During the COVID-19 pandemic and the months that followed, New Zealanders, likely more than any other nation, took to their boats and motorcycles.
News reports quoting the New Zealand Marine Industry Association said boat sales doubled during 2020 – the height of the pandemic – and continued to grow into 2023.
“Compared to many other countries, a higher level of New Zealanders’ recreational time is spent boating - which is fantastic and obviously important for us as a portfolio to manage,” said Lyndon Turner (pictured above), CEO of NM Insurance. A focus of the underwriting agency, that also operates in Australia, is marine insurance - including for pleasurecraft.
Sydney-based Turner recently visited his firm’s Aotearoa operation for a board meeting and general strategy update with his local team. In an interview with Insurance Business, he described demand during the pandemic as “the Halcyon COVID days.”
However, even without the pandemic, New Zealand is a country where demand for boat insurance coverage is usually strong.
Figures from Maritime New Zealand, the regulator of the country’s inland and coastal waterways, showed that 50% of New Zealanders either own or use a boat.
“I think if you measured it on a per capita basis, registration statistics have shown that there’s a very high percentage [of boat] ownership in New Zealand versus other markets around the world,” said Turner.
However, in mid-2023, the regulator also reported a drop in the numbers and enthusiasm of the NZ boating community. The number of boaties who describe themselves as “super fans” was seeing a “significant decrease” it said in a quarterly report. The increased cost-of-living, poor weather and more overseas travelling were cited as some of the causes.
Turner suggested this trend has continued into the early months of 2024. However, he said demand from the pleasurecraft market in particular, is still strong.
“In New Zealand… we’ve seen really strong pleasurecraft momentum,” he said. “For motorcycles, we find that the market has slowed a little bit when it comes to sales momentum and it’s nowhere near the peaks during COVID.”
Turner said the NM Insurance portfolio is seeing “good growth.”
“But certainly sales momentum has amended and cost-of-living pressures are obviously there, of course, because it’s a discretionary spend,” he said.
The current sales momentum, he suggested, is partly coming from wealthier boating fans.
“Yes, this discretionary spend generally falls outside of individuals with mortgage pressures and also cost-of-living issues,” said Turner.
However, locals upgrading older boats is also pushing business along.
“Of course, pleasurecraft as a marketplace and as an ownership percentage of the population is so high in New Zealand because the locals are just naturally attracted to recreational water pursuits because of the beautiful waterways over here,” he said. “It’s just part of their DNA.”
Like much of the insurance world, Turner said capacity issues are a current challenge.
“Capacity and return on investment or returns to a portfolio are always a challenge depending on the exposure when it comes to weather events, or other issues,” he said.
The CEO said another current focus for his firm is managing emerging technologies that are impacting boating, including lithium batteries.
“We’ve done a lot of education in the market, including working with experts to raise awareness about the challenges,” said Turner. “The lithium batteries on board boats, and the equipment on boats, including tools and toys, is a challenge that we need to make sure we’re in front of and educate the owners as to what’s best practice.”
This month, Turner’s firm appointed Australian television personality and weather presenter, Paul Burt as an ambassador for its trans-Tasman insurance brands.
“NM Insurance shares the enthusiasm that our policyholders have for their outdoor passions,” said Turner in a media release. “Paul Burt, through his TV appearances and in person, really embodies this enthusiasm for the outdoors.”
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