Marine insurance boss marks 40 years at the same firm

11:48am Friday 9th November 2012

By Andy Richardson

A LEADING North-East insurance boss is celebrating a milestone year in business, having spent his entire working life at the same firm.

Chief executive of Sunderland Marine Mutual Insurance Company Ltd (SMMI), Geoff Parkinson, is celebrating 40 years at the company this month, having risen through the ranks after starting his career as a junior claims officer.  

He began his career with SMMI after his mother spotted the job advertised in a local newspaper.  He joined the business in 1972, one of only four members of staff, and is now at the helm of a 100-strong team with offices around the world.

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SMMI chairman Trevor Hart said that Mr Parkinson’s 40 years’ service represents a significant achievement and brings a wealth of expertise that is still helping to drive the business forward, 16 years on from his appointment as chief executive.

He said: “The company has benefitted so much from Geoff’s 40 years, going from a tiny acorn to a growing oak tree.  We now have 73 staff here in the UK and 39 staff overseas and this is all down to Geoff’s hard work. 

“SMMI is now recognised as the premium insurer of fishing boats but also charter boats, other small ocean going tonnage and aquaculture, and all of this is down to Geoff’s unabated enthusiasm for this company.”

From the company’s humble beginnings in Sunderland, SMMI has seen significant growth.  The late 1980’s saw the company take its mutual insurance philosophy overseas, something Mr Parkinson was closely involved in.

As a key part of the SMMI team, Mr Parkinson played a key role in establishing Sunderland Marine offices in Melbourne, Australia and Nelson, New Zealand while also conducting business worldwide. He continued to make overseas links when he took over responsibility for expanding Sunderland Marine further into various strategic locations, establishing offices in the Netherlands, Cape Town, South Africa; Inverness, Scotland; Perth, Australia; Anchorage, USA; Jacksonville, USA; Seattle, USA; Oviedo, USA; Nova Scotia, Canada and Vancouver, Canada. Geoff was instrumental in turning Sunderland Marine into the global mutual marine specialist it is today, now operating in 52 different countries. 

He was also involved in overseeing the design and build of SMMI’s Durham headquarters Salvus House which opened in 2005.  The move brought the company firmly into the 21st century, with the installation of advanced video conference facilities allowing SMMI to cut down on business travel to reduce their carbon footprint and provide an excellent environment for the staff to work in.

Mr Parkinson is one of a number of long-serving employees at the firm, with SMMI having racked up more than 1,000 years of experience across its team.  Employees at the company have worked there for an average of more than 15 years, with over 17.5 per cent having been there for over 25 years. 

HR manager, Elaine Middlemiss, said: “It could be said that such long service is attributable to the excellent working conditions that the company provides on a global basis, but it also demonstrates the passion shown by staff and their belief in the ethos of the company.

“While SMMI is very proud of its high retention rates, we will always aim to attract new talent including graduates.  Geoff’s progression through the company really does demonstrate the development opportunities we offer here, with many of our senior members of staff having risen through the ranks since joining us.  We’re committed to excellence in every department, and the development of our people is a key part of this.”



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