From ‘looking for a change’ to making a change

How answering a newspaper ad for a change of environment led to an insurance career of over 25 years

From ‘looking for a change’ to making a change

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

This insurance leader may have entered the industry when he was just “looking for a change,” but he ended up staying and working to make a difference to the lives of clients.

Damon Bennett, CEO for Asia-Pacific at Sedgwick, shared with Insurance Business his journey in the insurance industry, as well as some thoughts about Sedgwick’s acquisition of Cunningham Lindsey, which he was part of for 10 years.

“I believe insurance chose me,” Bennett said. “When looking for a change from public accounting I answered an ad in the careers section of the Toronto Star for a ‘business interruption adjuster’ not really appreciating what an adjuster was or what business interruption as a product comprised.”

A chartered accountant by training, Bennett joined the emerging forensic accounting industry as a business interruption specialist. While in Canada, he was exposed to Lloyd’s of London by a mentor, enabling him to develop his network and eventually taking him to Australia.

“About 25 years later, having experience in the firm in a variety of roles including management, and client facing roles, I can honestly say my learning curve remains as steep as ever!” he said.

His years in the industry have given Bennett several unforgettable moments from his travels around the world to provide services to clients – including claims on the Great Wall of China, those involving marlin fishing off Mauritius, and helicopter tours of NYC.

“Some of the most memorable matters included the descent some 600 feet underground into a Longwall coal mine to investigate a roof fall that had buried some longwall mining equipment, and unfortunately killed two mining personnel,” he said. “The devastation and uneasiness was palpable and I came to the conclusion that those coal miners earned every cent of their wage having to go underground every day to operate that machinery. I have also investigated some amazing fidelity claims and it strikes me that if some of those people, ingenious as they were, applied themselves to legitimate rather than illegal endeavours we would all be better off.”

In his current role as Asia-Pacific CEO at Sedgwick, Bennett says that one of the biggest challenges is the continuous need for innovation, as well as innovative people to come up with ideas.

“The challenges in my current role include leadership demands in meeting our clients’ increasing appetite for innovation, service improvement and better claim cost management,” he said. “The need to constantly reinvent what we do, improve the way we deliver our suite of services and ensure we continue to challenge our own teams to continually find improvements in the value chain, essentially disrupting our existing services. To achieve that on a consistent basis requires great people and the ongoing war for talent is a continual challenge. I am constantly asking our people to think differently in approaching those problems and ultimately those solutions, from a new perspective.”

Bennett also shared his thoughts on Sedgwick’s recent acquisition of Cunningham Lindsey, which presented another change in his career, in terms of getting to know and working with new people.

“The Sedgwick brand will be launched in the APAC region later this year, and we are very excited to continue to explore what that means for our clients and the new suite of services we offer,” he said. “Clearly, ‘Caring Counts’ with Sedgwick and our job is to enable our people, our colleagues, in a range of ways, to ensure they can look after our clients. From a leadership perspective, I need to understand how our people are feeling, to understand what they want and then to engineer opportunities to enable them to do their best work. When things go wrong, as they do in this business, the first question asked is what we, as leaders, could have done to avoid those mistakes. It’s a bit like parenting in a way!”

By all indications, Bennett has never regretted answering that newspaper job ad.

“An outstanding profession is one that allows you to help the community restore belief and property after loss and damage … and importantly, help people in a meaningful career that encourages continual learning and development,” he said. “I am so proud to have been able to be part of and allow investment in a high-performance culture that has the features of high demand, high support, and encouragement that facilitates continual learning and development.”



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