Elesh Bisla, CEO of GENRIC Marine.
Tony: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up being a Marine Insurance specialist?
Elesh: I have been in the marine industry for more than 30 years, starting off in the Marine Department of Commercial Union, which subsequently joined Guardian National and formed a company called Associated Marine, where I worked for 10 years.
I then worked for Swiss Re SA for six years, heading up Marine Treaty and FAC underwriting for the entire African continent, Mauritius, and other islands. After growing a substantial Marine book for Lion of Africa Insurance which, at the time, was the only BEE insurance company in the market I decided to venture out on my own and got a Lloyd’s binder with Tokyo marine using the Natsure FSP license to write business in South Africa on behalf of LLOYDS
I did this for about another six years until Lloyds had the big crunch in London and they withdrew all capacities in South Africa. This put me onto a Natsure/Guardrisk cell captive, which ran for about a year. Natsure’s strategy going forward did not have an appetite for marine.
That is how I found myself at GENRIC Insurance and I have been running the GENRIC Marine portfolio for two and a half years now. GENRIC Marine underwriting managers is a UMA (Underwriting Management Agencies) on behalf of GENRIC insurance.
It is safe to say that I have built a great understanding on the reinsurance side and on the underwriting side of Marine. I am always looking at the reinsurance factor when it comes to writing risk, it is always in the back of my mind, because I do come from a reinsurance background, and I know what reinsurers look for in any insurance company or UMA.
Tony: In GENRIC Marine’s case, you do marine cargo as well as marine liability. What do those include?
Elesh: There are a variety of policies that fall under the Marine cargo. We do the imports, exports, including GIT (goods in transit), that would encompass an entire marine cargo policy. You could also have a Marine cargo policy that just has imports, or you can have a Marine cargo that just has exports. Then you have a marine standalone GIT cover, which does not include imports or exports.
We tailor make our policies to suit the specific needs of a specific insured. Your cargo policies include imports, exports, and goods in transit, or combination or standalones. When we have just a GIT local transit, we call it a GIT Marine policy.
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Tony: So, that covers loss and damage of goods in transit?
Elesh: Yes, it covers any loss or damage to cargo whilst moving from point A to point B anywhere in the world, excluding obviously the countries which are under sanctions through the UK and United Nations. But sanctions can also apply to the insured itself, i.e. related persons or companies that are on the sanctions list, those are excluded as well. Furthermore, there are specific exclusions which would be incorporated in so far as the specific cargo which is being included.
Tony: What about on the Marine liability side?
Elesh: On the marine liability side, we do offer Carriers liability, and there are different views in the market about what a Carrier’s liability is. It is where a transporter is legally found negligent in the court of law., in which case the policy will respond.
We then have freight services liability, which caters more for Clearing and Forwarding companies . It encompasses the entire scope of work that they do. A Clearing and forwading freight order is responsible for clearing a cargo for a specific insured, warehousing it and storing it and then dispatching it when the insured needs it. So, all the liabilities that are attached to that are covered under one package policy.
Under our freight services liability policy, we offer Cargo and Related liability. Then we offer Warehouseman’s liability, Errors, and Omissions, and Third-Party Liability. These are all extensions that we offer under the Freight Services Liability policy – again, specific to our client’s needs. You can have a full-blown liability policy with all extensions, but we only provide extensions if the information provided to us suggest that the client needs that specific cover and or extensions.
Tony: Marine and both the cargo and the liability side is quite complicated, and it is a very specialist area. How do brokers get involved? Are there still opportunities for new brokers?
Elesh: From a GENRIC and my perspective, if a broker does not understand the marine product, we give training to the broker on specific products. We go out to brokers and speak to the teams. We give them training in the office, we give them the proposal forms and we hold their hand until they close their client. In some cases, brokers ask us to attend meetings with the client, however, we cannot speak directly to the clients. It must come via the broker because, as a UMA, we are not allowed to speak directly to clients. I usually sit in the meeting and when the clients ask the broker a question, I will elaborate on behalf of the broker, without giving any advice in that meeting.
Tony: What you are saying is that brokers should not be concerned about the fact that they do not have the expertise. They should look at whether they have access to clients and approach it by sitting down with you and seeing how they can reach those clients?
Elesh: Yes. I have a few small independent brokers that never knew anything about Marine. I went into the office and gave them training so that they had a brief understanding of it, then when the clients come back with questions, I am there to help the broker hold their hand and walk them through the entire process so that we are both comfortable that what the client is getting, is what the client needs.
Tony: Then I guess in that way they will grow their own skill over time.
Elesh: Yes. From my point of view, having 30 years’ experience has less value if I do not pass it on, whether it is to a broker or to another underwriter. My philosophy for whatever company I work at, is the sharing of knowledge.
We have a real shortage of skilled marine underwriters in the market, which is a problem because the older guys have moved on and unfortunately there was skills transfer So, there is a shortage of skills in the marine market. In my opinion the marine expertise is not what it should be in our market.