How do you become big? That is, really big? By getting into something really significant from an early age. With Harald Baum it was sailing. The long-standing head of the yacht insurance company Pantaenius celebrates his 80th birthday on 15 August. At the age of six or seven, he was already making a big start – as a helmsman on his father’s sailboat Alibi.
In tough times, it was taken for granted that children also made their contribution to the struggle for survival. Harald Baum was five when the Second World War ended. His family had been bombed out several times. Like many in the city of Hamburg, they were starving.
The family boat Alibi © Pantaenius
Harald with father Erich © Pantaenius
With cigarettes to Glückstadt
But Grandpa Erich, as Harald’s father is called in the family, knew how to help himself. He had access to a currency that was more desirable than money after the war: cigarettes. The black market flourished in the ruins of the cities. Erich loaded the tobacco goods into his Spitzgatter sailboat and transported the smuggled goods with his sons down the Elbe to Glückstadt in Holstein.
There he traded the cigarettes with the Holstein farmers for meat and other food. With the smuggled goods, westerly winds and the high tide, they returned to the almost destroyed city of Hamburg. On the way it was a matter of course that little Harald also took over the tiller and even some of the guard duties.
He knew the boat inside and out anyway: Since the loss of their Bahrenfeld apartment, the Baum family had lived on the sailboat as liveaboards against their will. It was only a few years after the end of the war that they returned to land.
That kind of start in life makes its mark. Sailing became the great passion of the Hamburg man. From then on everything revolved around life on the water. Soon the teenager had his own dinghy, gained experience as a skipper and took part in international regattas. It is hardly surprising that as a young insurance salesman at Pantaenius, Harald Baum was able to empathise well with the concerns and needs of sailors – and soon offered them a tailor-made product.
The young insurance broker © Pantaenius
At that time, Pantaenius, founded in 1899 by Johann C Pantaenius, was still a pure B2B broker, specialising in transport insurance for shipping companies and shipping lines. Today, the company is the European market leader and one of the leading providers of yacht insurance for end customers worldwide. And Harald Baum is turning 80 years old. His life’s work is impressive: 50,000 owners in Germany and a good 100,000 worldwide insure their boats with Pantaenius today.
He started in the venerable company in 1963, becoming a junior partner just three years later. Once again four years later, the 30-year-old took over the company. The new era at Pantaenius had already begun. Literally the igniting spark for Harald Baum was then a fatal conflagration.