Vinco David, secretary general of Berne Union spoke with Katharine Morton on the first day of his new job about the role, and his views of the future
Congratulations on your new position. How do you see your role and what does success look like in terms of where you are driving the Berne Union?
The main raison d'être of the Berne Union is exchange of information between its members. That can be in any form - expertise, buyers, countries, products, marketing. So I'm very happy that membership is growing. Currently Berne Union members cover 11% of all global cross border trade. That's a lot. One member may have more experience in one market and another in another, so it's good for the entire industry that members can exchange that information.
The second reason why the Berne Union is important is the networking opportunities for the members. Compared to other insurance lines, trade and investment insurance is a niche market. Last year, almost two trillion dollars went through the members' in terms of trade and investment insured, but it's still relatively niche market so it is important to network with each other and with other stakeholders.
The third main importance of the Berne Union is it can represent the industry to other stakeholders. That could be regulators, the media, the banks financing exports and making it understood how we can help support exports and investments.
What are the main problems facing members of the Berne Union at the moment?
I don't think there are overall problems - there may be areas of concern though. One area is the soft market for private insurers, especially for the single transaction and the whole-turnover cover (two big lines for private credit insurers). Fortunately, the
loss rates/claims ratios are still relatively low and therefore this business is still profitable. But I don't know what will happen when something unexpected arises and claims go up.
Of course, as insurers we tend to have an opinion about what the future holds for us and we hope to be able to know that better than our customers - exporters and investors. For the moment we are relatively optimistic. For instance, in western Europe growth has picked up. There's been a slight decrease in growth in China but it's still at levels other countries would be jealous of. India is growing relatively well. There are problem areas such as in commodity exports, especially for those countries with a heavy dependency on commodities, where prices have dropped.
Do you have visions to have more representation of the MLT (medium long term) business of the private insurance market at Berne Union?
The question of representation is very much up to what the members of the Berne Union themselves want. However, on the data side, at least, there is some work to be done to improve the clarity of the figures we collect for long term credit (MLT).
Although both ECAs and private members write MLT business, at present, the comparison of these is only possible through a deductive process of determining how much of the reported 'investment insurance' is in fact credit written by private members.
The project to improve the utility of our data is a priority, and I am keen to achieve an outcome where we can have a more meaningful comparison of MLT business written by both ECAs and private insurers within the Berne Union.
One last thing, are you having fun?
Oh my word, yes! This is a great job. It's great to be at the centre of world trade and investments. Everything comes together in the Berne Union and that's great. It's not so much just being in touch with the insurers themselves eventually but ultimately the exporters. That's what I like, you are still in touch with where the real work is done, producing stuff or investing.
Vinco David was appointed secretary general on March 1. A Dutch national, Vinco has over 30 years' experience in various aspects of credit and investment insurance, including more than 20 with leading international credit insurer Atradius, in diverse roles across strategy, product development, economic research, project finance, underwriting and claims management. Most recently he served as a management team member of Atradius Dutch State Business, the Export Credit Agency of the Netherlands. Prior to this Vinco held positions at the Berne Union Secretariat and the Netherlands Ministry of Finance.
This interview took place at ExCred27 (insuring export credit & political risk) in London
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