CEO reveals why she decided to stay in insurance

"My expectation then was go in, be part of a transformation, and then go into the next industry"

CEO reveals why she decided to stay in insurance

Insurance News

By Ksenia Stepanova

Earlier this year Fidelity Life introduced its new CEO, Melissa Cantell (pictured), who joined the company from general insurer IAG - though according to Cantell, staying in the insurance space had not been part of the original plan.

Cantell had been implementing transformation projects across various industries before stepping into insurance, and once that job was done, the plan was to move on to the next sector. However, she said working in insurance gave her a new appreciation and passion for the industry, and as such, her next move was to look for a leadership role with a New Zealand life insurer.

Speaking to Insurance Business, Cantell said the ‘turning point’ for her was listening to customer conversations during her time in claims - something which gave her a new perspective on how meaningful the sector was to the lives of its customers.

“I’ve taken a number of opportunities to be involved in businesses that are transforming themselves to become more relevant for their customers,” Cantell said.

“Transformation takes lots of different forms - some of them have been turnarounds, some have been growth plans, and some have been completely new strategies. But they’ve all had that connecting link of thinking “actually, our customers are changing, and so we need to change.”

“That’s what led me into my previous general insurance role, and my personal expectation then was - go in, be part of that transformation, and then go into the next industry and discover something new. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with insurance.”

“The meaningfulness and importance of what the insurance industry does really dawned on me, and I hadn’t thought about it that way before,” she explained.

“I’d always been a recipient of insurance, and I hadn’t really turned my mind towards the more community and societal importance of it.

“The changing point for me was about 12 months into my time at IAG, when I was asked to lead the claims team. I picked that up because I thought it would be a good learning experience, and I started really listening to the customer calls and suddenly realised how much it mattered.”

When searching for her next role, Cantell said Fidelity Life stood out thanks to its background, its focus on New Zealanders, and the work it had already done to become more customer-centric. She said her plan for the company is to maintain that focus on listening to customers - something she said should seem obvious, but is often a piece that is overlooked.

“Fidelity was an exciting opportunity for me because I love the New Zealand-ness of this organisation,” Cantell said.

“I was looking for those key markers of what people stand for, and a real sense of being here to support New Zealanders. It was also openly seeking customer-focused leadership as an organisation - it was talking the talk internally, and had already taken a lot of steps along that path.”

“As I come in now, I feel great that there is a lot of fantastic work already underway,” she continued.

“We’re a few months away from going live on our new technology platform which will make a big difference for us, our advisers and our customers. That’ll open a lot of doors for where we can go next.

“We’re also talking to the uninsured of New Zealand to understand why they’re not insured, and we’re spending a lot of time seeking their input so that we can really frame up a plan that meets their needs. Whatever we do next across all elements of our strategy will be led by what our customers are telling us, and I find that really exciting.”

Related Stories

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!