“I’m looking for brokers, if anyone wants to apply.”
Those were the words of ACME Insurance Brokers principal Karen Hardy (pictured), who lamented a “desperate shortage of employees” in her neck of the woods – from farm labourers to tradespeople to insurance brokers. This, according to Hardy, has been the only adverse effect so far of the pandemic on the “pretty much unscathed” Tully-based brokerage.
She told Insurance Business: “There’s just nobody applying for jobs because welfare’s too lucrative. So why would they go and work for 750 bucks a week when they can sit on their bums and do whatever they want to do for 750 bucks a week.
“So hopefully now that that sort of the welfare side of things is being reduced, there may be more employees available.”
As for the policyholder aspect of the business, Hardy cited a benefit from the coronavirus crisis.
“I think that, in general, consumers have tightened their purse strings and they’re now making sure that everything they do is as cost-effective as possible,” noted the ACME principal, referring to insureds in Far North Queensland, including businesses that in her view have become more cognizant when it comes to their respective expenditure and turnovers.
“So, in one respect, I think it’s great because our clients, instead of just going ‘yeah, yeah, I’ll pay that’, they’re questioning things and they’re reviewing their insurance much more stringently than they used to before.”
When asked whether this has impacted insurance take-up, Hardy responded: “For those who are struggling, yes, they have probably dropped superfluous covers that they believe are of no consequence. Like, for example, theft in our area is not an issue; we don’t have a lot of breaking and entering and that sort of thing.
“So they might drop their theft cover because they can’t see the point. Or if they had a little cover for general property or electronic equipment that was only valued at a few thousand dollars, they might say, ‘why pay 500 bucks a year for that when in four years I can buy a new computer’ or whatever.”
It’s mostly been “minor stuff” on that front, according to the quick-witted broking boss.
One observation she shared, though, as far as reduced coverage is concerned, relates to asset disposal.
“We have seen the sale of assets,” Hardy told Insurance Business. “People are actually getting rid of that third family vehicle and the caravans they don’t use and that type of thing. So there have been cancellations subsequent to the sale of assets. So we’ve seen a little bit of that, but in general we’re still pretty good.”
Moving forward, Hardy’s priority for 2021 is “just to survive” COVID-19.
Conceding that we’re not out of the woods yet, she stated: “Like everyone else, I’m just very aware and alert of what I spend my money on and where I spend my money. You’ve just got to be a little bit more careful and you’ve just got to make sure that everyone is looked after to the best of your abilities.”
As for her hiring targets, Hardy said the only main qualifications are a rural background and a wicked sense of humour.