As the director of Melbourne’s CP Insurance Services, Scott O’Neill was, at the time of writing, in the thick of COVID-19’s second wave. He tells IB how he navigated one of the biggest economic crises to hit Australia in more than a century.
IB: What’s your current role, and how long have you been in it?
Scott O’Neill: I’ve been providing insurance broking support for national retail-based associations for the past 17 years. My focus is on assembling insurance programs for the associations and their members. I also specialise in providing individual members access to levels of coverage traditionally reserved for larger organisations. I became a corporate authorised representative of the McLardy McShane Partners Group in 2015, commencing as a director of a joint-venture operation, CP Insurance Services.
IB: You’re based in Melbourne, which has experienced two waves of COVID-19 this year. What did this mean for your clients?
SO: The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered the strongest challenge to business owners, forcing them to change the way they operate their businesses. For retailers, the challenge has been to fi nd a way that they can continue operating their store. These include fi nding ways to continue operating their physical store presence, selling di erent products or shifting to online sales.
Retailers that had good business plans have fared the best. Those that have kept to the traditional form of operating without adopting modern practices have struggled the most. In all cases, however, the outcome and ability to survive the second wave will be determined by how long it lasts. So far, the second wave is looking to be longer than the first.
Located in Melbourne, CP Insurance Services was founded in 2015 and serves businesses of all sizes, from large commercial operations to new startups, for which it customises coverage so that “the policy grows as the business grows”. In addition, CP Insurance Services has assembled and manages combined group and member insurance programs for various associations, including Associated Retailers Limited, Independent Workwear Sellers and the Intersport Retail Group.
IB: What have been the biggest challenges for your clients throughout the second lockdown, and how have you supported them through it?
SO: The biggest challenge has been the great level of uncertainty toward how long the second lockdown will last. Businesses can prepare, have good planning and adjust their operations; however, if the lockdowns are going to extend for months upon months without ending, that will present a completely di erent level of challenges. For now, businesses are just getting through day to day, week to week, dealing with what presents itself.
My role hasn’t changed much from the fi rst lockdown, which has been to clarify coverage, adjust and provide accurate advice toward the impact of those adjustments.
IB: How could the state and federal governments further assist your clients during this time?
SO: We [all] just want to get a good grasp of the extent of the second lockdown. We need to know what we are or aren’t permitted to do if changes are being made – then ultimately, of course, how long it will be for. Unfortunately, our governments are dealing with an everchanging, unprecedented environment. If government decides to shut down sectors or industries, fi nancial assistance to those being shut down is key and will assist them getting through. Clear messages and directions of changes being implemented are also important.
IB: What do you see as your biggest challenge over the next six months, and how do you plan to overcome it?
SO: With the second wave now worse than the fi rst wave, the duration and extent of the lockdown is of paramount concern. Initially, the second lockdown looked to be much the same as the fi rst. However, as time has progressed, a completely di erent picture has emerged, resulting in a much longer and possibly stronger lockdown. My plan is to continue providing what we have been doing all year for all of our clients: provide support to those requiring it, and if they need to make changes, provide them with accurate advice so they are making informed choices. If they need or decide to cancel their policy, support them through the di cult decisions.
IB: What have been some of your most rewarding experiences this year?
SO: One of our clients had a long-term tenant vacate the building due to their inability to trade during COVID-19. This resulted in the building being vacated for an indeterminable period. At the same time, the policy coverage on the building was also due for renewal; however, due to vacancy, the existing policy could not be renewed. The greatest challenge was in providing accurate advice to help the [client], who had never dealt with any such challenge in the past, make informed decisions. My focus was ensuring they understood the new policy coverage, along with the additional risk requirements for a vacant building.
“Businesses can prepare, have good planning and adjust their operations; however, if the lockdowns are going to extend for months upon months without ending, that will present a completely di erent level of challenges”
IB: What’s your biggest career goal for 2020?
SO: To survive it and get through to the end of the year with a healthy as possible operation, which includes retaining all our sta and supporting our clients as best we can. Hopefully one that can enter 2021 as positive as it can, preparing to assist our clients into a more prosperous set of years to come.