Reflecting on the Past 12 months

Paul Jennings

Today is a day of reflection and many of us here in our Newcastle-based HQ can’t quite believe that it has been a year since the start of the first COVID-19 UK lockdown.

Over the past 12 months, and for longer in the case of our teams based out in Asia, we have made the successful transition to remote working and have made significant investments in new technology to stay up to date and at the top of our game. We’ve also embraced the work/life balance and given our teams more autonomy and flexibility than ever before – all of which is showing increased levels of productivity and employee satisfaction.

Our teams, both here in the North East and overseas, have demonstrated what it means to come together during challenging times. They have supported each other, found unique solutions to problems and above all, continued to ensure our shipowner members and policyholders can trade with confidence. Like other industries, we have fully embraced online processes and for the first time in our 160-year history, the renewal of our mutual business was conducted fully virtually in February 2021.

We have always known that our people are our greatest asset and the pandemic has only highlighted this fact further. So, it is no surprise that building our team is where we have invested heavily. In fact, the last 12 months has seen our business expand with 40 new recruits and a host of senior appointments across the company. At the same time, the pandemic has in no way hindered North’s strategy to grow its diversified business lines. We launched North Hull in July 2020, with a new London-based team and in June last year, we also finalised the acquisition of Sunderland Marine.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to see our team thrive and tackle challenges head on, adapting to their new working environment and adopting digital resources. As we are all aware, digitalisation is on the radar and growing in importance as we strive to respond to the challenges relating to cybercrime, data sharing and enhancing services to meet the needs of shipowners and operators.

We take the views of our members and brokers seriously as they help shape our future and the services we provide. Towards the end of 2020, we completed our triennial customer satisfaction survey to gauge their feedback on everything from our perceived position in the market to how we dealt with the pandemic. I was humbled by the exceptionally positive responses because I know they’re the product of our team’s commitment. We hope to share these results more widely.

We cannot forget the lessons we have learned over the past year and we must continue to work together and support each other through the tough times. We need to continue having conversations, exchanging knowledge and sharing vital insight on how best to weather what lies ahead.