Marsh McLennan New Zealand chief executive Josh Roach (pictured), who has worn many hats since joining the professional services group in Hong Kong in 2009, is about to take on another post at insurance broking giant Marsh. Insurance Business recently sat down with the CEO to talk about what his new role means and what is at the top of the agenda for the seasoned leader.
Appointed as Marsh Pacific chief executive effective in the New Year, Roach is succeeding Nick Harris, who is returning to London from Australia after being named Marsh UK retail CEO. Roach, who also serves as Marsh NZ chief and Marsh Fiji chair at present, will have his own homecoming later this year.
Speaking with Insurance Business, Roach revealed the planned timeline for his move back to Australia – where he was a civil engineer prior to him joining the insurance industry in 2002 – as well as what he’s taking with him from the land of the long white cloud in terms of learnings.
“After a very short three years – and it just seems a lot shorter probably because of COVID – we’ll be moving back to Sydney, with the family, hopefully in December,” he said. “The last three years have been fascinating. We’ve had to lead a business through a pandemic. Actually, I moved here between the two lockdowns in Auckland.
“The one personal lesson that I had taken away from my time here is probably resilience. That’s an attribute which I thought I had before I got here, but certainly that’s evolved a lot since I’ve been in New Zealand.
“The other thing that someone described to me before I moved here is don’t underestimate the New Zealand business in terms of the complexities in that marketplace but also the opportunities that presents. And that’s been, I think, a pretty important lesson and understanding for me, too, while I’ve been here.”
This year alone, the back-to-back Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle had provided some big lessons for the insurance industry.
Roach said: “It was really interesting, because earthquake in New Zealand is the principal focus for a lot of customers, and quite rightly so. And the insurance market, as a whole, has been very much focussed on solving for seismic risk. To experience the weather events that we did at the beginning of this year, I think, has opened the whole industry’s eyes to the fact that climate change is not something that’s happening in the future; it’s something that’s happening today.
“And we’re living through this moment right now, and so we need to be, as an industry, adapting and evolving to be solving for a much broader range of climate change exposures in New Zealand – and flood is a classic example of that – as opposed to just sort of keeping the blinkers on and considering only seismic risk as the key exposure to our clients here in New Zealand.”
For the business leader – whose upcoming remit as Pacific CEO will span Marsh’s operations in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea – having a real understanding of what’s happening amid a changing risk landscape is key, with the brokerage and its parent Marsh McLennan keen to leverage their wealth of knowledge and expertise.
“I’m really excited about continuing to make an impact for our clients, being there in the moments that matter for them, and continuing to help them solve for their most complex challenges,” Roach told Insurance Business. “I’m really excited about that opportunity for us.
“I think we’re really well positioned with our size and our scale to be bringing unique insights to our customers on the ground and harnessing the best of Marsh and Marsh McLennan and delivering that to the local level. And that’s important, because in this ever-evolving risk landscape, understanding truly what is happening in your industry, how the insurance market is viewing your industry, and supporting decision-making with data and analytics, I think, is really important.
“And because of our scale, we have the largest pool of available data globally that we can use and bring down to the local level. I think that’s really exciting.”
Size-wise, Marsh is poised to become even bigger in the Pacific region. In August, it was announced that the company was acquiring Honan Insurance Group, subject to regulatory approvals. Headquartered in Melbourne, Honan has offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Newcastle, Auckland, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.
“To be able to bring that organisation, when that transaction completes, into Marsh is going to be a huge benefit for us going forward,” Roach said.
Meanwhile, another area that excites the broking stalwart is the talent aspect of the business.
The CEO said: “I really enjoy attracting and retaining talent – it’s kind of where I get my buzz from… Going forward into the new role, continuing to seek out the best talent that we can find is going to be a really, really important focus for me.
“And it’s really more important off the back of the evolving risk landscape, and so making sure that we’ve got colleagues who are capable and experienced enough to be able to solve for these issues for our customers is really important, and not just fishing in the same pond all the time, either.”
Additionally, the brokerage is “a huge believer of growing our own,” Roach said, and so constantly building a diverse pipeline of talent will be among his priorities as well.
For now, though, the focus will be on making sure the business is not disrupted by the imminent change in leadership.
“What’s at the top of the agenda for me right now, and it will continue into January, is ensuring a seamless transition,” Roach told Insurance Business. “I think that’s really, really, really important – making sure that our clients and our colleagues are best served in this brief moment of change. And then as the gun fires on the first of January, ensuring that we accelerate our growth and our leadership in this market in the insurance industry.”
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