Australian TPA giant's new CEO "excited about what lies ahead"

Gallagher Bassett Australia’s CEO, Pete Nicholson, sees big opportunities ahead. With COVID-19 in retreat, Australia opening up and digital transformation in the claims area, GB’s new leader is raring to embrace change and implement ideas.


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Daniel: [00:00:22] Welcome to Insurance Business TV. I'm Danny Wood, news editor of Insurance Business Australia. Gallagher Bassett, the global provider of risk and claims management services, recently appointed a new CEO in Australia. Pete Nicholson took on the role from March 31st. The incoming CEO joined GB Australia in 2017 as CFO and within one year was promoted to international CFO. There he successfully led the international finance team and the mergers and acquisitions strategy. Welcome, Pete. 

Pete: [00:00:53] Thank you very much, Danny. It's a pleasure to be here. 

Daniel: [00:00:56] You've come into the CEO role at an interesting time. Covid 19 is in retreat. Australia is opening up again. There are big changes going on in the claims area. The workers compensation space that you do a lot of work in is always challenging. But what do you see as the big opportunities ahead? 

Pete: [00:01:12] Yes. It's certainly been a really challenging last couple of years for the entire community and our industry has not been immune. But as an insurance industry, I think we can be really proud about how we've pulled together and got through. And it looks now like there are great opportunities. I certainly see them as an incoming CEO for Gallagher Bassett. We're really excited about what lies ahead for the next 12 to 24 months and beyond. The one thing that really stands out in our business is a consequence of what we've been through. And and and trends more broadly is the ability to proactively support mentally healthy workplaces. This is something that's critically, critically important. We're doing it through the use of our mental health hub, and that's support. It's supporting not only our employees, but also some of the clients that we work for. And we've seen a real emergence with not an emergence, but a real growth in telehealth solutions as a consequence of borne out of necessity through the pandemic, but now really popular and proven to be really effective. And I think that's helping us make sure we get the right treatment to the to the right person at the right time as well. And finally, we can as a as a consequence of the agile world that we now live in, re-imagine, return to work possibilities for injured workers. And I think that's also going to help us in getting people back to work faster and then link to that point around Agile working. Danny For us as a business, we have now really found out, I mean, something that we suspected for a long period of time, that where you have a really highly skilled, engaged workforce, they don't need to be in an office environment. And I think that wasn't necessarily a revelation, but it's been proven to be true. I saw Elon Musk's recent quotes around COVID, tricking people into thinking they didn't have to work hard and that couldn't be further from the truth. If we looked at our own organization. What we're looking to do now is to not ask people to return to the office permanently. Certainly not. We won't ask them to come back in more than two days a week now because we know they can work effectively anywhere. And we're really exploring options for forgotten cohorts of highly skilled people, for example, people that have been on parental leave that want to come back in a part time basis. We can now accommodate and build a workplace that really respects what else is going on in people's lives and allows them to to have flexibility in that regard. 

Daniel: [00:03:34] You've been at Gallagher Bassett for a long time, but you've been in the CEO job for three months. What have you learned in that time? 

Pete: [00:03:42] Well, yes, Danny, I was very fortunate to go through a phase transition coming in as the deputy CEO, originally after transitioning from the CFO roles and working really closely with my predecessor, John McNamara, who's personal friend and certainly a mentor and an industry legend, and still with our business, of course, but moving into a different role. So that was a benefit for me. And since coming in over the last three months, well, Gallagher Bassett has always been such an interesting and dynamic environment to work in. There's always been a huge amount going on, but I think all of my colleagues will attest to this, that over the last three months, the level of activity has been even more and more greatly exaggerated or very positive things that we're working on growth opportunities, refinements of different pockets of our business. And it's really true of the whole national organization. And through that period, I've really confirmed what I always suspected, which is that our workforce, their skills, their passion, their energy, their empathy, the equal of any organization that I've worked for. I've been fortunate enough to work for some really professional organizations, people at Gallagher that are right at the top, absolutely right at the top end of all the folks that I've worked with and they have this relentless professionalism, that is just a joy to watch. 

Daniel: [00:05:01] In that lead up to becoming CEO that you've been talking about. You were CFO and you've also got some international experience. Can you talk about how that international experience kind of conditions, how you approach the CEO job? 

Pete: [00:05:15] Yeah, well, Danny, I was very fortunate to have more than ten years working abroad in Europe, in America, and also in Asia and many things. But perhaps the most key learning through all that time was how important it is to have diverse voices in any decision making. I think you invariably get better solutions. You're more creative then able to problem solve through having differences. And I really appreciated that before I left Australia, but even more so having worked in international environments. And then if I reflect on the skills that I learnt as a CFO that are helping me now as CEO, I think I was very fortunate to have a very rounded and sound teaching environment or learning environment in finance. There are some really great organizations as well, and I think if I focus on what I did for much of my career prior to GB, which was in mergers and acquisitions, there was always that real need to understand your customer, what they were driving towards, how you could best assist them, how you could best present compelling arguments through through numbers, through financials, whilst not forgetting the human part of business. And I think if we look at services, businesses in particular, people are the most important asset that we have. And every business decision needs to be made with people very much at the forefront of of my mind. And that's something that I religiously adhere to. 

Daniel: [00:06:42] Let's talk about the wider industry for a minute. And across the insurance industry and in the claims management area, technology is becoming far more customer oriented. If it wasn't like that before anyway, it's becoming more of a focus now. What do you see as some of the key trends there? 

Pete: [00:06:58] Thanks Danny, it's certainly worth calling out the transition we're all experiencing towards omni channel communication through technology, email, text, AI, chat bots, all things that we're really accustomed to right now. Another thing that we're really focused on in our business is that whole customer experience, including sentiment analysis. And if we focus on that for a second, we've got thousands and thousands of claims worth of data to really understand and help provide real time coaching to our folk around what it means based on tone silences the words used by the people our our employees are talking to to really help them drive better outcomes. And we've also seen from a range of our clients a real desire to invest in their digital channel strategy, just to simplify the claims journey, drawing on a range of different data sources, robotics, greater integration with the supply chain. So that's something that's real and happening and I think it's working effectively. But that said, I think particularly in what have been some really stressful times for a range of people, we need to remember the human elements are also really important. In fact, it's somewhat paradoxical, but with all the speed and the need from our clients and customers and the general public for instantaneous information, particularly in their times of need, we're seeing them want to speak to a human, want to have that empathetic voice on the phone to help them get through those tricky times. 

Daniel: [00:08:27] You mentioned this a little bit like a lot of industry leaders. You're a big supporter of using technology to provide a more human approach to the work you do. How are you doing that exactly at Gallagher Bassett? 

Pete: [00:08:39] Well, Gallagher Bassett, we're really focused on the use of technology to create capacity in our organization, to enable our highly skilled case managers to do the things that they're trained to do, to drive better claims outcomes and not the repetitive day to day things that can be now done by machines. And an example of that is the automation of payments or judgments, which gives so much time back in the day to to our folk who can really be focused on driving the best solutions for the, for the people that they're dealing with. 

Daniel: [00:09:09] There are a lot of new innovations out there, but what in particular at the moment is catching your attention? 

Pete: [00:09:15] Well, one area of heavy investment for our study is in decision support tools, for example, the use of bio psychosocial factors to drive holistic claims management and better return outcomes for injured workers. These are based on an extremely rich data sets, and they're designed to help our employees take the next best course of action at any given moment in the claims journey. Another area is in preventative health apps that we're seeing more and more of. I think we're really passionate about prevention at Gallagher Bassett and making sure that there are every tool that we can possibly use to make the workplace or the community more healthy in general. Tapped into in our general insurance businesses, we also use a lot of predictive analytics to understand where there's a potential for a claim to go a little awry shall we say, and then to really focus on that early intervention piece and make sure that the costs don't balloon unnecessarily. 

Daniel: [00:10:12] Your work as a major global TPA for governments and insurance companies. Companies is very heavily dependent on outcomes, but how exactly do you measure those outcomes and how are you making sure that everybody is getting something good out of the process, including the injured party and the insurer? 

Pete: [00:10:31] Well, Gallagher Bassett, we really believe that a collaborative person centred, holistic and tailored approach to claims management drives the best outcomes for all stakeholders. I think many of our partners that we work with are absolutely in lockstep with this thinking. They understand that a focus on return to life or return to health, a return to work is the best solution for everyone involved, be it the insurer, be it the scheme, the government scheme, and certainly the injured worker themselves. As a consequence, we've built really deep expertise. We have specialization by injury type, for example, and that allows us to adopt this tailored approach which gets consistently better returned to work outcomes. And as I mentioned before, early intervention is absolute key here and it's something that we measure ourselves relentlessly on and we have KPIs from our clients and partners, but ours are often much more aggressive. And I think establishing communication with the claimant within two days is something that we require of our people that they're really passionate about doing. We invariably see better results with that connection and understanding is is established straight out of the gate and Gallagher Bassett is an organization that really believes in doing business sustainably, in providing the right care and managing the often really complex needs of the people that we serve. It's one of the reasons that I'm really, really proud to work for this business. I'm really privileged to have the opportunity to lead it now as the new CEO, and I'm incredibly excited about what the future holds. 

Daniel: [00:12:03] And Pete Nicholson is Gallagher Basset Australia's new CEO. Thanks for watching. Bye for now.