Life a year on from the first COVID-19 lockdown

April 1, 2021

A year on from the first coronavirus lockdown, Paul Jennings, chief executive of North P&I Club, looks back at the past 12 months and the way our lives have changed. @NorthPandIClub

It has been a year since our lives firmly turned upside down.

From deaths of loved ones and enduring prolonged periods of isolation, to financial pressures and emotional instability, we have all experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic first-hand.

Undoubtedly, the lockdown has left us with an economic, mental and emotional burden that will affect us for years to come, however, it has also enabled many of us to take the time to re-assess, reflect and re-design our lives – both personal and professional.

We’ve seen our community truly come together to support one another. We’ve seen record levels of volunteer sign-ups and food bank donations. We’ve ‘clapped for carers’, looked after our elderly and given our key workers the recognition and support they deserve.

In business, we have also made the successful transition to remote working and have made significant investments in new technology to stay up to date and at the top of our game.

We’ve also embraced the work/life balance and given our teams more autonomy and flexibility than ever before – all of which is showing increased levels of productivity and employee satisfaction.

At North, our team, both here in the North East and overseas, has demonstrated what it means to come together during challenging times. They have supported each other, found unique solutions to problems and above all, continued to ensure our shipowner members can trade with confidence.

We have always known our people are our greatest asset, and the pandemic has only highlighted this fact further – so it is no surprise that building our team is where we have invested heavily.

In fact, the last 12 months have seen our business expand with 40 new recruits and a host of senior appointments across the company.

We have also launched a brand-new product line – North Hull – which is designed for larger ocean-going vessels and will complement the hull and machinery (H&M) insurance already available from Sunderland Marine, our specialist fishing and aquaculture arm.

We’ve also taken the opportunity to set up a new team in London.

Proof of our success is demonstrated by what our members – that’s our insurance customers – and our brokers say about North.

Towards the end of 2020, we completed our triennial customer satisfaction survey to gauge their feedback on everything from our perceived position in the market, to how we dealt with the pandemic.

I was humbled by the exceptionally positive responses because I know they’re the product of our team’s commitment. I’m proud to share them with the regional business community – not because I want to blow North’s trumpet, but because those responses from people across the world are all evidence of our region being held in high regard for the skills, energy and innovation we bring to the international stage.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to see our team thrive and tackle challenges head on. Our determination to succeed, to support each other and overcome barriers is what characterises those of us in this region, especially in the professional services sector, and it’s something I am incredibly proud of.

It’s this spirit of comradeship and collaboration that will be key to the region in recovering from the economic and social impact of COVID-19.

We cannot forget the lessons we have learned over the past year and we must continue to work together and support each other through the tough times.

We need to continue having conversations, exchanging knowledge and sharing vital insight on how best to weather what lies ahead.

We also need to make use of our strong and vocal business community to champion the North East and consistently highlight the strengths our region has to offer for businesses, partners and talent.

It is only through this that we will encourage more investment and governmental support, and unlock real opportunities for job creation.

We’ve been in business for 160 years and have seen the business community of Newcastle and the wider North East change beyond recognition.
This year has been one of the most challenging we have ever experienced, however, what has stayed consistent is the resilience, creative thinking and supportiveness that defines businesses in this part of the country.

Now is the time for our region to demonstrate how adaptable and innovative we are.

If we work together and continue to embrace opportunity, we can and will emerge stronger from these challenging times, just as we have in the past.

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