Over the last two years, the market for superyacht insurance has undergone considerable changes. With the withdrawal of many providers from Lloyds of London, traditionally the largest insurance hub in the world, the industry seems to be facing one of its toughest challenges to date. Yet the market has known alternatives for a long time, which are worth a look, not only in view of the run-offs at 1 Lime Street.
For a yachting industry professional who wants to understand why the insurance world looks the way it does today, it is important to understand the way in which much of the trade in marine insurance is organised. Lloyds of London has played a central role in this trade for around 330 years. Emerging from the practice of private businessmen meeting in cafés where merchant ship risks were traded, a global marketplace for insurance products developed. Investors could pledge their private assets against returns to cover risks but were still able to use these assets in the meantime. This principle established Lloyds as a successful alternative to insurance companies, which in the 18th century enjoyed a de facto monopoly position as a result of a governmental allocation of trade privileges.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
From 2010, the dwindling number of attractive investment opportunities called more and more investors at Lloyds onto the scene, who were willing to cover risks in the private shipping sector in search of return opportunities. In accordance with the laws of any market, premiums declined as supply increased and competition among providers intensified. Eventually, premiums for superyacht insurance reached such a low level that the business could not be described as sustainable any longer. At the same time, claims significantly increased due to several major loss events and natural disasters and as a consequence, a turning point was reached in the marine insurance market. By February 2019, ten Lloyds syndicates had announced that they would discontinue or significantly reduce their marine business, causing a drastic reduction of capacity within the wider hull market. Even more syndicates are expected to withdraw within the next two years. Given the circumstances, Lloyds had little choice but to tighten the premium level. In some cases, policyholders were surprised by three-digit premium adjustments after years of apparent stability.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Mike Wimbridge, who has been managing the Pantaenius office in London since January 2019, points out that balance is crucial: "There is no denying Lloyds’ importance as an essential trading place for insurance products, but it is important to recognise that it may not necessarily be the centre of the insurance world. Although Pantaenius has been licenced at Lloyds for many years, much of its business has traditionally been written on company paper. With a healthy independence from the price battles at Lloyds, Pantaenius was able to concentrate on its core competencies and assert the quality of the products and services offered to be the only benchmark. Of course, a company like Pantaenius does not operate in a vacuum either. The pricing policy must remain viable and this can sometimes mean that rates increase as prices do in all other areas. Healthy, however, is again the key." Martin Baum, Managing Director Pantaenius, adds: “It has always been clear to us that the insurance of superyachts is an international business. Pantaenius has therefore never placed its access to the international market solely in the hands of external facilitators.” "Pantaenius will continue to work with strong partners at Lloyds in the future," explains Mike, who has over 30 years of underwriting experience. "However, our company’s unique structure allows us to take a different path whenever necessary or appropriate. With our network of thirteen offices on three continents we have the ability to work across multiple time zones and languages without any third parties involved. This is a major advantage for every policyholder, captain and crew that surpasses the capabilities of most other providers. Pantaenius not only creates links between the world's superyacht hubs, but also offers true local service wherever the yacht goes".