Having grown up in the rural West Australian town of Nyabing with a population less than 100, Kim Gilbert (pictured) remembers the helping spirit that arose in the community whenever a local went through some tough times.
“Typical of any rural environment, minor, serious and sometimes fatal accidents seemed to occur fairly regularly,” the Zenith Insurance founder and CEO told Insurance Business. “Whenever something terrible like that happened, the community would really band together and give them the support they needed.”
This type of giving and support is something that Gilbert has instilled at Zenith, which he founded in 2001 after spending time at a number of insurers including Allied Insurance Brokers, Aon and Jardine Lloyd Thompson. As a specialist niche insurance brokerage, Zenith operates in sectors including aged care, disability and community services, and indigenous health and native title – sectors that aim to provide services for disadvantaged populations and help create a more equitable society.
Though aged care is a “quite particular industry” with “limited fiscal resources”, according to Gilbert, Zenith’s establishment of itself as a leader in the field has led to the company growing considerably since its founding.
“Since setting up Zenith with two other partners almost two decades ago, we’ve grown to now have 26 staff members and a national presence through our positioning in the aged care insurance industry,” Gilbert said. “We’re able to put $60 million-$65 million of premium into the market annually thanks to our client-focused approach and emphasis on providing professional advice and appropriate levels of insurance and the highest level of service.”
As would be expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about heightened risks for many of Zenith’s clients, including those in the aged care sector. Gilbert noted that their largest client in Victoria had “already been significantly impacted by lockdowns in the state.”
“These clients are quite concerned about potential COVID-19 outbreaks and are responding as needed to minimise exposure to potential transmissions and infections,” he explained.
“All now have an appropriate pandemic plan in situ, and the state and federal governments are thankfully assisting with funding for adequate PPE and resource personnel, so they’re doing as well as they can, given the current circumstances.”
Read more: Aged care in the time of a pandemic
Another by-product of COVID-19 – the cessation of international travel – has come as “a massive blow” to Gilbert. As part of Zenith’s commitment to helping those in less fortunate situations, the company’s annual trip to Cambodia, where staff volunteers team with the not-for-profit organisation Empowering Cambodia to help build homes and educate local children, has had to be postponed.
“It’s a shame that we won’t be able to go and help out in Cambodia in-person, as it’s something that a lot of our staff really look forward to,” Gilbert said. “Regardless, we’re working with Empowering Cambodia on a long-term objective to help create a sense of empowerment for the locals over in Cambodia, by educating them and helping them to progress to a sustainable lifestyle.”
At a domestic level, there are numerous charities, missions and other projects that the Zenith workforce remains actively involved in. After his niece sadly passed away from cancer in 2007, Gilbert, together with a colleague, founded the annual Red Sky Ride. A 600km ride that goes from Perth through the majestic Ferguson Valley, the Red Sky Ride has raised close to $4 million over the past 13 years, as well as an immeasurable amount of awareness, for the support services provided by Solaris Cancer Care.
Zenith has also supported the Nulsen Group, which supports people with significant disabilities, for more than a decade by holding a Melbourne Cup function for their residents and carers to raise funds and awareness of the services Nulsen provide. It is also a strong advocate of the Nulsen Youth Patron Program, which educates high school students about people living with disabilities and ensures tomorrow’s leaders will be informed of the needs of our disabled community members.
Homelessness is also a major issue and Gilbert will be participating in his 10th Vinnies CEO Sleepout this year to raise essential funds and community awareness.
Back in Gilbert’s hometown, the local pub was even recently rebuilt thanks to a sustained fundraising initiative. In his words, "it's always been about the community."
“There will always be someone in our community worse off than us and therefore it's the responsibility of those like myself, who can help, to do so," he said.