2015 AGM Report

Hon. Secretary and Treasurer’s Report


You will see our accounts show a loss of almost £1,400. Were it not, however, for last year’s substantial increase in new members able to take AFTAR (and, of course, other) sole arbitrator appointments, our deficit would have been considerably higher. Although for this reason last year’s loss is smaller than the previous year’s figure (of £2,249), we are naturally concerned about the Society’s continuing inability to balance its books. As subscriptions have remained unchanged for almost 10 years, they have failed to keep pace with our expenditure. In order to return the Society to profitability, it will unfortunately be necessary to raise subscription levels and, for the current year, we will be asking for £150 for one year’s membership or £250 for two. Since subscriptions were last adjusted, inflation has eroded values by more than 30% and arguably, therefore, most of this increase is to recover lost ground. You may also have noticed that subscription notices have traditionally been sent out towards the end, rather than at the beginning, of each financial year. To redress this, we intend gradually bringing this date forward and, for the current year, shall be writing to Panel Members during the summer months rather than at the end of the year.

Last year, I made reference to broadening the Society’s subscription base and, with this in mind, we shall shortly be writing to both existing and prospective corporate members. In exchange for what we hope will be seen as a modest annual contribution of £250 per firm, we shall be offering to give greater prominence on our website to each organisation by providing links to their own corporate and relevant personnel’s profiles. We are optimistic that this initiative will be well received by both the Society’s current and prospective corporate members.

Membership Report

I am pleased to report that the Membership of our Panel is in good shape, with numbers just slightly down from last year, from 100 to 98. This assumes that outstanding subscriptions, of which there are 4, will all eventually be paid. During the year, 5 new Members were appointed including our former Vice Chairman, John Powell (who I am pleased to say is with us today). There were 6 lapses or resignations. I am sorry to report that two of our longstanding Members sadly passed away during the year. These were Bryan Kellett who, due to poor health, had resigned last year, and Andy Williams. Amongst this year’s resignations was that of Sir Alan Traill’s, one of our founding members and my immediate predecessor as Honorary Secretary. In recognition of Sir Alan’s valuable contribution over the years, it gave us much pleasure to offer him Honorary Membership of the Society, a position which, I am pleased to say, he was delighted to accept. Thus, with Sir Alan joining Dr Peter Frey and Hugh Thompson, the Society now has 3 Honorary Members.

Whilst the largest discipline represented within our Membership had previously been underwriting, the legal profession has now just assumed this position. Other disciplines such as claims, broking and accountancy are relatively unchanged.

The actual numbers (excluding our Honorary Members) currently stand as follows:

Legal profession 38
Underwriting 37
Claims 12
Broking 8
Accountancy 3

Whilst our new Members are all domiciled in the UK and thus boost our domestic representation, it is pleasing to see a continuing overseas presence. At 22, overseas membership is almost a quarter of the total. Our current membership comes from:

UK 76
Germany 4
France 3
Switzerland 2

and one each from Bermuda, Norway, Sweden and Spain. We are especially pleased to welcome those overseas members who are with us here today.

Of the overall Panel Membership, 89 Members currently feature on the Society’s website (with several pending). This is a small reduction over last year. The number of Panel Members including their photographs on the website is currently 57 and, for those who have so far not taken the plunge, the opportunity is of course still there for this to be done.

To assist with the selection of Panel Members willing to undertake sole arbitrator appointments either under the AFTAR Rules or otherwise, an “SA” logo appears against the website entry of each such Member. Currently, some 42 Members are so designated.

In order to promote the use of our Fast Tract Rules, we have (as previously reported) suggested that parties who have agreed to arbitrate under ARIAS Rules consider whether the dispute could be better resolved under AFTAR. To assist with this process, two new clauses have been drafted. The first, called the ARIAS Fast Track Arbitration Clause, stipulates that all disputes shall be submitted under AFTAR whereas the other, a more optional version, called AFTAR Option Clause, directs parties to consider, once a dispute has arisen, the appropriateness of using AFTAR. Both clauses have been posted on our website.

Now turning to website “hit rates” or “visits”. Although visitor numbers over the half year to the end of last month were slightly down on the same period last year, they still averaged over 500 per month and total pages viewed, at just over 9,000, were 2.7% up. Reflecting the International nature of our business, visits from outside the UK accounted for 40% of all traffic with visitors from USA, Brazil, Germany and France (in that order) paying the most frequent visits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular downloaded items were the 3rd Edition of our Rules followed by the ARIAS Clause and AFTAR Rules.

Earlier this year we held a meeting with our website designers to discuss ways in which we could enhance our website. One suggestion was a new Home page and I am pleased to say a new layout will shortly be coming on stream. This will include, under the Panel Members section, the appearance of randomly selected Panel Members’ photographs with links to their entries – perhaps another reason for photo-less Members to get these done!

As always, we welcome suggestions as to any enhancements Members would like to see to the website.

You may have noticed that we are now using a new logo – it was felt that we needed a new, more modern-looking image and a contact of one of our Committee members (who is currently studying for a Masters in Graphic Design) was, at very modest cost, commissioned to design a suitable format. I trust you agree that she did an excellent job.

Finally, as regards our Tutorials, it is now almost 4 years since we last held one and so this year we shall be contacting all Members to test current levels of interest. This will be done in conjunction with our subscription requests for the current year. If there is sufficient interest, we would expect to hold the Tutorial in the autumn.

T.G. Fairs
Hon. Secretary, Treasurer and Panel Member, ARIAS (UK)
5th June 2015.

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