Ilias Tsakiris in Tradewinds: Sustainability makes for smart business

American Hellenic Hull and its CEO, Mr. Ilias Tsakiris featured in Tradewinds. Emerging hull insurer led by a former mariner is building its business based on environmental, social and governance principles.

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Cyprus and Piraeus-based American Hellenic Hull Insurance Co is beginning to make an impact on the hull and machinery market as an underwriter and by embracing environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.

Backed by protection and indemnity mutual the American Club, it has increased its gross written premium from $11m in 2018 to $15.7m in 2020. Over the same period, its entered fleet has increased from 2,297 vessels to 3,049 vessels.

American Hellenic’s emergence in the marine market was highlighted recently when chief executive Ilias Tsakiris was voted onto the board of the Ocean Hull Committee of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI).

He is the first Greek board member since IUMI president Nikos Adamantiadis was elected in 1994.

Tsakiris has 30 years of underwriting experience and believes he can bring fresh insight to the committee.

“I am a former ship’s officer myself and I represent a highly knowledgeable and hands-on shipowning and operating community. I believe I can contribute a great deal of front-line know-how and experience,” he said.

Over the past two years or so, Tsakiris has embraced ESG principles as a way of growing the business and has become one of the most progressive marine insurers. IUMI itself is encouraging its members to actively adopt ESG principles.

It is the only dedicated marine insurer so far to sign up to the Principles for Sustainable Insurance under the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, and the UN Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative. Most recently, American Hellenic has joined the Sustainable Recycling Transparency Initiative,a programme that offers full transparency on recycling projects.

Altruistic and smart

“We believe that for businesses today being sustainable is not only altruistic but smart. Embracing sustainable principles and practices can be a commercial game changer for players that are in the vanguard, but will increasingly become mandated as regulators, investors, financiers and major clients converge in partnering each other while calling unsustainable businesses to account,” Tsarikis said.

“We believe it is also confers benefits throughout our business, providing greater discipline and perspective, while giving us an advantage in, for example, recruiting talent in today’s market,” he added.

Some have questioned how effective insurers can be in influencing issues such as decarbonisation. Banks can offer preferential terms to finance low-carbon ships, but what can insurers do?

“Beyond encouraging and educating our partners and clients, insurers can take care to avoid insuring unsustainable practices. At the same time, it can support shipowners who invest in energy-efficient vessels and favour reputable, sustainability-oriented operators,” Tsakiris said.

Diversity too is a mainstay of the ESG principles and American Hellenic has a mixed performance.

There is only one woman — the American Club’s Dorothea Ioannou — among its eight executive directors. However, 12 out of 22 senior managers at the company are women, including the deputy chief financial officer, Elena Tzouma.

Tsakiris said the company values equality and career progression determined purely on performance. It is considering joining the UN’s Target Gender Equality initiative.

“Our organisation requires hiring, compensation and advancement to be determined solely based on a person’s qualifications, performance, skills and aptitude for key principles of the company’s culture, for example sustainability.

“We are always looking at and reviewing ways the company can signal its support for these principles and ally itself with others sharing the same values,” he said.

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