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Message From Our Chairman

Andrew Gardiner reflects on another successful year for AIM

This autumn marks ten years since the publication of AIM’s first Newsletter announcing the formation of the company and inviting applications for Associate Membership. Back then our aim was to transform the picture for the outdoor sector whilst trying to source liability cover, and influence the replacement of the prevailing roller-coaster premium experience with something more stable and sustainable. By concentrating solely on the outdoor sector we would be addressing this problem of general insurers’ “in / out” mentality. This was recently illustrated most starkly in the demise last year of the JLT’s Adventure Insurance Activities Scheme, which left a large number of centres needing to renew their insurance elsewhere at very short notice.

AIM’s progress, for us, has been a fascinating and enjoyable journey and it’s a surprise to me that the past ten years seem to have sped by so quickly; liability cover, at least when mutualised, is far from boring! Of the original AIM directors, I’m delighted that Tricia Rawlingson-Plant of the Mill on the Brue centre, Bob Edwards of Stubbers and Glyn MacAulay, a former Lloyd’s insurance auditor, are still with me on the Board. I’m most grateful to them, current directors Peter Gordon (Rockley Watersports) and Paul Reeve (The Foundry Climbing Centre) and AIM’s previous directors for their energy, ideas and comradeship as the project has surged forward. I should like to record my personal thanks to Steve Taylor, who left the Board in July after eight years’ service. Steve’s counsel on all matters, but especially those relating to technical issues relating to climbing risks and incidents, has always been both practical and valuable.

In this year’s accounts, it was my pleasure once again to report on a successful year for the Mutual, with the financial statements showing another surplus after tax for the year ended 31 July 2014. In the current financial year our Membership has risen to 671 with annual contributions (income) for the year ended 31 July 2015 some 12.5% higher, in excess of £2 million. AIM has always had a profit-sharing arrangement with its excess insurer (Mitsui Sumitomo’s Lloyd’s syndicate) and I’m delighted to report that the Mutual was in receipt of such a payment this year in respect of 2007, AIM’s first year as a Mutual. Unlike insurance schemes which traditionally reward the broker, it is a unique feature of AIM that these payments are paid to the Mutual. However, as our success is founded on our Members’ collective high standards of activity provision and the good safety and claims record that this results in, it is right that you yourselves enjoy the benefits of profit sharing. Returning 7.5% of their 2007/2008 premium to Year 1 Members in February this year was a really significant milestone for the Mutual and I’m pleased to say that there is every prospect of surplus distributions to Year 3, 4 and 5 Members on the back of similarly good performances.

AIM supports its Members in many ways, particularly in post-incident management, with post-accident complaints and in potential claims situations. Wherever it can, AIM will share lessons learned, an important way to reduce future claims. Our developing relationship with Pharos Response has been of real value here, not only assisting in major incidents, but also helping to defuse complaints involving a vexatious participant or irate parent, thus mitigating the potential of difficult claims scenarios. These situations highlight the vital importance of good post-incident personal care with an injured participant, often involving parent(s), even after a relatively minor incident.

We also support Members through our programme of Member seminars and conferences. In February this year we held a West Country conference at Tricia’s Mill on the Brue centre in Bruton, Somerset and, in March, a northern seminar and AGM at Halifax Hall in Sheffield. See our review on page 12 for more information about these and forthcoming events. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues at Regis. Many of you will know James Willis and Shaun Fyson who have worked hard for AIM for many years, and Andy Baker, Brad Mott, Richard Izzard, Liz Thompson and Cathy Atkinson (both currently on maternity leave). With them is a team of specialists dedicated to ensuring that AIM provides us Members with a first-rate service.

AIM faces the next phase of its development with considerable confidence. We have over eight years of experience and data from liability claims in the outdoor sector; a growing Membership; a stable financial position; and strong partnerships within the industry. As our Membership increases, so does our reputation, and I believe that we can use that to the advantage of you, our Members, in the true spirit of mutuality. In the coming months we will be considering how best to capitalise on that position, and I look forward to meeting with you at one of our events where we will be very happy to hear your views.

 

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.

 

 

 

Chairman’s Message – A Positive Outlook

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