NZbrokers chief executive Jo Mason (pictured) had counted the days – all 1,296 of them – before the network was able to gather again for its three-day conference this month, and here the self-confessed insurance lover looks back at the event and what it means for the broker collective moving forward.
“The theme of the conference was, ‘It starts with us’, and that came from one of our members,” Mason shared with Insurance Business. “She said, ‘We’ve had a lot of future-this and future-that, and, really, if we want to change, it starts with us’, and I thought that’s a really great theme. It probably got amplified even further because of the pandemic, because it really was important that people felt that they had a little bit more control of their lives and their businesses and the customer experience again.
“So, what I did in my opening was talk about how life is full of choices – how we have to make choices from the time we become adult, right through our lives, and we can decide how we react to certain situations, or not react. We can decide who we marry, who we don’t marry, what jobs we do, whether we’re going to go overseas – all of that stuff is all down to us, and the results of the choices that we make.”
The CEO continued: “So, the whole idea of the theme was, in order for us to change and to really think about what we’re doing, it starts with the choices that we make. So, all of the speakers were around those choices, and those speakers had made choices in their lives – some of them good, some of them not so good – that led them to where they are today.”
Speakers included wellbeing in business champion and former Xero New Zealand managing director Craig Hudson, leadership and emotional intelligence programmes facilitator Dr Paul Wood, nanotechnologist and materials engineer Dr Michelle Dickinson, and motivational speaker Murray Thom. They spoke about self-discovery, how the choices we make impact our lives, the future of education and work innovation, and how opportunities whisper instead of shouting.
“We also wanted quite an interactive conference,” noted Mason. “We didn’t want brokers just sitting there being talked at, so we had a speed dating session where they could choose seven different sessions for 15 minutes each, and we also had breakout sessions.”
For the ‘speed dating’, brokers had 14 options to choose from, while the 25-minute breakout sessions spanned topics like regulation, climate-related risks and opportunities, cyber cover, business interruption, inflation, and organic growth. Of these, said Mason, regulation and climate change remained the top areas of interest.
Inspiration amid the issues
Lifting the lid on “the two big ones,” the NZbrokers chief highlighted: “We’re almost there [in terms of regulation], but members also understand that there’s more coming down the line at them. There’s CoFI (Conduct of Financial Institutions regime), and they don’t know yet necessarily how that’s going to affect them.
“After March 15, they’ve got to put everything they’ve learned into practice, they’ve got to be qualified, they’ve got to have all their ducks in a row, they’re going to have their offices all ready for any approach from the FMA (Financial Markets Authority) or the regulator. So, they’re always very interested in anything like that, and the breakouts were really good for that.”
While the November gathering put a spotlight on the big issues facing the industry today, though, Mason stressed that it was more about the brokers and how they were feeling.
“It was all about getting together, fellowship, getting to see each other again, and looking after each other after a pandemic,” she told Insurance Business.
“One of the things we did that was really unique, because it was all about people making choices in their lives and what that means, was we got the CEOs of our diamond and platinum sponsors to get up and talk, in a TED Talk style, about themselves – not about their businesses – and the decisions they’ve made and how they got where they got to today.”
Those who took the stage to inspire further were Ando chief executive John Lyon, NZI executive general manager Garry Taylor, Suncorp New Zealand chief customer officer Campbell Mitchell, Zurich New Zealand regional manager Brett Wainhouse, and QBE’s New Zealand & Pacific CEO and managing director Declan Moore.
Value in broking advice
Moving forward and re-energised from the conference, Mason believes there will be a greater focus on consumer education and broker relationships in 2023.
She said: “I honestly think next year is about getting clients to understand what the effect of climate change on insurance will mean for them. And risk mitigation in the face of climate change, I think, is a big one for next year. Insurers have put up their premiums significantly in the house book, so we have to educate our clients on why that’s happened.
“If you’re a good broker, you’re having those relationships with your clients and you’re having conversations all the time. It’s really getting them to understand that [climate change] isn’t something that’s going to happen in five years. This is happening now, and there’s reasons why the insurers need to do what they’re doing.”
Based on client growth, Mason is of the view that brokers are doing a good job on this front so far.
“Early indicators are that we are not just keeping our clients but we’re growing our client base, because they’re looking for advice,” she pointed out. “Because of everything that’s going on – the change to the EQC (Earthquake Commission) cap, all the increases that are going through, and all the complexity in this world today – they’re looking for someone who can give them advice.
“So, we’re finding that we’re actually growing in that area, despite the fact that broker business is more expensive; to go direct, it’s cheaper. Clients are seeing the real value in having a broker, and we’re really pleased.”
Mason went on to tell Insurance Business: “Brokers – they are working harder than ever before. They’re incredible people. They’re just so focused on their client outcomes, and they really do care. You can see how hard they’re working and how much they care about their clients. So, it’s really great to be part of it… I love insurance. What gets me out of bed every day is knowing that we’re making a difference to people – when they need us the most we are there, and I just love that.”
Part of AUB Group, NZbrokers consists of 50 broking houses in nearly 90 locations in New Zealand.
Were you in attendance? Share your experience and takeaways from the NZbrokers conference in the comments below.