Dorothea Ioannou has just taken the helm of the smallest of the 13 protection and indemnity mutuals that make up the International Group of P&I Clubs.

And while she told TradeWinds that an ambition to grow the American Club “goes without saying”, she sees the insurer’s smaller size as core to its identity. So growth for growth’s sake is not on the table.

“We consider ourselves a very boutique-style club that has members in the club for over 20 years — maybe 25 years, when we first entered the international scene,” she said, speaking over Zoom from the home she retained in Greece from her years as the American Club’s highest-ranking executive there.

The New York-headquartered American Club, where Ioannou became chief executive of its management company — the Shipowners’ Claims Bureau — on 1 August, has grown. Its latest annual report trumpeted 13% growth in its P&I tonnage, which now amounts to 20m gt.

But it is not out to be a Gard, the world’s largest P&I club, though Ioannou said she would like the mutual to add 1m gt per year, growing as the world fleet increases while gradually expanding market share.

“We do it slowly, steady,” she said. “Because we don’t want to grow faster than what we can handle as a group, and we also like to build based on relationships, not just based on growth for the sake of growth. Our goal is not to become like the other clubs. Our goal is to remain true to our identity.”

Key to that slow growth ambition is staying accessible to members. Ioannou said she knows virtually all of the club’s members personally and, like predecessor Joe Hughes had been, she always wants to be a phone call away for them.

Hughes, who will remain chairman at the Shipowners’ Claims Bureau, echoed the goal to focus on measured growth to ensure it is done in a prudent way, with careful analysis about the risk profile of members that are added to the club.

He said that also allows the American Club to “maintain our overarching characteristic as a members’ club that is very sympathetic to the needs of the members and to work very hard on their behalf”.

Dorothea Ioannou’s 17 years at the American Club/Shipowners’ Claims Bureau

August 2022: Chief executive

July 2020 to August 2022: Deputy chief operating officer

January 2018 to July 2020: Chief commercial officer

June 2015 to January 2019: Managing/regional business development director for the Piraeus office

January 2008 to October 2009: Deputy claims manager for the Piraeus office

February 2005 to December 2007: Claims executive, Piraeus office