In these CEO Connect messages, Ty Birkett provides an oversight of high-level issues and developments.
This year has been one of the most difficult years many of us have ever faced. The consequences of a global pandemic coupled with a rapidly hardening insurance market have been widely felt by our Members, our reinsurers and the Unimutual team. Therefore, with Memberships concluded, I thought it was important to provide a wrap up for 2020 and in particular, some comments on the last few months.
The Unimutual team knew this was going to be a tough year in terms of insurance costs for the higher education and related sectors. We focused on providing Members with regular updates throughout the year on how the insurance and reinsurance market was faring, with the aim of giving everyone as much information and guidance as possible. Unfortunately, some last minute changes negatively impacted our most recent updates; and created additional pressure and stress for Unimutual and its Members.
The following gives you some context on the challenges we faced and how we will take some learnings forward for the future benefit of Members. It is critical that we work to identify areas where change is required, and where improvement can be made.
The membership for the 2020/21 year of protection is 26 Universities and 27 Allied (previously known as non-University) Members.
Unimutual and its Members benefit from a very stable and long term membership. The impact of any membership changes on the financial position is incremental and individual departures and arrivals do not materially impact the terms and conditions of other Members.
As with many things, 2020 was the exception.
The provision of Offers of Membership is dependent on the finalisation of reinsurance. The reinsurance renewal process began in February and as the year progressed it was clear that the insurance and reinsurance markets were facing extreme challenges. As a result, even some of our long term core reinsurers did not finalise their positions until the last week of October.
We are aware that the late provision of terms makes it very difficult for Members to consider alternatives, or even to simply get the necessary internal approvals in a timely manner.
The renewal of all Members and the reinsurance program at the same time is historic and, particularly in a falling market, enables the benefits to be passed directly on to Members. It is clear that it does not work in market conditions like like those of the last three years. The approach will be reviewed and Unimutual will work on an approach that avoids this unnecessary additional stress on both Members and brokers regardless of the point in the market cycle.
The wonders of technology meant that I was able to have many face-to-face meetings with Members, sometimes “visiting” as many as five states in a single day. Many conversations were hard. I was often provided with what one Member described as “open and frank feedback”, which we do welcome as the mutual will only continue to be successful and serve the needs of Members if this constructive feedback is listened to and acted upon.
Conversely, it was also heartening to hear Members speak of the benefits of the day to day service from the Unimutual team and I have continued to feed back all of the comments to the team.
Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Unimutual team, the Members, and their brokers for an extraordinary year. The shift to working from home, conducting visits via Zoom rather than in person and all the extra ways we have had to adapt in order to stay connected with each other has highlighted the good will and determination of so many.
I would also like to thank and farewell Pete Watts who has resigned from Regis Mutual Management, the mutual managers for Unimutual, after five years of service. Pete has played a major role with Unimutual and he has always shown a genuine passion for the business and the success of its Members. Pete finishes on 27 November and we have added an additional underwriting resource as part of the transition. We will keep you up to date with resourcing moving into 2021. The Unimutual team, and no doubt our Members and broking partners, wish Pete well for the future.
Thank you for your ongoing faith in Unimutual despite this very challenging renewal. There are lessons to be learnt from it so we can provide you with the best option for your risk protections in a predictable and timely manner.
Unimutual knows that the macro headwinds of 2020 will not magically disappear on 1 January 2021, but we are committed to working with you as we navigate the new year together. I encourage Members and brokers to continue to provide feedback and suggestions as Unimutual reviews the approach for 2021 and beyond.
Chief Executive Officer, Regis Mutual Management Ltd