A decade of pride

A decade of pride | Insurance Business Australia

A decade of pride

One might think that spending a decade at the helm of the National Insurance Brokers Association would make it difficult to pick a favourite milestone, but outgoing chief executive Dallas Booth knows exactly what he’ll remember most from his time at NIBA.

“We were absolutely blown away by the fact that in the royal commission into misconduct in financial services that was held in Australia during 2018, the insur-ance brokers were absolutely within scope,” Booth says. “The royal commission gathered a massive amount of information and a massive amount of submissions from the community more broadly. Nothing that we could see related to misconduct by insurance brokers. And that makes me massively proud to serve our members and to do the work that I do with a group of men and women who serve their clients and look after them and act in those clients’ best interests. I thought that was a massive triumph, and it was not a triumph for NIBA; it was a triumph for the insurance brokers of Australia.”

Booth, who plans to step down from the chief executive role at the end of October, says he’s “learned something nearly every day” during his time at the helm of NIBA.

“It’s just so amazing what brokers do,” he says. “They are innovative, they are entrepreneurial, and they are focused on finding solutions. If the first option doesn’t work, they go to the second option; if that doesn’t work,  they’ll  look  for  something  else.  That’s  the thing that I enjoy about this work – just working with insurance brokers.

“Australia  is  a  big  country,  and  there’s  quite a bit of travel involved in this role, but every  time  you  go  somewhere  and  you’re  talking  with  people,  you  learn  something,  and  you  just  get  impressed  about  what  they’re  doing  next  to  make  their  businesses  successful,  but  more  importantly,  to  look  after the needs of their clients. And that’s the thing that I’ll miss.”

Passing the baton

He won’t be missing too much, though – Booth isn’t leaving NIBA entirely. In early July, the organisation named Association of Financial Advisers CEO Philip Kewin as Booth’s successor; between August and October, Booth will be working to get the new leader up to speed. He also says he’s “happy to help” NIBA and its board, especially as the organisation grapples with the reforms coming into force in October and navigates the review of remuneration arrangements next year.

“I’m on the wrong side of 65,” Booth says of his decision to step back from the chief executive role. “I’m just keen to spend a little bit more time with my wife and my two adult children and the grandchildren. We’re based in Sydney, and we’ve got a son and daughter- in-law and three grandkids in Brisbane who we don’t see often enough. So I just wanted to slow down a little bit.”

Kewin will have big shoes to fill – so what does Booth believe his successor should bear in mind as NIBA’s new leader?

“The primary role of NIBA is representa-tion and advocacy on behalf of our members, primarily to government, Parliament and regulators,” he says. “The key requirement is to play a leadership role in relation to those functions of NIBA, and that’s a critically important part.

“The second role is to work with the board and our industry leaders on continuing to promote and enhance professionalism in insurance broking in Australia.”

Regulatory burden

On that point, Booth laments that the coming reforms are hugely distracting to brokers at a time when they’re also dealing with an exceedingly difficult insurance market.

“The real challenge for NIBA has been the fact that for almost all of those 10 years, there has been a major reform activity for financial services in Australia,” he says. “In 2012–2014, there was the FOFA [Future of Financial Advice] reform, which was a massive reform exercise. We actually had FOFA version one, and then we had a change of federal government and we had FOFA round two, then we had a financial system inquiry, and then we had the royal commis-sion. Now we’ve got legislation coming out of the royal commission.

“Almost the whole time, there has been major reform activity happening, despite the fact that, overwhelmingly, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with what insurance brokers do. What we’ve had to do for the last 10 years is to fight and battle to say, ‘Stop imposing new compliance obliga-tions on insurance brokers when we are not the problem.’”

In Booth’s view, public policy should seek to uncover the actual problem; deter-mine how severe it is; outline the options for fixing the problem, along with the costs and benefits of those options; and make sure the outcome of any reform will indeed leave the community better off.

“If you want to find out whether we are the problem or not, just look at the AFCA complaint data – thousands of complaints against the insurance companies and 320 complaints against insurance brokers, most of which are resolved in favour of the broker,” he says. “This has been the struggle for 10 years – to constantly do battle against a one-size-fits-all regulatory and legislative approach.”

Meanwhile, Booth is convinced that the world of insurance won’t be the same in five years’ time.

“I can’t give you a clear indication today as to what it’s going to look like,” he says. “But certainly in the work that I do, I continue to talk about the need for people to have eyes wide open, to be prepared for change and to be open to innovation – but ultimately, through all of that, to maintain the confi-dence of your client.

“If you’re maintaining the confidence of your client as their trusted adviser, I think broking will remain very successful and a very important part of the financial services industry in Australia.”