Miller has a strong history of helping clients place insurance for hull & machinery, disbursements and other marine interests. We caught up with hull broker Alex Howard-Smith to get his thoughts on what makes Miller different and why clients choose us to handle their business.

What makes Miller different from all the other marine hull brokers?

We look at things from a different angle, and never accept ‘it can’t be done’ as the answer before we’ve exhausted all the possibilities. That’s especially important for clients facing cost increases in the hardening market. For example, we might suggest bringing the overall cost of coverage down with an aggregate deductible, or after a loss year we might suggest offering underwriters an additional premium as a trade-off, instead of a rate rise. 

And how come you can get those alternative ideas agreed, whilst other brokers might not?

One of the reasons is our size. We have complete market access and significant influence. We also have a great deal of experience, and a lot of stability with it. Some of my colleagues have been here for three decades, and Miller has been in the marine space for coming up to 120 years. As a result we have very, very good relationships with underwriters. They know us, they trust us, and I don’t think it’s boasting to say they respect us, which is even more powerful leverage than size alone can bring. In fact we like to think it’s a better kind of leverage – the carrot, not the stick. 

So Miller must have some long-standing relationships with ship owners? 

Absolutely! Not long after I joined I met one client who has been with Miller for three generations, and they’re not an anomaly. Our clients range from single vessel owners to four of the world’s ten largest fleets, and we mean it when we say we value each of them equally. We give them all the attention and choices they need, and commit to understanding their specific risks and challenges. That’s another factor of our size. We’re big, but we’re not a goliath, so we value every client, and have plenty of time for each and every one of them. None get treated like they’re just a number. That’s probably why Miller has such a high client retention-rate, the best in the market we think. It speaks to our service levels and our client ethos.

All that longevity doesn’t sound very dynamic.

Then I’m not explaining myself correctly. Part of the reason clients stick with us is our ability to stay at the front of the pack in areas that go beyond service, for example by designing proprietary tech platforms for clients. We invented the system to get war risk extensions done immediately on line, and more recently for yacht portfolio managers to get an instant quote over the ’net. We might have a reputation for being ‘traditional’, but I like to think we’re ‘techno-traditional’. If it benefits our clients, we’ll make it happen. But yes, we might need to get better at letting the world know about our ‘beyond broking’ skillset, and update that reputation.

Still, it’s worth remembering that the heritage piece creates big value for clients: there’s very little in the way of hull and machinery risks that one of our team hasn’t experienced first-hand at some time during their careers, and we are an extremely collaborative shop, so information flows, problems are shared, and solutions delivered. It’s why we’re the broker of choice for a huge slice of the world’s container, passenger, bulker, LNG, tanker, yacht, and localised vessels fleets.

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