Chairman’s Statement, Autumn 2013

AIM’s Chairman, Andrew Gardiner, shares his views on developments over the past year.

The weather plays a big part in the activities sector and, together with fruit farms and vineyards, we’ve gloried in the long hot summer, particularly so having endured a cold winter and spring and the wet conditions prevailing last year. Despite the continuing economic squeeze, most members of the mutual have enjoyed increased levels of turnover.

At AIM we continue our growth path, the number of members now being over 380, up from a figure of 340 last year. Many of the new members have been personally recommended to us by the current membership. Credit is due to my colleagues on the AIM board for their valuable input to the AIM success, for which I must express my gratitude. The presence of outdoors experts on the board within the mutual gives us an extra dimension that other insurance providers simply don’t have. My thanks are also due to the  managers at Regis who run AIM very efficiently indeed. They take a close interest in all areas of our sector, as well as the risks and liabilities within it.

Next AIM Seminar

Our next national seminar, which will be wide-ranging, informative and entertaining and will include the mutual’s AGM for members, is due to take place on Wednesday 5th February at the splendid Crewe Hall and I really hope to see you there.

Claims Experience

Despite the cold winter, no member reported major weather related damage to buildings and only a few minor claims were submitted, reflecting members’ high standards of stewardship. On the liability front, whilst there is no guarantee that the past is a reliable guide to the future, I can with caution report that the incidence of liability claims, for which we provide key cover, currently shows a downward trend. The work of people like David Ball, who contributes to this newsletter, and Tim Gill has served to highlight the importance of adventure activity and being less sedentary, especially for the young. Managing the risk is, of course, key for us and our members. On the legal front, Ministry of Justice reforms, which seek to curb legal costs and level the playing field in personal injury claims England and Wales, were introduced in August and should be helpful to the mutual on the legal costs front. However in Scotland a recent report from Sheriff Principal Taylor on civil litigation costs took a less encouraging view, seeing (unlike AIM) no evidence of a “compensation culture” there.

AIM has represented members in Court, successfully defending personal injury allegations on four occasions, the most expensive to the mutual being a case in Scotland. We’ve had one surprise adverse judgment too. The successes are largely due to the ability of the member to provide documents showing what actually happened: risk assessments; staff training; briefing and acknowledgement of risk; incident report and investigation documents and evidence of the exact location. This is the evidence that helped to demonstrate that the risk and benefits are balanced and proportionate.

Post Incident Investigations

The importance of post incident investigation and documentation for lessons learned purposes, as well as for providing evidence to rebut a claim if necessary, is a recurring theme of AIM seminars. It was also a key theme at the Crisis Management Conference we held in Birmingham last autumn. This led to the Crisis Management Service we offer to members in partnership with Pharos Response. Subscription to this service provides an on line audit and a follow up consultation. It’s worth noting that each member audit to date has led to the implementation of some risk improvement measures.

Over the past year, in addition to my role here, I’ve completed a period as chairman of the British Activity Providers Association (BAPA) and a member of the English Outdoor Council (EOC). Organisations like these play an important role in leading the outdoors sector and working to make it easier for providers to deliver the outdoor and adventurous experience in these challenging economic times.

Finally, I hope you will agree that it is vitally important for the outdoor and activities sector to have a degree of influence and control over our key insurance cover, especially with the probability of uncertain times ahead. AIM will continue to grow as a strong mutual, looking after its members and providing a voice for the sector and stability and support for its members.