Vero’s ambitious drive to satisfy brokers

Hear how Vero’s new leader is turning up the customer focus and ambitions for the brand.

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Speaker1: [00:00:12] Welcome to Insurance Business TV. I'm Danny Wood, news editor of Insurance Business Australia. Michael Miller is an insurance industry veteran of more than three decades. He spent the last 10 years in leadership roles with Suncorp, one of Australia's largest financial services brands. In October, Suncorp announced Michael Miller's new role as executive general manager Commercial Intermediated. His new position puts him in charge of Vero Suncorp's Primary Intermediated Insurance Brand. Welcome, Michael. Hi Tony, how are you? Good, thanks. There are a few months into your role in charge of the intermediated commercial insurance brand Vero. How's it been and what ambitions do you have for the business?

Speaker2: [00:00:54] I'm four months in and it's been a very busy four months. In that time, I spent a lot of time actually talking to our customers, which their brokers, because I'm absolutely thrilled to run this business. It's a really important part of Suncorp's insurance business, great growth prospects, and it's really important for me to understand what we're seeing in the market. I see a lot of times the brokers, as I said, I've also spent a lot of time speaking to Suncorp Senior Management just to really understand what they think about Xero its importance. I'm pleased to tell you it's it's a huge part of the growth story for Suncorp going forward. I've also had a number of sessions with our board of directors just explaining to them what our business insurance is, what it looks like and what we need to invest. And I've got great reception from the board. They really believe in the strategy around commercial insurance in Australia. Looking forward, 10 years, it's where the growth will be because a lot of the trends megatrends around automobiles, natural hazards, the like really souped up commercial insurance area. And the last thing I've done is really understood from our people what works really well and what doesn't. So it gives me set me up really well in terms of this business. My ambition for the business, Danny, really simply is, you know, we're a broker can choose the way they do now. We can't be all things for all people, but I want to be the first choice. And how do you become first choice? It's really about understanding our brokers, our customers, our partners and delivering really good products. Having great people at Xero, which we do, who are highly trained, turnaround times, efficiency and claims. You know, I spend a lot of time in claims as well claims such an important part of insurance and where it really pays off. So my ambition clearly there is to be that first choice, the broker's going forward.

Speaker1: [00:02:44] You've been with Suncorp for more than a decade and in the industry a lot longer. What do you see as the biggest change in this intermediated insurance space over that time?

Speaker2: [00:02:55] Look, I think the trends have been for the last 10 years and also going forward. They're really around the trends around customer people and technology. I'll go through those in turn. You know, I think the customer focus for organisations has really been turned up. I think customers and what I talk about customers, the bureau, I really do talk about brokers. You know, they want personalised service. They want relationships. They want quick turnaround times. They don't want mistakes and they want trust. And a lot of that, I think, is something that we do at our hearts. But do we do well all the time? I think that's something that we really need to improve on, and I think most brokers would say that's the same with all insurance companies. So I think it's a very open field in terms of you can do that and I think we can do that very well. So that theme is very much about it. I think on the people side, you know, I've been in this service for a long time. People comes up all the time. You really do need good people. And it's not just going and hiring good people, it's training good people. There's great longevity at Xero. We've got a great pedigree. A lot of people have been here for a long time and know their skill sets really, really well. That's great. If we can bring in some, some extra graduates and different thinking in there and add it to the skill base we have. That's fantastic. And let's face it, a lot of what we do in commercial insurance is around relationship. It's very much relationship based and all the businesses that I've been that that personal touch understanding and the trust sort of tactile feel for people is very important and that's why people are so important.

Speaker2: [00:04:25] And the final one is technology, you know, technology over the last 10, 20 years. You look at Big Tech and what's been going on there. Those trends are amazing and I think the insurance companies really need to keep up with that. We are plagued, I think, with some legacy systems for good reason. They serve their purpose. We really need to leapfrog forward and say, how do we get technology to work really well? And if we're not nimble enough with technology, if you don't invest enough in technology, I think long term other other entrants will come in and make it very difficult to us for us. So I'll spend a lot of time in that period of last four months in this role, understanding that technology roadmap and where we invest, we've got a really good platform up and going right now in the package's area called the ISV platform really cutting edge in trying to turn around those package businesses for small business insurance for brokers are really excited by that. And the one thing about that, Danny, that I do like with the team has done. We have just haven't gone and built it from the IT function. Yeah, we've got some retired brokers helping us out in an advisory stream. We've got a broker forum really trying to tell us, how do we make this work really well? Because the cost we put into this technology is tens of millions of dollars and we want to do it once we want to do really well really well. So nice themes, Danny. I think you'll hear it time and time again, customer out people, and they'll come back to later on. If you'd like around code with our people, I think it's fascinating and technology.

Speaker1: [00:05:54] Let's pick up on one of the things you mentioned, which is is relationships in the context of customers that the business insurance products you offer through Xero are offered exclusively through brokers. Can you talk a bit about how a customer focus is important there and how you manage that?

Speaker2: [00:06:10] Yeah, I think one of the key things that I believe in is that customer focus on current customer orientation, which is the key to business success. And if you look around at all of the companies that have been very, very successful over the last decade, and I'm thinking about the Googles and the apples and like a bit of research on them through some training courses and the like. And I've spoken to some of their senior executives, you know, their total orientation is around. How do we make it easier for the customer? How do we actually fulfil their needs? How do we build a product that they want to use? Everyone probably has an Apple product of some sort amazing technology that's only been around for 10 years or so, particularly the iPhone. So I think that's where I get take a take a leaf out of the book of that those technology companies and then really focus on those customers. And so what are our brokers want? They want a trusted partner that they can go to and know that they'll get a seamless service. They'll go to a trusted partner and know they'll get good people who know their products not really well and give the right advice, the right product out there. They know when they come to us and they make a claim, it will be straightforward. It will be straight through and their customer will get a good experience. And I'm very cognizant of the fact that the brokers are they're servicing their clients and making sure that they get good advice and good service. We're a big part of that. And so all of the orientation that what we do and it is there, Danny, you know, I think in an insurance company purpose led organisation, you know, I think very much for Suncorp as a whole, that purpose. Insurance professionals is there. It's our job to fix things when things go wrong. How do you go to that and do it all the time? And that's the challenge for the team and myself.

Speaker1: [00:07:55] You've talked about technology a little, and that's one of the big challenges, I guess. Can you talk a bit more about the technologies you're using at Varo to make your products a bit more attractive to brokers and customers?

Speaker2: [00:08:06] Absolutely, I think part of the technology is making it easier for our people as well. So, you know, I think about this to probably two key parts to commercial insurance in my mind. It is that platform for packages into brokers where it's quick turnaround time. It's almost a yes or no. They don't want to wait two or three days for referrals. They want that done really quickly. They want to be interfaces into their broker back office to work really well. And that's that is the platform that I was talking about before which we've invested heavily. And I think that is a game changer for us really having a technology out there having almost instantaneous yes or no. We like to do that business and for us on the inside and really understanding the data and analytics much more on on a full time basis and what have mean by that at the moment, it probably takes us sometimes three to six months to make a change in terms of risk appetite or pricing for particular occupations. Now I know the good, the good technology out there. You almost do it overnight and then you get down to, I call it tailored underwriting.

Speaker2: [00:09:05] So it's not the packages, it's the day in, day out. The liability looks, the commercial motor and the property insurance. You know, for us, we are on some older systems and we want to invest in those. And it's a matter of how we make that not easy for our brokers to interface, but also easy for our people to get all of the process done. And I think the process is very important because it's around, obviously a lot of the processes embedded in risk. And one of the big themes over the last six or seven years is APRA. Asic really controlling the risk of insurance companies. And when you don't get risk right, it really damages the brand of that insurance company, but also the industry more broadly. And I think the AI is probably a good example of that. You know, how do we make that much more automated and then get the team to have skills, concentrating on relationships, concentrating on getting the right products out to our people? So that's how I think about technology. Danny, it's broadly enabling our people and just make it easier for people to interface with zero insurance.

Speaker1: [00:10:07] Let's shift the conversation to that unavoidable topic of COVID 19. It's the last two years covered, plus a hard market have made it pretty hard to retain good staff. Can you talk about some of the things you're doing to make sure the people working for you are happy, productive workers?

Speaker2: [00:10:24] Absolutely. I think first, just give my thoughts on COVID and people, our work workplace and strivers. I've run claims, big claims teams through this period and also into the commercial area. I think the first thing to say is with the closed borders, if this has an impact on the workforce in Australia more generally, wage inflation, getting good people, I think absolutely that's playing through. We are seeing some of our turnover rates in some parts of their business really accelerate in commercial insurance right now. It's pretty good. But I know, particularly in the claims area, which I was before, we were seeing some turnover rates of 25 to 30 per cent. So there is a lot of pressure going through. Many would say when the borders open up, problems will disappear and people come flooding to Australia to fill those positions. Perhaps the opposite will happen and people will flood out of Australia to fill the positions all over the world because I don't think that we're an island in terms of that shortage of really good people. So I think it's something that's really important for us to address. I think through this period, I think Suncorp and Vero have done a great job of getting people working from home and enabling to work from home. The business is run really well through that period. We've been very much of safety first for our for our employees. The work from home mantra is absolutely but at the moment we believe in vaccinations as one of the policies that we do have is around. If you're dealing with our customers, vaccination is really important, you know, difficult at times for some of our people, but really important to get it out there.

Speaker2: [00:11:52] And then thirdly, you know, we try to make it as safe as possible for people work at home. So. And what I mean by safe is down to making sure they've got the right equipment in terms of chairs or in terms of monitors, but also access access to psychological support as well. Because some people are in homes that they live by themselves or being around networks is really important and that's had a really big impact. And so we tried to tailor it for everyone. Some people love being at home. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind being at home a couple of days a week, but I'm going to this as well, but everyone's different. So I think that's for us right now. We're looking at the next year. We think that we'll be back at work in some form, probably in March and Sydney and more broadly across Australia. How do we keep that flexibility up? And I think that hybrid working going forward for us to make sure we have an environment for our people that's very important is good. And all of that is things that we've done which links back to our culture. Suncorp and Vero very much care about our people. We know they're important. We want to do the right thing by them, and I think that's ingrained in all of us. And I think that's the biggest thing. The biggest plus we have is just that wanting to do the right thing, which is great.

Speaker1: [00:13:02] Michael, what's your background? How did you get into the. Arts industry.

Speaker2: [00:13:06] I'm Danny. Your that feeling for the insurance industry. But I'm certainly attracted to it. I'm an accountant by training and I joined. I've been in financial services for a long time. I joined Suncorp back in 2011, just after the Queensland floods, and my ex-boss came across you and said, Michael, you've got to come and meet these people at Suncorp. They're fantastic. It's a great place to work and insurance here is really well done. And I had the interview process with the floods in the background. I saw what Suncorp did in terms of flood cover in Brisbane. I am a Queensland boy at heart, although I live in Sydney now and working for Suncorp, seeing what they did for the people of Brisbane that got me straight away. I met the people here at the time to see I was Patrick Snowball. Very impressive individual and I got into insurance and Suncorp, and I'll never leave such a, you know, often you get to a point, say in your career, what do you want to do? But I think from a heart and ethical, moral point of view, insurance is a great place to be. So that's my story, how I got into insurance. I know a lot of people fall into it. I don't know if I fell, but I certainly lured into it. I'm very happy I was.

Speaker1: [00:14:14] You mentioned the floods there, and that's probably one of the bigger challenges facing the insurance industry. But what do you see as some of the big challenges facing insurance in the coming years?

Speaker2: [00:14:24] Yeah, I'll pull out or pull out natural hazards. And the reason for that, probably one of my key concerns, is around affordability. I think insurance, it's a valuable product for individuals and it needs to be affordable. And we are seeing particularly with natural hazards being a catastrophe risk in property. That's an area that has a lot of pressure is increasing year on year. I saw that for my time working in claims and seeing the disasters I've seen in the price increases coming through and the government is trying to do things in north Queensland right now. So it's obviously a topical issue. And my biggest fear here, if we don't do as a society, invest in litigation, for example, to make it safer for societies to be resilient, we'll find parts of Australia will be difficult to insure and that will be small businesses and medium businesses and households and individuals as well. And it won't be in the metropolitan areas of the eastern seaboard or Perth. It'll it'll be some of the rural areas up in north Queensland and the likes, and they're the people that really need insurance. So I think for me, that's the big issue from a from a point of view, making sure that we invest in mitigation. Have societies that are resilient and insurance sustainable, affordable. And part of our job is in Suncorp. And zero is to make sure we're nimble enough to tailor our products to take that into account as we go forward over next 10 to 20 years, which will be a fascinating period for Australia, I believe.

Speaker1: [00:15:49] Can you talk about some more ways that you're planning? Vero will sort of address these challenges.

Speaker2: [00:15:56] The big thing for us in terms of that is mitigation. So we have a very overt position with government that we believe that mitigation is the key and mitigation can be raising the Warragamba Dam, for example. If that's appropriate, it's levees, it's town planning and making sure we're not in a floodplain, floodplains. You know, we have a, you know, from a more closer point of view, we have a good risk engineering team where we try and give advice to companies around best practice in safety for their, for their their premises and their where they work. I think that's a big part of it. So it's mitigation at a government level, but also trying to give advice in terms of Irishness safety and up-to-date standards there. So that's probably the big focus for me to focus on that to make sure that insurance is affordable.

Speaker1: [00:16:46] Danny, thanks for talking with us, Michael.

Speaker2: [00:16:49] Thanks very much.

Speaker1: [00:16:51] And Michael Miller is Suncorp's new executive general manager, commercial intermediated. He's in charge of Vero Suncorp's Primary Intermediated Insurance Brand. Thanks for watching insurance business. Tbie bye for now.