Once again, it is time for AIRMIC's annual conference, writes AIRMIC chairman Philip Thomas.

Indeed, some of you may be reading this at the conference which, as you are aware, has been re-focused to provide practical answers to the questions posed by the hard insurance market.

After September 11, buying appropriate insurance in an already hardening market went from being difficult to almost impossible. Some risk managers have said they have never known such tough times, and networking among AIRMIC members has increased dramatically.

Managing the cost of risk in a hard market has become the focal point of concern for risk managers. The need for networking has never been greater, nor has the thirst for fresh ideas and advice, and these will drive the content of the conference and the quality of the information delegates will take away.

The knowledge and experience of five former European Risk Managers of the Year, all of them AIRMIC members, will be pooled in a Hard Market Forum chaired by Thierry van Santen, Corporate Risk Manager for Group Danone and Chairman of the Federation of European Risk Management Associations (FERMA).

Dr Larry Phillips, Visiting Professor of Operational Research at the London School of Economics, will give a keynote speech in which he will address the critical difficulty of making decisions under conditions of uncertainty, and the extent to which the area of uncertainty can be narrowed by methods of decision analysis.

Will Hutton, author of the best-selling book The State We're In, and now CEO of The Work Foundation, will talk about human motivation and behaviour in organisations, while economist, academic and Financial Times columnist John Kay will address the economic scene and how the markets work.

Nine months on, the events of September 11 are still uppermost in risk managers' minds. AIRMIC continues to raise concerns on behalf of its members over the lack of adequate and affordable terrorism cover in the UK market. It is equally alarmed that the UK Treasury is withdrawing its insurance underwriting support as insurer of last resort to the aviation industry.

This year's conference has not come a moment too soon for risk management professionals and all those involved in the management of organisational risks.