The New Zealand Underwriting Agencies Council (NZUAC) was launched earlier this year, and according to Chair of Star Underwriting Agents John Baker, one of its key purposes will be to ensure that underwriters are factored into any insurance legislation rolled out by the government.
New Zealand’s pool of insurers is currently small, though it has been increasingly broadening with the entry of new, niche underwriting agents over the past several years. However, Baker says that until recently, underwriters had no formal representative body within New Zealand, and this has often been a disadvantage when it comes to regulatory changes.
He says the formation of NZUAC will help promote the interests of members within the wider insurance sector and before government and regulators, and will ensure that they are factored into any key regulatory decisions.
“For the last five years, a number of underwriting agents in New Zealand have been part of the Australian Underwriting Agencies Council,” Baker told Insurance Business.
“However, the Australians worked out that New Zealand regulations weren’t always compatible with the Australian regulations, and there was quite a difference between the two countries and their approaches, and so a steering committee was set up to form the New Zealand Underwriting Agencies Council (NZUAC).”
“Underwriting agents have always been here, but there haven’t been very many of them,” he explained. “Currently we have around 35, and they represent about 10% of the insurance market. The biggest problem is that when insurance legislation is passed, it doesn’t reflect the fact that underwriting agents exist, and in our business, we often end up having to go to barristers and get legal opinions just to understand what the legislation wants to achieve, and how we can ensure that we’re complying.”
Aside from representing underwriters before government and regulators, NZUAC will also encourage the training and professional development of its members, and will be setting out a list of guidelines to help maintain a good reputation and a high level of trust.
“My own role has been to get the organisation started as an entity, and to get the 35 agents together and sign up to it,” Baker said. “Eventually it will be able to identify those who qualify as underwriting agents, and it will be a vehicle for them to share their knowledge of the area. As an organisation we’ll monitor, and where necessary, develop positions on insurance regulation, as well as engage in matters that affect the wellbeing of the underwriting agency industry.”