Steadfast New Zealand chief executive Neil Cousins (pictured) is hoping for an awakening amid what he considers an undervaluation of insurance brokers.
Referring to the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle, Cousins told Insurance Business: “Our brokers had a very busy first part of the year with the events in January and February this year, but it really gave them the opportunity to prove their worth as a broker and how important a broker is in these times of crisis.
“As we all experienced after the Canterbury earthquakes, who was more important to the people of Christchurch after the earthquakes – was it their lawyer, was it their accountant, or was it their insurance broker? Of course, it was their insurance broker. And we’re a very undervalued part of the economy, in my opinion.”
For the CEO, the broker’s remit has become a lot wider than just arranging cover.
“We very much take the view of Steadfast that it’s much more about understanding the client’s risks than it is about selling insurance, and selling insurance should be a byproduct of good risk management,” he said.
“Historically, insurance brokers have had a good opportunity to just be literally an insurance broker. Now we need to step up to also become risk managers, and we’ve got a lot of services at Steadfast to support them to do that.”
In New Zealand, Australasian general insurance broker network Steadfast has 64 members. Last month, the industry giant held its NZ conference in Wellington with the theme “Paving the Way”.
“‘Paving the way’ is about creating strong foundations and a smooth roadway to get to where we want to get to,” Cousins said. “And, for us, that can be done in multiple different ways.
“We concentrated on capacity and availability of coverage, which was very much talking about, ‘Can we bring some more underwriting agencies into New Zealand over the coming years?’ We had four over here; we’ve introduced a fifth last year, Emergence, which has been doing incredibly well.”
A big focus for Cousins at the moment is bringing other specialist insurance partners into New Zealand.
“We’ve got our own Lloyd’s broker, which we are utilising more and more as placement becomes more difficult to New Zealand… What’s the best way to use those markets more effectively in the future?” he said. “What information do we need to be providing them to get the best possible terms for our client?
“As I said, we concentrate a lot on risk management these days. So, we introduced some of our Steadfast Risk Group to our New Zealand brokers. And that’s very much around looking at that risk management process and what we could do better, and have insurance as a byproduct of good risk management.”
Cousins went on to reiterate that this year’s weather events were “a really good opportunity to prove [brokers’] worth” by supporting customers and working with insurers to get the best results quickly.
“I felt very sorry for people who are insured directly and not having that support, and I only hope they wake up to the realisation that a good insurance broker is vital, especially going forward with these weather events,” he said.
“What we had this year was traumatic; it’s not the end of it. I suspect, with climate change, we’re going to see more and more of these weather events. Hopefully they’ll be more spread out this time, but it’s inevitable that they will be coming.”
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