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Swedish Club looks to build its core business in uncertain times

New boss Thomas Nordberg turns to digitalisation to make its business more resilient.

Thomas Nordberg is hosting his first annual general meeting as managing director of the Swedish Club after six months in charge, in which he has already made his mark on the marine insurance mutual.

Since taking over the helm this year, he has made key personnel changes such as the appointment of Thorbjorn Emanuelsson as director of underwriting and, most recently, Fredrik Bergqvist as area manager for team Sweden.

The management shake-up may not be over yet but, for the time being, Nordberg said he is happy with the changes that have been made.

“I took some early decisions and they have already landed well both internally and externally,” said Nordberg.

“I think that we now have a very good set-up in the management team. That does not mean we have completed what needs to be done for the future, but I would probably give this some time because we have made some substantial changes already,” he said.

A key element of Nordberg’s strategy for the future of the club is to make sure it becomes a leader in terms of the digitalisation of its business.

So one of the most important appointments that Nordberg has made is that of Magnus Axelsson as director of IT and digital transformation.

The Swedish Club has already taken a major step forward with the digitalisation of its loss prevention activities through the launch of the Trade Enabling Loss Prevention Platform, known as TELP, two years ago.

Nordberg is aiming to further develop the club’s digital processes into the underwriting and claims activities of both its protection and indemnity and commercial business lines.

The idea is to improve risk selection in underwriting and make the claims process more cost-efficient, while at the same time improving the interface with members.

“There are quite a few initiatives Magnus will push for,” said Nordberg. “We want to be innovative and we want to be market-leading when it comes to trying to push for digital solutions that our members will benefit from,” he said.

The one setback the Swedish Club has had since Nordberg took over was a $38m investment loss in its 2022 accounts. It was an unrealised loss and has been recovered to some extent from the recent rebound in the investment markets.

Under a management reshuffle, Lars Malm has been appointed managing director of the Swedish Club’s Hong Kong office.

The investment losses were largely attributable to the geopolitical uncertainty surrounding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Nordberg does not expect the war — or the other geopolitical uncertainties that impact the investment markets — will go away anytime soon.

To counter the uncertainties, Nordberg said he can at least make the underwriting business more resilient.

“We don’t like uncertainty but that is something we have to face right now, it will be part of the game for some time ahead. We have to understand that, relate to it and prepare for it,” he said.

“What we have done so far is to take a stronger and more scientific approach to risk selection. The way we grow our business also has to make sure that is with the best possible shipowners and quality of tonnage.”

The indications from the 2022 accounts are that the club’s technical underwriting performance is improving. So far this year, both the costly International Group of P&I Clubs’ claims and the Swedish Club’s own claims remain within budget.

In underwriting terms, this February’s P&I renewal saw the club apply a significant general increase and improve its risk profile of the entered fleet, which is helping the underwriting performance.

“We had a solid P&I renewal that resulted in a better risk profile and pricing structure. We managed to get a 12% increase in the premium basis, thanks to our loyal and committed membership,” he said.

The investment losses have taken their toll on the club’s free reserves, which have slipped below $150m. Although that is likely to be recovered as the investment markets rebound, Nordberg said his goal is to bring those free reserves back to the levels of two years ago when they were over $200m.


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