Steering the Ship

Steering the Ship | Insurance Business Australia

Steering the Ship

IN MAY 2020, following an extensive national search, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) announced the appoint-ment of Andrew Hall as the peak body’s new executive director and chief executive. A former ministerial media advisor who previ-ously served as executive general manager of corporate affairs at CBA, Hall took over from Rob Whelan, whose reign at the ICA spanned more than a decade. IB recently caught up with Hall to find out how his time at the helm of the ICA has been so far.

“It’s been obviously quite busy and unusual because of COVID, as I started mid-pandemic,” he says. “The upside was there was an opportunity to meet a lot of insurer members quickly because we could use Zoom meetings and the like. On the policy front, it’s been dominated by issues around business interruption [BI] insurance and the court cases. But that’s been an oppor-tunity to really understand what’s happening in the sector and what’s happening within each individual company and get perspec-tives on the challenges around BI insurance in the context of the pandemic.”

To date, Hall has borne witness to the release of several major reports – including the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission report, the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman report and the bushfire royal commission report – which he says not only keeps the ICA incred-ibly busy on the advocacy front, but has also been a good opportunity to learn about and understand some of the ongoing issues in the industry.

Lifting the lid on his decision to take up the ICA’s top post, Hall says that when he was approached about the opportunity, “it was appealing to me because insurance is a highly regulated market. It’s got a lot of consumer impact. And I like that whole combination of complex regulatory environments, dealing with advocacy in those environments, and trying to ensure that consumer outcomes and business outcomes can be aligned. So it ticked a lot of boxes for that reason.”

“[The business interruption court cases have] been an opportunity to really understand what’s happening in the sector and what’s happening within each individual company and get perspectives on the challenges around BI insurance in the context of the pandemic”

Hall, who moved from CBA following a transformational period both for the organ-isation and in banking as a whole, adds: “It was all around understanding risk, the importance of culture of organisations, and how that can really impact positive and not-so-positive consumer outcomes. I think insurers, as well, have been through a similar process with the royal commission. And I think there’s still a lot of lessons that have to be fully learned and implemented, but everyone is committed to making progress in that space.”

Hall also brings to the role the experi-ence he gained during a decade of working in federal politics, where he learned the impor-tance of building up strong reputational capital and closely engaging with politicians – both the government and the opposition.“We need to listen to what they’re saying,” he says, “and we need to understand that their concerns will be driven by concerns from their community and that those community issues need to be addressed.”

Business interrupted

One of the biggest issues on Hall’s plate at the moment – alongside the hard insurance market – is BI coverage. Based on the ICA’s estimates, more than 250,000 policies will likely be affected by the outcome of the first test case on the Quarantine Act, with claim values approaching $10bn.

“The  first  test  case,  there  was  always  a  mechanism for an appeal built into that, and so insurers have exercised that,” Hall says. “So we’re  in  the  hands  of  the  High  Court  around  whether  we  will  receive  special  leave  to  appeal.  But  we’ve  been  working  very  closely  with regulators and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive  set  of  cases  and  policy  word-ings for the second test case.”

At  time  of  writing,  the  High  Court  had  agreed  to  hear  oral  arguments  on  the  appli-cation  for  special  leave  to  appeal  the  ruling  of  the  New  South  Wales  Court  of  Appeal.  Arguments  will  be  heard  in  May  or  June  at  the earliest.

Meanwhile, the ICA lodged a second test case  with  the  Federal  Court  in  February, which will examine the application of further issues beyond the Quarantine Act exclusion. The  second  test  case  will  determine  the  meaning  of  policy  wordings  as  they  relate  to  the  definition  of  a  disease,  the  proximity  of an outbreak to a business and the preven-tion  of  access  to  premises  due  to  a  govern-ment mandate.

According  to  Hall,  the  priority  is  to  get  certainty  for  insurers  through  the  courts.  “As  soon  as  we  get  court  determinations,  the  industry  will  move  quickly  on  processing  the  claims that are eligible for payment,” he says.

On the horizon

In the area of personal lines, Hall commends the  industry  for  doing  a  “very  good  job”  in  2020  when  Australia  emerged  from  the disastrous bushfires and hailstorms. He high-lights the comprehensive claims management processes  and  services  developed  by  general  insurers in response to the catastrophes.

As  to  what  lies  ahead,  Hall  says  he’s  “looking  forward  to  the  vaccine  opening  up  the  country  again,  and  maybe  we  can  get  back to some sort of normality on how we live life within Australia. I hope that also provides an economic stimulus to the country, and I’m looking forward to really delving further into some of the biggest challenges around insur-ance  and  trying  to  help  the  industry  chart  a  course  in  which  we  can  find  solutions  to  these challenges.”