Award-winning insurance broker on journey and industry opportunities

"I now realise I have so much more that I can give back"

Award-winning insurance broker on journey and industry opportunities

Insurance News

By Terry Gangcuangco

Like many others in the industry, Karen Skinner (pictured) of MGA Insurance Brokers didn’t plan on having a career in insurance – let alone broking – and now she’s being rewarded for what she does.

Recalling her beginnings, Skinner said it all happened by chance and opportunity – something the Ceduna-based broker will be “forever grateful” for.

“I had various jobs before I was approached by a representative of MGA,” she told Insurance Business, “and I very quickly realised that the insurance industry provided me with a sense of fulfilment and purpose, and also challenged me in my personal growth and development.

“Back when I started my career, it was very much a male-dominated industry, which was quite daunting for myself as a young female finding her place in the industry. This was a challenge, but I am so pleased to say this is no longer the case. We are seeing more females in the insurance broking industry, who are making a significant impact.”

Skinner – who was recognised by the National Insurance Brokers Association as broker of the year for South Australia / Northern Territory, and will compete with fellow regional winners for the national Stephen Ball Memorial Award to be announced on October 28 – revealed that it had not been an easy journey for her.

She shared: “I worked long hours while juggling a young family and family farm business. I started on the front desk with the only other employee being the broker. As the business grew, I then had the opportunity for promotion to office/staff manager and a commercial broker role.

“I am proud of my achievements and career progression, especially now that I am in partnership in my own company as a corporate authorised representative of MGA.”

These days, in Skinner’s view, the toughest challenge remains that posed by the hard insurance market. Meanwhile, she also sees pandemic-related business interruption claims shaping the world of insurance and impacting the industry “in a way we have never seen before”.

The broker, who at the same time pointed to the growing concern in relation to maintaining good mental health, went on to state: “There’s the additional challenge of COVID-19, which has significantly impacted our industry across the country, and we have needed to be nimble and adaptable to the ever-changing landscape.

“[The challenge] is to be able to continue high standards of service to clients while facilitating staff working remotely from home, adhering to the changing government restrictions on the workplace, and assisting and empathising with clients having to reduce or cancel their insurances due to business closures.”

While the market is rife with challenges, though, the opportunities are just as abundant.

“I see the biggest opportunities at this time are to demonstrate the real value of a broker, in providing additional support to clients that may have been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID, providing personal advice and assistance for their individual circumstances,” Skinner told Insurance Business

“It is time to enrich our relationships with our clients and remind them why they chose to utilise the services of a broker. Whether it’s remarketing a policy or providing advice or claims management, we work with insurers on our clients’ behalf; we always have our clients’ best interests at the forefront of everything we do and strive to maximise any outcomes in favour of our client.”

Skinner, who enjoys being a mentor to upcoming insurance professionals, believes it is imperative that the value of the broker is promoted, especially given the rising presence of the direct markets delivering what she called “very basic” products and one-size-fits-all insurance solutions.

She noted: “I educate my clients on how to understand insurance cover and how it works. I believe this is important and helps the client make an informed decision. You can always sell a client an insurance cover, but if they don’t understand the cover, to them it’s just a piece of paper.

“My most significant lessons learned have been the importance of listening to my clients, with the emphasis on taking the time to understand them and their business – to know what is important to them and use this to build trust and educate them about potential insurance risks and solutions.”

Additionally, the broker stressed the value of showing compassion and empathy while taking a professional and diverse approach. For Skinner, “It is essential to show my clients that I do care.”

“Through winning the SA/NT Broker of the Year Award, it has made me take the time to reflect on my career,” she declared. “I thought I was happy and fulfilled in what I have achieved to date, but I now realise I have so much more that I can give back to the insurance broking industry.

“When the time is right, I would like to offer my service and represent at a state-based level, by being the voice for country/remote areas, giving a broader and diverse input to the industry.” 

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