5-Star BDMs

Super sellers

To determine 2022’s Insurance Business 5-Star BDMs, hundreds of brokers were interviewed to explain their nominations and detail what they want and need from business development managers. Then, the final 20 award winners were selected. All are individuals who provide outstanding service and product comprehension. 

One broker commenting on what would make them do more business with a BDM said it was important to “continue building the relationship with the current brokers. You can’t have new BDMs every six months because management believes this is better. Like all brokers, we build a relationship of trust with or clients so do the BDMs”.  

Another added it is key to “communicate to the brokers. I don’t have a relationship with a few BDMs as they never pick up the phone”. A broker who took part in IB’s survey described what makes a 5-Star BDM: “Don’t overcommit and tell us early if an account isn’t for you. Just tell us so that we don’t wait three weeks for your terms, only to find out from an underwriter you can’t write that class or that occupation”. 

“I learnt many years ago to ‘know your customer, know what they want and deliver it reliably’ and I strive to achieve this mantra”

Inge Schaefer, CHU  Inge Schaefer, CHU



Going the extra mile

One of the 5-Star winners, Craig Stanley of CHU Underwriting Agencies, explains how he’s steered himself to success.

“I ensure that I thoroughly prepare for any face to face or Teams meetings with our intermediaries to ensure that I'm adding value to them whenever I meet with them. Many of our intermediaries are quite time poor, so it is important not to waste their time,” he says. “However, it’s also important to pick up the phone and speak to your clients whenever there are changes or updates to ensure there is good communication between the companies.” 

The theme of communication is one that’s stressed by brokers. One of the survey’s respondents commented that a BDM could win more of their business “by being responsive and communicating with brokers about their offering”. 

And for Stanley it’s something he agrees is fundamental. “A good BDM has to be willing to listen to the intermediaries and customers in respect of their needs and look for solutions that are win-win for all parties. If this can’t be achieved then it’s important to communicate this, but don’t shy away from those difficult discussions which are best done early rather than too late.” 

Starting in 1996 as a BDM for CGU, Kyla Wood, also a 5-Star winner, moved to Allianz and then SURA, ultimately ending up as national BDM for High Street Underwriting Agency (HSUA). 

One of the brokers who took part in IB’s survey praised her diligence and attention to detail: “I am a small regional brokerage. It’s just me at this stage and Kyla always makes an effort to drop in and see me when she’s in town for a chat and an update on what’s happening at HSUA. Others don’t bother. Because of this, I actually feel like she is interested in me and my clients.” 

Wood navigates the modern landscape to stay at the top of her sector. Her strategy is about “physically getting to see all brokers across the country, and attending [Underwriting Agencies Council] events, conferences and [professional development] days where possible,” which allows her to contact numerous brokers in one place. 

“I need to manage my time more effectively to make sure I am available as required,” she adds. 

And this is something that is becoming a bigger part of the job. “Coming out of COVID, I’m seeing an increase in BDMs actively engaging in broker visitations. The challenge is working with brokers in managing their time and workflows,” Wood says. 

This is echoed by a broker who part in IB’s survey and says of Wood, “She is always responsive and she is always happy to work with you to get a better result for your client”. 

“Many of our intermediaries are quite time poor, so it is important not to waste their time”

Craig Stanley, CHU  Craig Stanley, CHU


Defining excellence

When judging BDM contenders, brokers considered responsiveness (most important), customer service (important), communication (less important) and product knowledge (least important). Brokers also answered the question on how BDMs could win more of their business in the next 12 months.  

One broker says, “responsiveness is the biggest thing BDMs could do to receive more business.” 

“I’m not surprised with responsiveness being first and product knowledge being last,” says 5-Star winner Adam Darlington of Vero Insurance. 

“Because if you’re not there, they don’t look at you… they’ll go to a one-stop shop. They just want you to get back to them and then get someone with product knowledge to help them out.” 

And Wood comments, “All brokers require quick responses – as an answered question over the phone or a timely submission turnaround. If you’re unable to help, better to give that response quickly rather than a few days later.” 

Another broker in IB’s survey says “service, service, service” is the way to more business. 

Adopting this approach is 5-Star winner Inge Schaefer of CHU. She says, “I learnt many years ago to ‘know your customer, know what they want and deliver it reliably’ and I strive to achieve this mantra.” 

For her, there are fundamentals that have a big impact in the BDM space. “A person who can adapt, communicate, be consistent, considers solutions and can impart knowledge to support their Intermediary to retain and grow their business,” is how Schaefer describes what is required to stand out in the market. 

Wood touches on how BDMs should make themselves available as much as possible, “it helps to get back to basics – being available on the phone or email, returning phone calls quickly, face-to-face meetings where possible and doing what you say you are going to do whilst keeping the person updated. Communication is key. Keep all parties informed across timelines and outcomes.” 

In addition, extensive product knowledge helps win business. One broker says, “They don’t have to know all the product info but as long as they point you in the right direction, be a phone call away, help provide a solution – it’s all good.” 

Wood adds, “I am always learning. However, if I don’t know an answer to a question, I do know the right people to ask.” 

“I am always learning. However, if I don’t know an answer to a question, I do know the right people to ask”

Kyla Wood, High Street Underwriting Agency   Kyla Wood, High Street Underwriting Agency



Turning challenges into opportunities

A key element of being a 5-Star BDM is the ambition to continue to deliver for brokers.  

“BDM’s relationships with their brokers will always be important but I see underwriting agencies and insurers continuing to reduce expenses through utilising technology,” explains Stanley. “I think there will be much greater improvements in the industry around technology which may drive greater self-service by Intermediaries. BDMs will continue to be important in assisting brokers become familiar with their systems.” 

Michael Walker, a business relationship manager with CGU and another of the 5-Star winners is mindful of balancing the remote work environment with the need to network and explains how he targets “anchor days” when a company’s brokers go to the office.  

“Frequently, they’re all there on one day and then everyone’s got their own working-from-home sort of thing. So, it’s important to make sure to get those visits if you can,” he explains. “If you’ve got a certain message that you want to say, say it, and then make sure you follow up with an email or a phone call, particularly if you know that some of your brokers need to know that message.” 

BDMs across the board are having too factor in their brokers working habits and then adapting to fit them. 

Schaefer advises, “Engage and work with your intermediary to form a relationship, communicate the positive or negative, consider solutions and deliver outcomes.    

And summing up the mindset she uses and feels would benefit all BDMs going forward. “They say a sound and healthy relationship is based on communication, compromise and commitment.”

5-Star BDMs

  • Adam Brazda
    UAA Insurance
  • Adam Darlington
    Vero Insurance
  • Anthony Porter
    AFA Insurance
  • Bradley Gray
  • Chris Varkoly
  • Colum Williamson
    NTI Limited
  • Con Stoitsis
    Steadfast Underwriting Agencies
  • Daniel Joiner
    MECON Insurance
  • George Konstantas
    Vero Insurance
  • James Rogers
    GT Insurance
  • Jessica Jenkins
    Brooklyn Underwriting
  • Luke Wennerbom
    Vero Insurance
  • Melissa Corrigan
  • Michael Walker
  • Naseer Taseer
    Vero Insurance
  • Pip Ryan
    CHU Underwriting Agencies
  • Sanj Reddy


To determine the top business development managers in Australia, Insurance Business carried out extensive research. The research team contacted brokers across the nation, engaging in in-depth phone interviews. Brokers were asked to name the BDMs who provided the best support based on four criteria: customer service, responsiveness, communication, and product knowledge.  

From more than 200 nominations, the list was whittled down to 50 BDMs. The 20 individuals who were rated excellent across all categories were named 5-Star BDMs for 2022.