May 8, 2013
BOARD’S FOUR-MONTHLY REPORT TO MEMBERS
This is the last 2012/13 report from the Board, or as it may be better to call it, Newsletter. The Board and I hope you have found these helpful in keeping you up-to-date with developments which would normally have to await reports at those General Meetings
1. New members
We have been delighted to welcome Jauregui & Associados as our new member in Mexico. We are grateful for the work done by Enriqué Belzuz in this respect. Enriqué is now doing the groundwork with a view to new members in South America, starting with Brazil. If anybody has any suggestions they would like him to consider, please let him and the Board know promptly.
The Board is also continuing its consideration of other jurisdictions. It hopes that it may be in a position to put before members prospective members for both Bermuda and Georgia (USA) in time for the Annual Meeting. It is also continuing to explore in particular Brazil, China, Australia, Israel and South Africa.
I repeat that the purpose of adding members to the group is not simply that of having members. The fact is that the more members we have in important jurisdictions for insurance and reinsurance, the more likely internal referrals are, the higher the profile of the Insuralex brand is, and hence the more likely it is both that there will be referrals and that members will get work as a result of being part of the Insuralex group.
On that basis, if members have suggestions in jurisdictions where Insuralex is not currently represented, they should not hesitate to make them to the Board.
I would like to re-emphasise that the Board vets all prospective members carefully. This process can take several months, since the Board does not automatically accept names put to it but conducts its own research into suitable firms in comparison with any which have been suggested to it. It is of the highest importance to the success of the brand that only the best qualified insurance/reinsurance firms are members of this organisation.
2. Insuralex VZW
The vote which took place following Bertjan’s circulation of the draft proposed statutes of the VZW was an overwhelming endorsement of the conversion of Insuralex into a corporate personality. We had only two non-American and one American abstentions; all the votes cast were in favour. Accordingly, the VZW was registered in the Netherlands on Friday 12 April. The business, assets (and liabilities) and indeed existence of Insuralex has therefore now been transferred into the VZW.
The VZW has full legal personality and is listed at the Chamber of Commerce at The Hague as a professional organisation (it is not a ‘for profit’ company because Insuralex is not a commercial company: it does not exist to make profits). As a result, and as discussed, both the Board and members now have an extra layer of protection against potential lawsuits.
Insuralex VZW (which, obviously, we shall continue to call “Insuralex”) is now applying for VAT registration in the Netherlands. This will enable us to ensure that almost all invoices rendered to and by Insuralex remain permanently free of VAT, either because bills can be rendered without VAT on them or members in the EU will set-off any VAT as an input so the net cost will be zero.
Now that the VZW is in place, you may expect to receive an invoice for your 2013 subscription to Insuralex very shortly. We hope you have enjoyed the interest-free credit the Board has extended to you! We hope you have also appreciated the careful stewardship of Insuralex’ funds, which has meant that we have been able to fund it these extra months without needing the money from this year’s subscriptions just yet.
The change in our status means that, at any rate technically, I cease to be “President” of Insuralex. Under Dutch law, VZWs have Chairmen, not Presidents. I was reluctant to give up this title and Bertjan has suggested as a compromise that I be referred to as “Your Highness”. Actually, we gather that there is no particular objection to us continuing to refer to me as “President” in practice, as long as it is understood that officially the role I hold is that of Chairman. The same applies of course to Michael Connelly as VicePresident/Chairman/Highness.
3. Budget 2013
The Board has not forgotten that the mid-year meeting in London in November 2012 gave only provisional approval to the 2013 budget. Following incorporation, the Board has approved the 2013 budget for submission to members.
As part of the changes inherent in incorporation, the Treasurer and the Board have agreed that the budget (and the balance sheet) should in future be presented in conventional accounting form, rather than in the Excel spread-sheet form that Bertjan has used in the past. This is consistent with (though not necessarily required for) the audit which is required by the statutes, Dutch law and the resolution of the Mid-year meeting.
Bertjan will therefore be circulating to everyone shortly the proposed 2013 budget. It differs very little from that proposed in November 2012, though it will have the greater detail that was then requested. We hope it will meet with members’ approval.
4. Annual Meeting: New York – 27 / 28 June 2013
The Annual Meeting in New York will, broadly speaking (but see below), follow the traditional format. There will be a seminar, attended by members and local clients/contacts, on Thursday; the members’ Annual Meeting will take place on the Friday.
You have all received already the “save the date” which gave you details of the dates of the meeting. The email from Nee Sultan also gave details both of the accommodation reserved at the Cornell Club and of local hotels for those who preferred not to stay at the Club. I recommend staying at the Club: It is very pleasant and much better value than the local hotels.
There are a number of points I would like to make in advance about the Annual Meeting this year:
(a) As usual, there will be an Officers Dinner on the evening of Wednesday 26 June. The Officers Dinner is attended by the Board and Past Presidents (and spouses at own cost) and is intended primarily to enable discussion of the organisation in an informal context. Because of the timing of the meeting on Thursday 27, it is thought that a number of members may arrive in New York on Wednesday 26. We are therefore happy to open the Board Dinner to any members who will be present in New York and would wish to attend (at own expense).
(b) The Board will as normal meet on Thursday morning to go through its normal agenda.
(c) The Board considers it important that members continue the tradition of updating each other on the current status of their firms and recent developments, including, where appropriate, an introduction of their firms to new members and of new member firms to the membership as a whole. At the same time, the Board recognises that this takes up a substantial amount of time at the Members’ Meeting on Friday which should probably be devoted to the issues to be debated and decided at that meeting. The Board therefore proposes to try an experiment this year and to have this updating/introduction take place on the afternoon of Thursday 27 June, before the client/contact seminar. (Introduction of new members will also of course be formalised at the actual meeting.) Accordingly, the meeting will, for this purpose, begin at around 2.30pm on Thursday 27 June – the invitation will give the precise timing.
(d) The Board intends that then, from about 4.00pm on Thursday 27 June, Rich Kissel and his colleagues from Kissel Hirsch & Wilmer, our hosts, will make a presentation introducing the clients/contacts who will be attending. It is intended to hand out a guest list to all members in advance of the seminar for this purpose.
(e) Again learning from November 2012, the guests are being invited to arrive during a period before the seminar, rather than for the definite time of 5pm, when the seminar starts, so that there may be some mingling before the seminar. Equally, the number of persons handing out badges etc will be at least doubled from those on the door in November 2012. This will be Nee Sultan’s first meeting organised for Insuralex and we trust that she will do a first rate job in this respect.
(f) Following the seminar, there will again be a reception with canapés. However, this year (since in November 2012 it appeared that many people would prefer to stay on at a reception, provided there is suitable food, for a lengthier time than we had then allowed) again as an experiment the Board has decided to increase the canapés and simply to continue the reception until (within reason) people wish to leave. If anyone wishes to make their own arrangements for dinner, either on their own or with attending (and/or non-attending) guests, they should feel entirely free to do so, either in advance or spontaneously at the meeting. There will, however, be no dinner officially arranged.
(g) The meeting on Friday 28 June will then, except for the absence of the updating information about firms (or its presence only in a much curtailed version for those not present on 27th), proceed as normal with a view to finishing by 4.00pm. There will then be a dinner on Friday for all those who wish to attend (at own expense). The Board hopes that members will participate in that dinner, since it 5 continues to regard the development of the personal relationships between member representatives as important to the development of the Insuralex “trust and confidence” as between members.
(h) The formal invitation giving precise dates, times and speakers should come out to members within the next fortnight or so.
One of the prime purposes of Insuralex is referrals as between members. Referrals can either be discrete items of business, or simply volunteering the names of fellow members for potentially suitable pieces of business. Over the years, the Board has tried in various ways to ensure that members keep us up-to-date with referrals which have been made. None of the methods adopted has really worked adequately, and failure to track referrals remains a problem. Such tracking has to be helpful to all members in justifying to their firms the (admittedly low) cost of belonging to Insuralex.
The Board has therefore asked David Brackenbury to contact each member representative on a monthly basis to find out what referrals have been made or received by that firm during the preceding month. If you would like to save Insuralex the cost of David doing this, then please email him on a monthly basis with the numbers, even if only to give him a nil return. This is a serious issue and we do ask members to take it seriously: It may be that members have been making referrals of which even the recipient is unaware (because although the name has been given, the referring member did not mention it to the member whose name was given and no ultimate contact took place). It is important that such tracking be put properly in place.
On the same basis, members have been asked repeatedly to submit news from their firms and/or articles/newsletters and the like, both about their firms and legal developments in their jurisdiction, so that these can be posted on the website. These postings help to keep the website visible in internet searches and are useful to members keeping up to date with fellow members and world-wide legal developments (and give them thinks on which to brief interested clients/contacts).
Despite these requests, take up has not been large. Accordingly, the Board has asked Nee Sultan to contact members on a regular monthly basis to solicit such news and articles from members.6 We simply cannot imagine that most members do not have at least one or two pieces of news (entries in directories, awards obtained, partners appointed/promoted, lawsuits won (or even lost!), articles written etc) at least once or twice a year. All we ask is that you include us in the list of your clients/contacts who receive this news. We will then put it on the website, which helps Insuralex and you.
Amelia Brault has very kindly agreed to take charge of the reinvigoration of the Insuralex Linked-In group. Please would all member representatives make sure that they have a profile on Linked-In and that they join the Insuralex group. Amelia is the “owner” and I am the “manager” of this group: this means that we both have management rights over it, but she has kindly agreed to be responsible for it. This too, is a site for posting your news which can reach a very wide audience indeed. People who search for insurance counsel on Linked-In should come across Insuralex, and the more pieces of news and members our group has, the more likely that is to happen.
As promised at the Mid-year meeting, the Board has given careful consideration to the conferences at which Insuralex should consider “representation”. By “representation”, the Board does not mean that Insuralex will necessarily send a representative at its expense, though it may choose to do that. It means that there are some meetings in the annual insurance/reinsurance calendar at which it will actively encourage the attendance of Insuralex members and that they should work together as an Insuralex group, rather than simply pursuing their own individual agendas: Alex’ famous “wolf pack”. If the members attending consider that it would be helpful to have an official “Insuralex” representative (David or an officer, for example) present, then please say so and of course the Board will consider that carefully and favourably.
The meetings the Board has initially decided to prioritise for this purpose are:
(a) RIMS – Los Angeles – 21- 24 April (David Brackenbury attended with Jean Lawler);
(b) ARIAS – Palm Beach – 8-10 May (not in the end attended after further discussion);
(c) Rendez-Vous – Monte Carlo – 7-12 September ;
(d) Baden Baden – 20 – 24 October;
(e) FIDES – 10 – 13 November;
(f) Maybe AIRROC – 13 – 16 October.
These meetings have been winnowed from a much larger number of potential meetings. If anyone feels strongly that the Board has overlooked an important meeting, please let us know. We have tried to choose those meetings where (a) the overall aim of the group relating to insurance/reinsurance practice generally can be best advanced; (b) we think most Insuralex members have an interest; and (c) where the Insuralex “brand”, globally, can most usefully be advanced in the interests of all the members.
This does not mean that we are backing away from conferences like Hydra or Sinaia, which we also consider valuable in their own way. These are an addition to those specific conferences. Other conferences of a more or less specialised nature like IFASIC may be added to the list if they are perceived as having groupwide benefit in terms of specific business and/or profile.
Finally, the Board remains committed to representation, usually by the local member and David Brackenbury, at Lloyd’s conferences in various places where Lloyd’s chooses to hold these. Experience has indicated that these can be very useful in spreading news of the brand and increasing the marketing “clout” of local members at these events.
We continue to move forward with the “professionalisation” of the group. We are confident that its profile is continually rising and that our “product” is increasingly “saleable” and recognised when its name appears in the insurance and reinsurance press, whether in soft/internet form or in hard copy.
We look forward to seeing everyone in New York in 7 weeks time.
President/Chairman, Insuralex VZW
For and on behalf of the Board
8 May 2013