CEO Julia Graham on breaking ground on Airmic’s first ‘Island of Ireland’ forum

CEO Julia Graham on breaking ground on Airmic’s first ‘Island of Ireland’ forum | Insurance Business New Zealand

CEO Julia Graham on breaking ground on Airmic’s first ‘Island of Ireland’ forum

What’s the truest metric of the success of a conference? There’s a lot to choose from between the quality of the speakers, the amount of sponsorship raised, the number of attendees and the engagement levels of the event itself. No matter your chosen metrics, by any reckoning Airmic’s inaugural Island of Ireland Forum 2022 was an out-and-out success.

Speaking with Insurance Business UK, CEO of the association Julia Graham (pictured) reflected on the first (but certainly not last) of its kind conference and the reaction it was met with from risk management professionals across the Island of Ireland market. She noted that the Airmic team had to close out both registration and sponsorship.

“We were thrilled because we had a full house,” she said, “which is all you can ask for.”

How Airmic’s first foray into Ireland came about

Airmic’s foray into hosting a forum for the Island of Ireland was something of a “leap into the unknown”, she added, but there were several pressing factors behind the decision to do so. First and foremost, Airmic has always had members in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. So it was a natural next step to look for an opportunity to cater to those delegates, and especially timely as captives have become so important to Dublin.

Graham noted that encouragement from existing Airmic members to hold events was also an instigator, as was her own personal connection. In a previous insurance role, her remit had extended to the firm’s business there as well as attending all of the Insurance Institute dinners, North and South, in a year. Having travelled there a great deal she said, she was left with very fond memories and didn’t need much encouragement to go back.

“So we decided that we would hold an Island of Ireland event and that we would organise it in Dublin because the biggest risk and insurance community on the island is Dublin,” she said. “Dublin is also accessible to others across the island and it meant people could get there and back in a day, without putting their cars on the road, which we were keen that people didn’t do, and without incurring the cost of staying overnight.”

Gathering the right contacts to secure a great event

Once the decision was made, Airmic set about talking to new contacts in the market – establishing relationships with Brokers Ireland and Insurance Ireland. Airmic’s message of “collaboration not competition” was warmly received, she said, and both associations threw their weight behind the initiative, offering their full support.

“We share a desire for the island to be a successful international centre for risk management and insurance,” she said.

Airmic’s stance as a non-profit trade association, operated solely to benefit its membership and partners, resonated well with both Brokers Ireland and Insurance Ireland, and across the wider market. So, the team started harnessing its contacts both in Ireland and with its UK partners who have a presence there. It quickly became apparent just how many of Airmic’s members and partners have an Ireland presence, she said, and there was both enthusiasm and support for the idea of the new forum.

Aviation to cyber to regulatory reforms – topics of the day

As to the event itself, Graham noted that it was very much designed for its Island of Ireland audience, with every keynote speech, panel and session geared towards the topics dominating the market at this time – from aviation, to insurance reforms, to cyber risk.

“Of course, these conferences are made or unmade by the quality of the speakers,” said Graham, who emphasised the quality line-up of experts who joined the discussions. “We were also very lucky to have a government minister to open the event, Dara Calleary, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation. He talked about some of the big issues specific to Ireland wanting to become an even more prominent international centre for financial services, including insurance.”

Again, Graham paid credit to Airmic’s connections in Ireland – particularly Moyagh Murdock, CEO of Insurance Ireland, and Cathie Shannon, general insurance director at Brokers Ireland – and the way they went the big mile to ensure they could secure the best keynote speakers and the best panellists.

Special mention has to go to George Ong, an Airmic member and CRO at Northern Ireland Water, as it was his inspiration that initially made the event happen, she said, and he became a valued member of the organising project team. Mention must also be made of the Forum’s Platinum and Event sponsors, as the Forum wouldn’t have been possible without their financial and intellectual support.

“Now that we’ve run a forum and made connections with business there, we can see that the island is really taking off as a financial and insurance centre,” she said. “Dublin provides a platform for Airmic into the EU… and it’s not one-and-done for us. We’re going to run another forum in Dublin in October 2023 and an event in Belfast.

“We’re also going to run a special interest group session for the island at our conference in Manchester in June 2023. So we’ve got a programme. We have always said if we came to the island, we would invest our energies in the Republic and in Northern Ireland long term. And we asked those who came to Dublin in October if they would come back in 2023 and they said ‘yes’.”