Insurer Zurich’s NZ boss rates distribution as key issue

Insurer Zurich’s NZ boss rates distribution as key issue | Insurance Business New Zealand

Insurer Zurich’s NZ boss rates distribution as key issue
As part of IBNZ’s series of interviews with key industry figures discussing their highlights of 2015 and expectations for 2016 here is Zurich NZ’s Kai Dwyer with his.
Zurich New Zealand’s general manager Kai Dwyer has a list of issues posing challenges for the company - and the industry as a whole - but the one that jumps out first is the distribution environment, and the prediction that comes with it.

“Specifically we’re looking very keenly at the distribution environment and in particular the significant emergence of NZbrokers and Steadfast New Zealand,” he told Insurance Business.
“As trading changes in the distribution footprint we have to adapt too.”

Dwyer said Zurich ‘do a lot of work’ with Austbrokers and Steadfast in Australia and the relationships with them were ‘very, very important’.

He added: “Because of these strengthening alliances and clusters of these organisations I think there will be a shift in focus in automating transactions and service delivery in a way that we probably haven’t seen in New Zealand.”

Continuing on that theme, Dwyer said that disruption was ‘a bit of a catchphrase’ at the moment. “But there’s no question that there is a real shift in customer expectations because of the use of data and technology and that then has an effect on how the value chain and distribution models are adapted so we can still create greater transparency.”

On a company and industry-wide level, greater underwriting discipline was crucial with conditions in the NZ market seeing the lowest interest rates in living memory, he said.

That, combined with New Zealand’s highly competitive market, continued new entrants coming in and acute natural hazard profile meant cost-managing was also a vital component.

“We have to strike the right balance between a pricing model that avoids a spiral to the bottom whilst at the same time making sure we still have the right level of investment to give the customer service that people expect, and still have the right technology and risk analytics to take the business forward.

“I think that whole challenge is broader than just New Zealand but it’s also very particular in New Zealand because of the maturity of our market.”

The other big topic was regulatory change and review, both of the insurance industry in the form of the Financial Advisers Act 2008 and Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act 2008, and of other industries needing a response regarding their insurance needs.

“It affects us and it affects our customers. So, for example, if you think of the occupational health and safety environment, that creates internal operational changes and challenges for our customers for them to achieve compliance. And it can also change their risk profiles in some ways so we have to understand and manage those as well.”

Dwyer said Zurich’s own global reach was a helpful factor for their international customers.

“Globally now as well as locally regulation is more and more important and it is quite a rapidly changing picture.

“Every single country and jurisdiction has a constant focus on regulatory change so that makes business generally more complex and affects how insurers provide seamless coverage to their international companies but it’s an area that we’re extremely active in.

“We’re in such a strong position and have capabilities to be able to keep our customers and therefore our brokers as well in a pretty safe and compliant space when it comes to servicing those customers. We’ve got a lot of tools to support those.”

With the wider Zurich company making headlines recently with reports of job cuts and large quarterly losses, Dwyer maintained there had been no significant impact to the business in New Zealand.

“From New Zealand’s perspective we’re just continuing as business as usual,” he said, adding that a ‘raft of measures’ ranging from management restructuring, a focus on reunderwriting, and exiting underperforming portfolios were on track.

Discussing Zurich’s local strengths since he came on board in April in what had been a very challenging market, Dwyer said the independent feedback he had received was reassuring.

“[It said] that our claims team is maintaining its market leading performance and is holding consistently from quarter to quarter.

“We’ve also strengthened our underwriting team who’ve come on board and done really well in terms of collaboratively delivering a team-based approach that we wanted our brokers to experience in the market.

“That combination of delivering great local underwriting service and capability and at the same time leveraging our global expertise and regional expertise has proved to be quite successful for us.”

Dwyer said the company’s community engagement was also really important, saying staff took a day of their time to work on various projects with children’s charity Variety.

“It’s been a standout year in terms of how our people have performed,” he said proudly.

His hopes for 2016 included a continued strong performance particularly in motor, financial lines and liability, which had all seen a great 2015.

“We’ve also added construction as a new product line for 2016, again, as Zurich is an absolute market leader globally in project risk, we hope to strengthen our position and capability in that area as well.”
See next issue for Kai Dwyer’s five top innovations affecting the industry.