When Richard Turner took over the presidency of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) in 2018, even the industry’s most sophisticated risk modelling could not have forecast the upheavals about to hit the industry.

It has been a turbulent four years in charge, disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and war.

Despite the difficult conditions, Turner said leading IUMI has been a notable landmark in a career dedicated to marine insurance.

“I came into the sector as a noting clerk straight out of school at the age of 18, and I’ve stayed ever since,” Turner said. “It has given me a great career, and this is my way of being able to put something back into the industry. The past four years have been a great privilege — despite spending two years on a computer screen at home.”

This September in Chicago, IUMI will hold its annual meeting physically for the first time in three years.

Despite not being able to meet in the interim, Turner has been encouraged by the way IUMI members have increasingly embraced issues around environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG).

“Four years ago, I saw us evolving the existing priorities of the organisation, but it became apparent to me we had a gap around ESG,” he said. “That is not to say we hadn’t paid attention to it in the past, but I had a strong conviction we needed to do much more. I feel under my presidency we’ve brought it to life.”

Turner believes the recent global crisis has shown how marine insurers are prepared to demonstrate their corporate responsibility.

“We are here to facilitate world trade,” Turner said. “That is our job as marine insurers.

“What better example could you have of this role than the visible support of marine insurers around grain shipments starting to come out of the Black Sea?

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“You could also point to the support our industry gave to the shipment of Covid vaccines over the past two years.”

Turner’s other main push at IUMI has been to encourage digitalisation. His experience in building a marine facility from scratch at Victor Insurance has formed his view on how digitalisation can contribute most effectively.

“We reckon the sweet spot is using the computer to do the things it can do better — so if we are talking about hull insurance that would be doing some of the risk assessment and measuring claims cost and pricing,” he said. “But you still need human judgement at the end of the process to say, ‘Is there a proposition we can offer a prospective client?’”

Turner does not doubt that digitalisation will progress. His concern is over whether the major conglomerates will give their marine underwriters the investment they need.

For now, as he prepares to step down, there are other areas he feels positive about, such as the growth of professional educational programmes at IUMI and its broader membership profile.