Five minutes with... John Baker, Star Underwriting Agents Ltd

by Maryvonne Gray 14 Feb 2014

Five minutes with... John Baker, Star Underwriting Agents Ltd

John Baker is the founder and chairman of Star Underwriting Agents Ltd and former long-term board member of the Corporation of Insurance Brokers of New Zealand.

Why Insurance?
Like many of us, when I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I applied for a position at Prudential and started working with them in 1967 and found that I loved it.  It beats working as a clerk in the Fire Department.
 
How would you change the industry?
Insurance is the ‘lubricant’ of commerce.  As risks evolve so insurance will provide the capacity to transfer the risk for a fee.  The role of oil does not change but engines do!
 
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was a youngster, my uncle told me to either work in insurance or banking, because both only handle money and some might stick!
 
If you were Prime Minister for a day what would you do?
Add financial literacy to the curriculum from Year 1.  In 15 years we would have a population who understands how commerce works and we would never have a socialist government again.
 
What has been your biggest challenge?
The conflict between compliance and accountability.  The mechanisation of insurance and the consequent ease to put in mechanised compliance has replaced relationships with professional accountability.
 
What’s been the highlight of your career?
Starting and growing a business which had a philosophy of under promising and over delivering as often as possible.  I have found if you provide the service and manage the processes well, you will earn a good living and have a viable business that has a value to it.
 
Rugby, League, Soccer or other?
As a teenager I lived in Melbourne and was exposed to VFL so it is Aussie Rules for me, c’mon the Bombers!
 
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, and excluding family or friends, who would they be and why?
Abraham Lincoln – Liberated slaves
Nelson Mandela – Liberated South Africa from the constraints of apartheid
Fred Hollows – Because God has a sense of humour.  Fred Hollows was a committed communist and atheist but he dedicated his life to giving sight back to thousands
 
If I wasn’t in insurance I would be…
Working in radio.