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Harald Baum © Illustration Hinnerk Bodendieck

Pantaenius CEO Harald Baum turns 80

🇬🇧 Harald Baum was already a helmsman at the age of six. This early experience helped him to become a yacht insurance expert.

6 Minuten

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.

Tailor-made insurance

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.

Harald Baum, Pantaenius
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.

Hall with wooden boats burns down

The Eureka moment, as his son Daniel describes it, for his father was caused by a dramatic accident in the 1960s: a warehouse on the Elbe River burned down – and many of his sailing friends’ wooden boats were lost in the fire. The regulation became problematic, because the insurance companies recognised only a fraction of the value of the often 40 years and older yachts.

Thus Harald Baum developed the principle of the ’Feste Taxe’, the Agreed Fixed Value: Insured yachts should always receive full protection in case of total loss, regardless of age. He developed an insurance policy for which he received the backing of the insurance partners of Pantaenius – an impressive proof of confidence in view of his limited experience and young years at that time.

Harald Baum wird 80
A family affair (from left): Undine, son Martin, Harald and Tochter Anna Baum © Toni Momtschew

A thousand contracts in the first year

At a tiny booth, as Daniel Baum described it, the insurance salesman and his wife Undine presented the new product at the first Hanseboot boat show in 1969. And it was a success: After just one year he had signed a thousand contracts, and in the following year it was 5,000. The market only seemed to have been waiting for Pantaenius.

And Baum constantly developed his yacht insurance further with the requirements of the growing sailor scene: He introduced the idea that in the event of loss through fire while still in port, the deductible would not be invoked because the policyholder is usually not responsible for these damages.

Small boats are also welcome

The personal equipment of skipper and crew is also included in the insurance cover. As a further step to improve the product, Pantaenius took globalisation long before others: Its insurance cover soon also covered damage abroad – ideal for cruising and regatta sailors.

Another success factor: “Harald also insured small boats,” says Daniel Baum. At a time when many maritime insurers were only interested in four-digit premiums, the young businessman even took out policies for dinghies.

Harald Baum turns 80
Daniel, Martin, Harald and Anna Baum © Pantaenius

The Picasso on the superyacht

Milestone after milestone followed: Subsidiaries were founded, products were expanded, and with the Marine Claim Service, an own investigation unit for the detection of insurance fraud was created. Meanwhile the name Pantaenius stands for a worldwide company that offers a complete product portfolio from liability to charter insurance – with 400 permanent employees and a worldwide network.

From mast breakage to collision, every mishap is covered. Is there anything that Pantaenius would not insure? Daniel Baum laughs. “It must have a chance of a long-term duration,” says Harald Baum’s son. His experience helps the company in the valuation. Everything is insured – from the Open 60 to the Picasso on board a superyacht.

Harald Baum turns 80
Harald Baum on the Atlantic Ocean © Pantaenius

Testing in a hurricane

The test for Pantaenius was Hurricane Irma in 2017, one of the most severe so far. The hurricane swept along the Antillean Arc from east to west as far as Cuba and then headed for Florida. In the course of the hurricane, 12,000 boats were destroyed in addition to infrastructure and buildings. The company formed several emergency teams, which estimated damage on the spot and were directed from Hamburg.

The most serious individual loss, which Pantaenius had to regulate, occurred in the Mediterranean: in 1999 the superyacht Airwaves, built by Abeking & Rasmussen, burned off Barcelona.

The loss event cost 22 million Deutsche Mark. The “Tui” case provided a taste of the speed at which the insurance company solves problems: the yacht with this name was demisted in the Caribbean. Within two weeks, Pantaenius inspected, regulated and procured a replacement from Denmark.

Harald Baum wird 80
Harald Baum in front of the Pantaenius headquarters in Hamburg’s Hafencity © Andreas Lindlahr

Harald was insured, too

Also the founder himself always enjoyed the protection of the Pantaenius products: “Somewhere else he would have been out long since”, jokes a close co-worker about Harald Baum’s personal amount of damages. That even a thoroughbred sailor can make mistakes is something that his son Daniel remembers from a family cruise with the yacht Elan, a Swan 48: “Harald steered his ship through the side water to Glückstadt, and shortly before entering the port we thought there was still a pair of cruise buoys somewhere.

Harald said he had known the Elbe since his childhood days and we didn’t need to tell him anything when it was already scraping the hull.Hidden behind the genoa, a green fairway buoy had simply got in the way!

Whoever has the damage and the colourful drag mark on the hull visible to everyone does not need to worry about mockery. We laughed: “Of course, in your childhood the buoy didn’t exist yet,” says Daniel Baum. Which leads to the conclusion: Damage does happen, as long as it is well insured…

Harald Baum wird 80
Harald Baum am Ruder der Elan rund Skagen © Hinnerk Bodendieck

Hinnerk Bodendieck, the creative head of Pantaenius and confidant of the entrepreneur, immortalised him in the way family and friends usually experience him: at the wheel. This is where Harald Baum always feels most at home – on land and at sea. Shortly after leaving school, he became a young skipper on the Bremen yacht Diana.

He chose the Regatta Rund Skagen as his favourite route. In 1973 he set the speed record with 55 hours (+ 1 minute), which was to remain unbroken for 27 years. In 1994, Pantaenius was also to take over the patronage of Rund Skagen – the circle was complete.

However, his sailing club is located directly on the Alster: Harald Baum was the first chairman of the Hamburger Segel-Club for many years and has been the Commodore for a few years now.

Lifetime Award of the Offshore Sailors

Two years ago, the enterprising entrepreneur retired from operative business and handed Pantaenius over to his children Anna, Daniel and Martin Baum. Nevertheless, Harald Baum remains closely connected to the house even at the age of 80 and can be found almost daily in his office at Pantaenius House in Hamburg’s Hafencity.

For his entrepreneurial life value, the visionary was awarded the Family Entrepreneur of the Year Honorary Award 2018 by the German Association of Family Entrepreneurs. His sailing life’s work was recently honoured with the Lifetime Award of the German Offshore Owners Association.

Harald Baum wird 80
Harald Baum receives the Lifetime Award of the German Offshore Owners Association © Pantaenius

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