TV

TV

Social responsibility: how far should insurers go?

“The two biggest challenges society faces are climate change and mental health,” said Damien Coates to Insurance Business TV. Sydney based Coates is CEO of the underwriting agency DUAL Asia Pacific. He’s a strong advocate for insurers taking on social responsibilities. In this interview Coates also answered questions about his firm’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and Australia’s upcoming Voice referendum.

To view full transcript, please click here

Daniel Wood: [00:00:07] Hello and welcome back to insurance business TV. I'm Daniel Wood news editor of insurance business Australia. Today we're looking at challenges that go beyond the balance sheet. We'll discuss issues around social responsibilities of insurance companies, and the voice rep referendum happening later this year whether insurance should publicly stated position and we're joined by Damien Coates CEO of the underwriting agency, Dual  Asia Pacific. Damian is in Sydney. I Damien.

Damien Coates: [00:00:34]

Hi, Daniel, how are you? 

Daniel Wood: [00:00:36] Oh, good. Yeah, good. Thanks. Now you're personally very active with local charities, mental health groups. I noticed your title on LinkedIn read CEO and mental health ambassador. So the whole idea of social responsibility seems to be part of your personal and business life. Why are you so into this? And what does this all go back to?

Damien Coates: [00:00:55] Yeah, no, thanks. Yeah, I guess a lot of it started from my own personal journey. I was diagnosed with depression in 1999. And over the next 13 years, I had to learn to put in place the pillars of communication, diet and exercise and medication to allow me to be able to manage my own mental health and manage my depression. And from there I've been winning became, I guess, a cheerleader for mental health and did a lot of fundraising activities to create awareness of raise funds to the Black Dog Institute, whether it was cycling from Adelaide to Darwin, earth, the broom, London to Barcelona, shaving my hair, which thankfully grew back and jumping out of an aeroplane and, and it was that next step that the black dog Institute asked me, probably the scariest question, which was to ask me to become a mental health ambassador for the Black Dog Institute, which involve me starting to share my own journey with depression. And to be the view was that a CEO was prepared to be vulnerable and to share your own struggles with depression, that it could really help others. And I'm so proud that since then, you know, we now I present to over six and a half 1000 people annually sharing my lived experience with depression, to help and shape and guide others because there's no doubt one in five Australians are experiencing mental health as we speak at the moment, two thirds suffer in silence. The World Health Organization estimates by 2027, mental health issues will have overtaken all physical health issues, cancer, heart attack. So we're at, we're at a crisis point. And the black dog Institute is now referring to it as a crisis point. And if we don't take steps to break the stigmas down of mental health, to really help and support each other, to understand that mental health can be managed, if you put a good plan in place, not only can we help each other, but we help future generation, because the challenges that our children are facing with social media and cyber bullying that if we don't start a society, I truly believe that the two biggest challenges society basis is climate change and mental health. And both of those need incredible amount of work by society. And I think companies need to take a responsible role in starting to have these conversations.

Daniel Wood: [00:03:09] I can hear insurance companies, their leaders, lauding your efforts and thinking it's great to do all this stuff. You're an established figure in the insurance industry now. I mean, where do you find the time I can see the lock would just say, Look, I'd love to do all this stuff that Damien does. But how do you manage to do it? Is that an excuse? Do you think?

Damien Coates: [00:03:30] Yeah, no, I think, you know, I think sustainability and commitments to ESG, they're no longer nice to have. And in a you It not only goes to the culture of your business and your clients and the way you're engaging with your clients, but also to the to encourage talent. And young people, we regularly get people who have joined us because they've seen our commitment to sustainability on our website. So to think that these are things that don't really matter to the current generation, that future generations, we're worried about climate change, we're worried about the yes vote, we're worried about mental health. And we have to take these steps. And so companies that are seeing that as part of a responsibility, and also you know, another fascinating stat is that was done by the NYU which was 1000 companies across the US. And this prove that MIT, that sustainability and ESG means less profits. This analysis looked a thousand companies across the US, and it was able to show a high correlation between those companies had a strong ESG commitment to growth in profits. So anyone who thinks that commitment to sustainability is about trading profits, that's absolutely not the case. If you have a more engaged and more empowered, you know, if you're doing things for communities and supporting charities, you feel better, right? If you feel better, you're going to be more productive. And what this is showing is that, you know, that's what that's what people are wanting now. That's what society needs. You know, last week we did our first in Australia ESG sustainability webinar. For brokers, we had 1100 brokers logged in to learn about ESG and sustainability, they want to people want to understand about how we can do better as a society. So yeah, I think that that misnomer or that that stereotype of 10 years ago that having a commitment to good, because we believe our is an industry that is an industry for good. It actually does increase profits and builds engagement and builds fulfillment. And if people are happier, they're gonna be more productive. So I really think it's so important that we're moving forward in that way.

Daniel Wood: [00:05:44] I mean, speaking of things that are a good and worth doing, you've just launched your Reconciliation Action Plan. And it has a range of actionable items. Can you tell us how that's going?

Damien Coates: [00:05:55] Yeah, no, it saw, we just launched last week, it's been a series of sort of policy updates we've been working on, including updating our parental leave policies. The Reconciliation Action Plan was the next step. And it's really been about really recognizing and also having the confidence and support. So we started doing acknowledgement of country training for all of our managers. In most of our meetings with brokers, clients, even on our webinars, now, webinars, we're starting with acknowledgement of country training. We're working with all of our key stakeholders, broking partners areas to find out where they are on their journey in terms of support of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people. But also, in addition to that we're now starting to look at from a recruitment point of view, trying to identify employment agencies that specialize in indigenous and Torres Strait Islander employment. So it really is all encompassing, it's starting by acknowledgement of country because that is such an important part. And, you know, we put through 40 of our managers through a training course to get them comfortable, and for them to actually shake the message that they felt comfortable, and it's now most of our management meeting start with it, most of our broker meeting start with it, most of our webinars are now starting with it. So it's an important step. We're also participating heavily in NATO on reconciliation week. A lot of events that we're posting on our social media is about celebrating Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders. And it's really important part of that next stage of, of our DNI and inclusiveness that is so important.

Daniel Wood: [00:07:28] Another step of reconciliation is the voice referendum happening later this year, and a broker got in touch with us. And we wrote an article about weather insurance companies, given that they have Reconciliation Action Plans, they mark NAIDOC Week of all these initiatives, whether they should step up and publicly stated position on the voice. What do you think, personally and professionally?

Damien Coates: [00:07:52] Yeah, I think, you know, I think Daniel, very much it is a it's a it's a personal question. It's one that's going to a referendum. I personally, support the yes vote. But as a as a company, it's something that I really believe that individuals need to make their own decisions. I personally am supportive of it. But I really believe something that's at a national referendum, it really needs to be as individuals to make their choices.

Daniel Wood: [00:08:16] What's it like for you, you're quite you're an active person, in terms of social responsibility, but the insurance industry is changing, but probably doesn't have, you know, I guess, a reputation as being particularly progressive in in some ways. I mean, do you find you're rubbing shoulders against people in the industry who are difficult to rub shoulders with? Because they see you as a bit of an outlier? Or is your position coming more becoming more acceptable these days?

Damien Coates: [00:08:43] You know, what, Daniel, I really think that's an historic stereotype, which is changing so quickly. Quite often, we're spending time working with our broking partners, sharing where we are on our sustainability and ESG journey and understanding where our broken partners are. And the one thing I find is your we made the big step, we appointed the head of sustainability who was really there to coordinate all about volunteering, participation, charity endeavors, our environment policies, and mental health commitment and everything else. When I sit down and share with another broker, what they're doing, you finding out that everyone's doing lots of good things that probably just not recording it. And so I think probably the next step is there was a lot going on in our industry. And I truly believe as an industry, we're doing lots of really good things. I think about, you know, my mental health ambassadorship, when I go and speak, I've spoken to over 60 different brokers over the last few years who have had me and share my lived experience with depression as part of their commitment. And then I get to see that these businesses have got really strong AIPs in place. They've appointed mental health first aid officers, and they're building that inclusive management team that is there to support each other that it's okay to not be okay. So I really do think that as an industry, we are a very progressive industry in taking corporate response, social responsibility. Recognizing sustainability is so important. Now it's an industry of we're not coming up with solutions to climate change. Our parent company does a lot of work. Our CEO, David Howard and his son paid on Top 26 Top 27 as really leading the insurance industry's drive to come up with climate change driven solutions. So there's so many examples that you can see that where as an industry we are an industry for good nothing happens without insurance. Yep, planes don't fly. Nothing happens without insurance. And so we need to keep making sure that we're, we're being progressive and I truly believe that everyone I come across this the days of people putting their head in the sand and, and not believing that mental health is a big issue, not believing that volunteering and supporting charities is going to build your culture building engagement. It's really exciting as the more people I speak and more energized people are about sustainability and ESG I think it's so important.

Daniel Wood: [00:11:01] Damien Coates, CEO of Dual Asia Pacific, keep up the good work. Very nice to talk with you.

Damien Coates: [00:11:06] Thanks so much. Have a great day.

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