Young Guns 2021

Speak to any insurance recruitment professional and you will likely hear the same story – very few young people have ever ‘planned’ for a career in insurance.

The difficulty of attracting new talent into the insurance industry has been discussed at length at panels and industry events throughout the world; replacing insurance professionals as quickly as they retire has proven to be a constant challenge. But despite this ongoing struggle to recruit fresh faces, the bright side of the story is constantly told by brokers, underwriters, senior managers and others in the industry. Those who enter the insurance space overwhelmingly discover a passion for the sector and grow to appreciate the role it plays in the communities it serves, as well as the opportunities it offers for professional and personal growth – as a result, it has created a ‘forever career’ for many young newcomers.

The Insurance Business Young Guns list was published in New Zealand for the first time in 2018 and aims to recognise the young talent making a splash in the insurance industry. The popular annual list highlights the impressive achievements of the sector’s up-and-comers, many of whom have gone on to become respected leaders and innovators within their organisations.

The Young Guns 2021 list includes a mix of underwriters, insurance brokers, directors and claims managers, and this year’s winners already have some impressive achievements under their belts.

Young Gun Ryan Mulder of Quantum Finance was highlighted by his manager for building up a significant book of business from scratch in just three years with no prior insurance experience. He also created a simplified customer service and insurance onboarding process, and the results speak for themselves: Ryan’s client retention rate sits at an impressive 99%, and his figures were on track to increase by 40% by the end of the last year.

Another star on the list is Gallagher Bassett’s Motor NZ operations manager Marc Casey, who conducted a full-scale review of his company’s claims assessment processes, targeting areas of inefficiency and coming up with improvements. As a result, he managed to reduce the turnaround times for claims assessments by 11.6%, increase efficiency by 60%, and improve client satisfaction levels. New client figures also shot up by 40%, an increase that his nominator directly attributed to the efforts of the young star.

Nominees’ contributions to the insurance sector, education and support for fellow professionals was seen by their colleagues as a valued area of focus. The majority of this year’s winners have been involved in mentoring in some capacity and offer educational resources to their colleagues, clients and others outside of their organisations.

AIG senior underwriter Grace Mason was one such winner and has charted an impressive career path, rising quickly through the insurer’s ranks off the back of its graduate program. She was described by her nominator as “a mentor and trainer to a level well beyond her years to other team members who are learning to navigate these complex and ever-changing areas of the financial market”.

Alex Gowing, client executive at Marsh JLT Speciality, was highlighted for his mentoring work as part of the Lloyd’s IntoWork Mentoring program organised by the brokerage Citylink and Lloyd’s in the UK. Gowing’s student ended up conducting a presentation for a mix of industry professionals and was placed in the top three of their scheme.

Meanwhile, TLC Insurance general manager Andrew Reid has crafted a role for himself in educating brokers outside TLC on the benefits of being insured through a specialist underwriting agency. According to his nominator, he is “in the process of developing a virtual engagement plan, which he plans to use to be able to contact all brokers across the country and at one point in time, introducing them to the products on offer by TLC Insurance and providing them with valuable training opportunities”.

When it comes to each winner’s future in the insurance industry, the drive to remain working in the sector, become an expert in a particular field, and build up the general public’s awareness and positive perception of insurance were the most commonly held goals. A number of this year’s Young Guns have already overhauled their organisations’ processes, introduced improvements, and increased client numbers as a result, and the dedication of each individual to their own professional progress is clear.

Almost every winner was dedicated to maintaining their insurance knowledge and professional growth, with many developing specific career plans for the next several years. Every name on the list has completed or is in the process of completing their Level 5 Certificate in Financial Services.

Commenting on his young colleague’s future in the insurance space, the individual nominating Insurance Underwriters NZ’s Derek Leung noted that he “maintains a Professional Development Plan which is used to develop and upskill knowledge and expose him to different aspects of the insurance industry and business operations”.

“Derek is a key player and role model for doing things right,” they said.

“For Derek, this means being properly qualified to provide financial advice, be in charge of his own professional development through relevant courses, workshops and professional development days. This ensures that the insurance industry’s reputation is protected and further promoted consumers trust and perception of the industry as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Pinnacle Life’s Amy Cavanaugh was praised for her “leading role” in disrupting an industry that is often viewed as “mature and stagnant”.

“She has played a key leading role in enabling Pinnacle Life to demonstrate that it is possible to prioritise meeting regulatory requirements without destabilising or compromising on achieving business results,” her colleague said.

“Amy says it doesn’t matter that Pinnacle is a relatively small business. If we can be on customers’ radar, then, in turn, they will ask the bigger players to change, if we demonstrate what good is, customers will ask for the same from other providers.”

Another feature that stands out in this year’s pool of Young Guns is the wide range of specialties being pur-sued, with each individual’s interest captured by a different area of insurance. The list includes young professionals looking to specialise in rural insurance, heavy machinery cover, the insurance advice process, financial lines, commercial broking, and many other areas.

Reflecting on the submissions for this year’s list, it is clear that the industry is filled with passionate, dedicated young people looking to make a true impact within their field. As a career path, the insurance sector offers the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the lives of customers – something highly valued by today’s young people and which has encouraged many a newcomer to build a long and successful career in the industry.

While the challenges of attracting a new generation into insurance will undoubtedly persist for some time yet, the strength, calibre and dedication of the professionals on the Insurance Business Young Guns 2021 list is a solid indicator that the future of the industry is in good hands.

Young Guns 2021

  • Alex Gowing
    Client executive, Marsh JLT Specialty
  • Amanda Mulcahy
    Claims consultant team leader, FMG Insurance
  • Darcy Hughes
    Risk advisor, Marsh Limited
  • Derek Leung
    Underwriter, Insurance Underwriters (NZ) Ltd
  • Grace Mason
    Senior underwriter, AIG Insurance New Zealand
  • Joanne Rawson
    Personal lines/claims manager, Nelson Marlborough Insurance Brokers
  • Julia Vahry
    Director, Vahry Insurance
  • Karen Williams
    Broker technician, Matt Jensen Insurance Brokers
  • Peter Stone
    Director/insurance adviser, Obsidian Insurance Limited
  • Reilly Price
    Director, Business Insurance Limited
  • Rhys Evans
    Commercial manager, FMG Insurance
  • Ted Du
    Insurance broker, Bridges Insurance Services
  • Thomas Cowley
    Financial lines and casualty claims examiner, Chubb Insurance New Zealand
  • Josh Cuttance
    Registered financial adviser, Share NZ
  • Liberty Newlands
    Senior underwriter, Zurich New Zealand
  • Chantal Tawhai
    Corporate accident and health manager, Chubb


In February 2021, Insurance Business New Zealand invited professionals from across the insurance sector to nominate their most exceptional young talent for the fourth annual Young Guns list. Nominees needed to be aged 35 or under (on 31 March 2021) and working in a role that related to, interacted with or in some way impacted the general insurance industry. Aspiring winners must also have committed to a career in insurance with a clear passion for the industry, and in order to maintain a focus on new talent, they must never have previously been recognised in a Young Guns list.

Over 50 nominations were received between 1 and 26 February 2021, encompassing young professionals working in wide range of insurance and broking roles across New Zealand. Ages ranged from 20 to 35 with an average age of 30, and approximately 54% of nominees were male, while 46% were female.

Nominees were asked about their current role in the insurance sector, their key achievements, career goals, and their contribution to the shaping of the industry. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account.

By the end of the judging process, the Insurance Business team narrowed the list down to 22 of the sector’s most outstanding young professionals, producing the highly anticipated Young Guns 2021 list.