Thirty years after becoming an underwriting agency, Underwriting Agencies of Australia (UAA) remains true to its heritage as a mobile plant and machinery specialist, and the company now plans to take over the international market by taking its expertise to the world.
Founded in 1972 in Newcastle, NSW, Underwriting Agencies of Australia (UAA) specialises in insurance cover for industrial and commercial plant and equipment in Australia and New Zealand, supporting its client base with the use of state-of-the-art technology and quality control procedures to ensure an efficient and timely response to client needs.
Cranes and Lifting spoke to UAA CEO Michael Murphy about how the company has grown over the years and achieve market leadership in the crane sector, as well as to get his thoughts on current market conditions and plans to take UAA’s homegrown expertise abroad.
Murphy has more than 30 years’ experience across the financial services sector. He has been the CEO of UAA for more than nine years, providing expertise in strategic planning, analytical skills and client relationship management.
“UAA specifically started because we could see a niche in the market where mobile plants and machinery weren’t being serviced by current insurance policies, and there were a number of gaps we could see in the insurance market, particularly for crane operators, as well as for the port and plant machinery market,” Murphy said.
“The business itself has grown dramatically and we will continue to grow in Australia and abroad. We will also continue to evolve our policy, coverage and support for the mobile plant and machinery market, with a focus on the crane market.
“And I think the crane sector, especially on the east-coast, is currently experiencing a boost, while the rest of the states look like they are coming back too. Recently, I read that there are more cranes in the sky in Sydney than anywhere else around the world at the moment, including Dubai. That’s pretty impressive.
“I foresee the current market is going to be quite sustainable and buoyant for years to come, particularly in NSW. At every crane yard that I have gone to in recent times, certainly in NSW, there is no gear sitting in the yard. They are all out there working.”
Over the years, UAA has built a reputation for offering good products for the market that better meets the need of crane owners, and Murphy said that is because their policy and coverage was specifically created for cranes.
“There is no other specialist policy in the market that was built specifically for the needs of the crane sector, whereas ours was. We insure lots of other things too, but we definitely started with a focus on cranes,” Murphy said. “We do a lot of work around safety and our staff work closely with crane owners and operators to get better expertise on everything that goes into a crane so that when we do get a claim, we understand exactly how we may better serve the needs of our clients. We take this very seriously and we don’t mind getting grease under our fingernails.
“For example, because most claims are around repairs, we work with the owners and operators to find out who the best repairers are and who they would feel comfortable working with. Then, we’ll do our research and interview them ourselves, and then if everything is good, we’ll use them.”
UAA is an Australian innovator, as its team designs and develops a unique Industrial Special Plant (ISP) policy, which is acclaimed for its diversity and underwriting scope for mobile plant and equipment.
Under the policy, UAA provides cover for cranes – both fixed and mobile, road-making equipment, self-loading vehicle, lifting equipment, earthmoving equipment, attachments, asphalting machines, non-self-propelled plant, concreting equipment, drilling rigs, pavers, trucks tippers, trailers, forklifts, farm machinery, harvesting machines and mining machines.
The demand for mobile plant and machinery services ebbs and flows with economic cycles. UAA works closely with its clients to help manage these cycles, which Murphy says is interesting because they work with unique machines.
“Mobile plant and machinery are very versatile equipment because they can pivot to take advantage of different cycles, which is quite rare,” Murphy said.
“For example, in Queensland there was a lot of equipment that was working in the mining sector, and when the mining cycle slowed down it pivoted more towards civil projects like road making, which became a huge market in Queensland.
“However, if you are in a state like WA for example, there are less opportunities to pivot your equipment, because the state doesn’t have major regional towns all the way up the coast like Queensland does. Major regional towns by definition require more civil work projects.”
UAA has also been involved in the successful introduction of the ISP product into the Latin American and Asian insurance markets. In particular, UAA underwrites on behalf of the QBE Insurance Group in Australia and New Zealand, while providing services to QBE elsewhere in the world.
“Our greatest success story over the past two years are the underwriting agencies that we established in New Zealand,” Murphy said. “That business only started three and a half years ago, and it’s absolutely been a godsend for the NZ market, because there was nobody that had a specialist offering like ours over there. A lot of the equipment were on commercial motor policies, and that’s pretty much the same around the world.
“We’ve had regulatory approvals to start working in Singapore and Fiji. We’ll continue to develop our business in Latin America – notably Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, and hopefully, we’ll get to Argentina soon. Hong Kong will be the next market for us in Asia.
“We’ll continue with our international expansion from there. We see a huge upside as every time we take our claims expertise and our policy offshore, it becomes successful.”