Five Minutes With… Melissa Russell, Special Counsel at Meredith Connell

by IBO 09 Sep 2014

Five Minutes With… Melissa Russell, Special Counsel at Meredith Connell

Why insurance law?
Why not! In 2007, when I was in London, I went to an interview for a position as an insurance solicitor at a firm located next to Leadenhall Market. The Christmas lights were up and people were having a quiet pint at 3pm in the afternoon - I was sold.
 
How would you change the industry?
I am a self-professed insurance enthusiast and I wonder why so many people aren't. I think that the insurance industry could market itself better to graduates and professionals in other industries. There is a lot that the insurance market can offer career wise but it is not seen as a glamorous industry, unlike banking. I think we could have more insurance based events in New Zealand to create more of a 'market' feel.
 
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
The first is from a brilliant ex-boss – "comparison is the root of all unhappiness". The other is from a London client – "Wine is technically one of your five a day".
 
If you were prime minister for one day, what would you do?
For my own self interest, I would ensure that I would be prime minister for at least 3 years and change the location of Government House to one of those big houses on Cliff Road in St Heliers. For the rest of New Zealand I would focus our resources on public transport. I think we need train networks that provide affordable transport options so that all parts of society can get around New Zealand and into the CBDs.
 
What’s the biggest challenge facing the industry today?
Over regulation of the insurance industry in New Zealand and Australia. It appears to stifle growth in Australasia and adds to the general cost of doing business. One example is the captive market in New Zealand which was almost extinguished by insurance law reform in New Zealand in 2010. The Cook Islands and Singapore are encouraging captive business, and in doing so are attracting a lot of foreign investment.
 
What’s been the highlight of your career?
Being picked by my firm to come back to work in the New Zealand market. I have enjoyed being overseas but I miss appearing in the New Zealand courts and I still get that nervous feeling. I thought I would grow out of it!
 
What’s your favourite style of coffee?
Long macchiato – just the right amount of milk to avoid the bitter taste.
 
Union, league or soccer or other?
Squash  – I am terrible at it but I get an 'A' for effort.
 
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, and excluding family or friends, who would they be and why?
Sarkozy because I'm bound to be taller than him and I bet he has a good wine selection.
Joan Rivers because she was very funny and will add a bit of style to the proceedings.
Gordon Ramsay because I love his style of food.
 
Complete this sentence: if I wasn’t in insurance law I would be… 
A police officer. I love rules, the law and the uniform.