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MS Amlin 2017 Name Change 728x90

The family man with the family connection

by Mark Jardine 27 Feb 12:00 GMT
MS Amlin Enigma during the Round the Island Race 2017 © David Harding /

We speak to Paul Knox-Johnston, Business Development Manager at MS Amlin about sailing, cycling, business and ideas to increase participation in sailing.

Mark: MS Amlin is a company which, whilst it has had a name change, you have a very close family connection with. Can you tell me about the Knox-Johnston connection?

Paul: Many years ago my father Chris had a company called Knox-Johnston Insurance Brokers and that then became Haven Knox-Johnston, trading as that for a number of years, which was then taken over by a company called Amlin, and since then was taken over by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group, they became MS Amlin.

Mark: So, while the name has changed a few times, a number of people within the organisation have stayed with the company for a long time and it's had a family focus, giving it a direct connection with the customer. Do you feel that continues to this day?

Paul: Very much so. While the name has changed, everything else has stayed the same; the same people, the same ethos, the same office in West Malling.

Mark: You've been involved in various companies before this, both in the marine industry with Lombard and elsewhere. What brought you in to MS Amlin?

Paul: I worked with Lombard for ten years and was then offered an opportunity outside the marine industry in standard asset finance, which was trucks and other stuff, and it took a while for me to realise that my true place was back in the marine industry. It was good to go out for a while as it made me realise where I belong, and it's good to be back! David Readman retired and MS Amlin came to me and said, "Do you want to come along and join us?" There's still a bit of a family connection as we still retain Sir Robin as our ambassador.

Mark: Talking of family - with Sir Robin being a huge name in sailing - you and your family continue to sail. What kind of sailing do you do?

Paul: Across the board really. My son's a dinghy sailor, sailing Toppers and is in the process of doing his Assistant Instructors qualification through Hill Head Sailing Club and his Powerboat Level 1. He did a bit of racing, but decided he preferred the instructing, as he worked out if he goes to University he could spend his summers instructing in Greece and Turkey! My daughter tried sailing but never really got into it, and my wife has been sailing longer than I have and is an ex-British Sailing Team member. Nowadays we tend to just go cruising on friends of ours' boats.

Mark: Sailing, as proved by Sir Robin, can really be a sport for life. Do you think that's one of the greatest attributes that it has?

Paul: I think it is. While he's a bit of an anomaly and, having sailed his Open 60 with him, I wondered how he could possibly carry the sails on that boat on his own, one of his messages is that age is no barrier, and he's proved that. I started sailing at school and I've never really stopped; I have other sporting interests but I've never stopped wanting to go sailing. You can forget about the love of sailing, but you never lose it.

Mark: What is it about sailing that you enjoy the most?

Paul: The peace and quiet. The minute you've left your berth in the marina, you're suddenly into a different world. We all spend our days in busy silos, doing all these things, and then you go out on a boat and everything's quiet and the rest of the world and its worries go away. Also, once you have the sails up, you're moving along with the elements – just you and the wind. It's an amazing experience.

Mark: You mentioned other sports, and I know you're a keen cyclist, taking part in Sky Rides as a guide. What do you think sailing can learn from cycling as a sport?

Paul: The one thing that's really good about cycling is that it's so easy to go and do it. Whilst I have experienced that cycling can be extremely expensive, it can also be very cheap to get into, and you can go out cycling the next day. Sailing in its own way can be its own worst enemy as there are (whether they're artificial or not) barriers to entry. Just trying to get somebody who has never been sailing before to actually go sailing can take a lot of effort. If we can take away these barriers then the sport will become more accessible.

One of the things cycling does very well in the Sky Rides, is that it's free for the public to enter, all they had to do was turn up with their bikes, there are three guides who were paid for by the sponsors, and it got people out on the road and it was very simple to get in to.

Mark: So, sailing needs to look at every single obstacle to getting out on the water and see how those barriers can be reduced?

Paul: Absolutely. There are obvious natural obstacles which aren't so easy to overcome, such as living inland, but it's making the sport available, letting people go from wanting to try sailing, to having a go, with as little difficulty as possible. If we can find a way around the barriers then it will help increase participation.

Mark: 2018 sees the 50th Anniversary of Sir Robin's Golden Globe Race, and the race celebrating this is gathering great interest. Will you be following it?

Paul: I shall certainly be following it, but the participants are a class apart. It's not something I'd ever want to do myself! I'll be watching it closely, especially our British entrant Susie Goodall.

Mark: What sailing do you have planned yourself this year?

Paul: Much of my sailing is down to whatever opportunities present themselves. I'll be driving a RIB for MS Amlin during the Round the Island Race, and I might do a bit of Lendy Cowes Week, but I'll see how it goes. Whatever takes my fancy really!

Mark: Many thanks for your time Paul.

Paul: A pleasure. Thank you very much.

MS Amlin – Boat Insurance Specialists

MS Amlin, formerly Haven Knox-Johnston, have grown into one of the UK's leading providers in boat insurance. All policies are backed by the financial strength and security of MS Amlin Syndicate 2001, one of the largest Syndicates in Lloyd's.

We can cover the full spectrum of marine craft, from a much loved family dinghy, day boats, racing yachts, RIBS, all manner of cruising and motor boats, to brand new multi-million pound super yachts in the UK, the Mediterranean and further afield. With the support of one of the world's largest insurance groups, we deliver service based on years of experience on the water, so we do genuinely understand our clients' needs.

MS Amlin Underwriting Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.