This is a result of an unrelenting focus on improving our core operations and delivering a consistent, well-understood business model. Our dedication to service and competence, helping the maritime industries to manage risk and its consequences, is valued by our Members and clients who continue to help us grow both our premium and market share.
Our insurance performance demonstrates that offering properly priced products is vital, as well as highlighting the positive impact that an absence of large claims has on any particular period. While the last six months have seen the frequency of claims as expected, the number of large claims is very low. This is the primary reason for the strong technical result. Gross written premium increased by five per cent despite softening pricing conditions across the market and, while our investment result reflects the ongoing low interest rate environment and economic uncertainty, we did see a performance with a return of just over two per cent. The accounting principle used for pensions has been changed from NRS6 to IAS19, resulting in a reduction in the contingency reserve of USD 25 million.
However, these are only the half year results and we are about to enter the winter months in the northern hemisphere – historically a time for casualties to occur. So, our job will be to plot the steadiest course as we move forward.
Investing in talent
One of our three pillars of excellence focuses on knowledge and expertise – both within our own organisation and across the industries with whom we work. Over the last year, I am pleased to report that there have been a number of positive developments in this area.
We were pleased therefore to receive a strong external endorsement of our efforts from YoungShip International when we won their 2014 Young Corporation Award. The award recognised a wide range of initiatives in which Gard promotes and supports young people both in our own organisation and across the maritime industries as a whole. It was especially pleasing that Gard was nominated by young professionals within the group.
Winning this award is a great honour, and was only possible because of a long standing commitment across the leadership and management of the group to the ongoing development of talent within our business. We are very clear that our future is dependent on our ability to retain and recruit talented people – we need to attract them to the maritime industries, then nurture and support their career development.
Another part of this is the Claes Isacson Scholarship for maritime education, which we established in 2013, to help young people finance a university-level education, with a view to finding work within the shipping and marine insurance sectors. In June 2014, we were pleased to announce that the inaugural recipients of this scholarship; Wang Wenhao from Singapore and Daniela Gladun from Sweden. The Scholarship Committee received 54 applications from 13 countries, with each applicant required to present a plan for the completion of their studies and how they would make use of the scholarship.
Following a meeting of the Board of Directors on 25 September 2014, a decision was made to close our office in Gothenburg. The development of an adaptable and responsive global organisation is an important strategic focus for Gard – especially given the changing nature of the maritime industries we serve. Over the last year we have reviewed the office network to look at how functions and activities are distributed to ensure that we are delivering the best service possible.
Since the Gothenburg office was established nearly 20 years ago, the size of the Swedish marine market has changed considerably. These changes need to be reflected in our structure which is why we have decided to relocate staff and activities from Sweden to Norway by the summer of 2015.
There will always be peaks and troughs in our business but so far 2014 has delivered a really good performance. Overall, we are well-positioned to meet future challenges: we have a strong competitive position relative to our peers; a sound insurance portfolio; and we are well-capitalised to help our Members and clients manage their risks. We have an active progamme of external events planned for the coming months, and we look forward to seeing many of you at our Gard evenings around the world.