just as the AIRMIC of ten years ago would seem outdated now, the current model will grow obsolete if we fail to move with the times.
Ten years ago, when StrategicRISK was launched, the association was going through a period of transition “from an informal club to a lobbying group that is known in the business world and influences what is going on in the market place,” to quote our current deputy chair Paul Taylor.
Under the guidance of David Gamble, it was heavily involved in many of the big issues of the day. After 9/11, for example, the association was central to negotiations that led to insurance cover being maintained for passenger aircraft; without it the world’s aviation industry would have ground to a halt.
Influencing decision makers has since become, along with providing direct support to members and commissioning research, one of AIRMIC’s key activities. Much of this lobbying has been behind-the-scenes, but there have been some notable public episodes along the way.
In 2004, AIRMIC went into battle when it became clear that the FSA might be about to regulate corporate insurance buyers even though no one, not even the regulator itself, regarded such a development as desirable. Speaking at that year’s annual conference, the then chairman Nick Chown was scathing about what he described their “Alice in Wonderland” approach.
“I have to say we are very disappointed that the FSA and Treasury do not appear to understand their own rules. This lack of clarity is wasting time and costing business a lot of money in legal fees,” he said.
The saga ended when AIRMIC acquired QC’s opinion that it would be unnecessary for risk managers to register. The FSA, who have generally had a constructive influence on the market, were happy to accept the advice.
In 2005, when Spitzer lifted the veil on broker remuneration practices, AIRMIC was at the forefront of demanding change. That controversy still rumbles on today, though surveys consistently show that transparency has been achieved, at least as far as AIRMIC members are concerned. Well over 90% get the information about remuneration they require.
Contract certainty is another area where AIRMIC was centre-stage, but it is neither practical nor desirable to run through the full list here. Suffice it to say that these and other issues established AIRMIC as a leading influencer in the market and with government, an organisation able to react effectively to events. Since then the range of the association’s lobbying activity has continued to develop, much of it more proactive than it had previously been.
By way of illustration, in the past eighteen months we have agreed claims best practice guidelines with leading insurers plus a statement of principles on reservation of rights, produced an agreement on speed of claims settlement, vociferously supported practices in the London subscription market (with some reservations) to the EU Competition Commission, pressed for concessions over Solvency 2 in relation to captive insurers and are in discussion with the Law Commission and leading insurers and brokers over reforming the UK’s outdated laws relating to commercial insurance.
Although these subjects are all about insurance, that is because enterprise risk management is not an area that normally requires lobbying activity. We have, however, worked hard to influence opinion and promote best practice through a series of ERM-related research projects, roundtables and workshops. Currently we are working on a major piece of research on reputational risk with the CASS business school, and we are bringing the Risk Management Standard up to date.
This level of activity simply would not be possible without the generosity of senior members willing to give their time and expertise to the association; nor could it be so effective without the support of our partner organisations and preferred service providers – a subject that brings us to another big change at AIRMIC.
The Partnership scheme, launched in 2005, has added to the depth and range of AIRMIC’s services and significantly increased the level of participation. Our partners, all insurers and brokers plus one leading firm of adjusters, make a financial contribution. Equally important, the scheme has provided AIRMIC and its members with direct access to market expertise, reflected in our regular series of breakfast briefings and hugely successful AIRMIC Academy. With the support that partners also give us on individual projects and events, we are able to provide a higher level of service than would otherwise be possible.
As for the future, AIRMIC is currently reviewing its strategic objectives, but a couple of points are clear. The competitive pressures on risk managers are big and growing, but so are the opportunities. To reach the top in future, mainstream risk management and insurance buying skills will not be enough on their own. AIRMIC members must develop new business skills so that they fully understand the wider issues that motivate their boards: likewise softer skills, especially those that help to persuade and influence. We are devoting a lot of resources to supporting our members in their careers, and there is much more to do in the future.
There is, however, an even bigger question: where is risk management going? How can we help bring clarity to what is a big, often ill-defined concept? Should we reach out to people who consider themselves to have a risk and/or insurance function but who would not previously have thought of AIRMIC as their association?
Anyone can call themselves a risk manager. Despite the excellent work of the Institute of Risk Management, there are no widely recognised professional qualifications. Should the community be looking to fill this gap?
Risk is important precisely because life is unpredictable, and I would not presume to say what AIRMIC will look like in ten years’ time. There is little doubt, though, that risk management will become both a more demanding and a more rewarding career; there will be a lot more for StrategicRISK to cover in its pages.
THE AIRMIC DECADE
AIMIC, as it was then called, was set up in 1963. It added the R to its name in 1974 to reflect the emerging importance of enterprise risk management and has steadily grown in scope and influence over the past decade. A year-to-year guide of some AIRMIC landmarks.
2000 AIRMIC publishes guide to complying with corporate governance requirements, Developing Integrated Risk Management.
2001 AIRMIC is heavily involved in negotiations to secure continued insurance cover for airlines after 9/11.
2002 Publication of Risk Management Standard, which became the accepted guide to best practice across Europe and in many Asian and Middle East countries
2003 AIRMIC supports members through the difficulties of the hard insurance market
2004 Successful campaign to prevent risk managers from being regulated by the FSA
Publication of D&O guide
2005 Spitzer revelations trigger AIRMIC campaign on broker remuneration
Launch of partnership scheme/new membership structure
2006 Launch of the contract certainty initiative
2008 John Hurrell becomes chief executive
2008 Start of a series of AIRMIC initiatives to improve claims payment in the commercial sector
Research on quantifying the benefits of ERM published
2009 Claims Best Practice and speed of settlement agreements published
First insurance benchmarking results published
AIRMIC Academy goes live
Risk appetite report published
2010 Risk management guide published, updating and broadening the Risk Management Standard
John Hurrell is chief executive of AIRMIC (the Association of Insurance and Risk Managers)