One might think that a decade at the helm of the National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) would make it difficult for Dallas Booth (pictured) to pick a favourite milestone; however, the reality is quite the opposite, the outgoing chief executive knows exactly what he will 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 insurance brokers were absolutely within scope,” said Booth in an interview with Insurance Business. “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, whose target date for ‘slowing down’ is from October 31, stressed that there were no case studies or recommendations relating to misconduct by insurance brokers and that there was “no evidence at all” pointing to the same.
Filled with pride, the retiring CEO went on to say: “I learned something nearly every day. It’s just so amazing what brokers do. They are innovative, they are entrepreneurial, and they are focussed 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, is 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.”
Read more: NIBA chief retiring
It looks like he won’t be missing too much though, as while the search for the peak body’s next boss is already underway, Booth isn’t leaving entirely and is in fact “happy to help” NIBA and the board particularly on the review of general insurance remuneration. Anything else that the board wants a hand with, Booth said he will continue to be available to assist.
“I’m on the wrong side of 65,” he shared. “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.”
With big shoes to fill, what must the successor to the chief executive have then?
Booth, whose departure date is flexible and depends upon who the preferred candidate is and their availability, explained: “The primary role of NIBA is representation and advocacy on behalf of our members, primarily to government, Parliament, and regulators. 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,” he continued, “is to work with the board and our industry leaders on continuing to promote and enhance professionalism in insurance broking in Australia.
“And the board is absolutely committed to that, through increased education standards and through the work that the board has been doing on the review of the code of practice, which is still underway, and a very strong commitment to high standards of ethics and integrity in broking. So, it’s going to be important that the new CEO plays a role in leading that work as well.”
“We are not the problem”
Meanwhile Booth lamented that, with all the reforms coming into effect in October, brokers are being hugely distracted at a time of an exceedingly difficult insurance market. He said insurance brokers are working “furiously” to get ready, compliance-wise.
The chief executive asserted: “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. 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 Commission.
“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 obligations on insurance brokers when we are not the problem’.”
“If you want to find out whether we are the problem or not,” he said, “just look at the AFCA (Australian Financial Complaints Authority) complaint data – thousands of complaints against the insurance companies; 320 complaints against insurance brokers, most of which are resolved in favour of the broker. This has been the struggle for 10 years, is to constantly do battle against a one-size-fits-all regulatory and legislative approach.”
In Booth’s view, the abovementioned approach is “totally inappropriate” to general insurance more broadly and the role of the advice that insurance brokers give. He added that public policy should be all about what the actual problem is, the evidence of the problem, how severe it is, what the options are for fixing the problem, the costs and benefits of the various options, and making sure that the outcome of any reform will indeed leave the community better off.
Meanwhile, Booth is convinced that the world of insurance won’t be the same in five years’ time.
“I’m sure it will be different,” he told Insurance Business. “I can’t give you a clear indication today as to what it’s going to look like. 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 confidence of your client.
“If you’re maintaining the confidence of your client as their trusted advisor, I think broking will remain very successful and a very important part of the financial services industry in Australia.”