Q & A with Prue Willsford, CEO of ANZIIF - Part 1

Q & A with Prue Willsford, CEO of ANZIIF - Part 1 | Insurance Business New Zealand

Q & A with Prue Willsford, CEO of ANZIIF - Part 1
CEO of ANZIIF Prue Willsford discusses what led to her taking the role at Anziif and how she’s settled in, plus her overview of the New Zealand insurance industry and the skills the Kiwis can pass on to the rest of the world.

How have your first few months been in the new job compared to your previous roles?
This is quite different to any role that I’ve taken on before. It’s a CEO role and a leadership role and a really significant leadership role, not only for the organisation but also for the industry, so that’s very exciting and very challenging.

We have a wide range of stakeholders and it’s a very external role in that context. I’ve travelled to New Zealand and China while obviously getting to know every inch of our internal business as well. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity and I’ve certainly dived in and enjoyed it immensely.

What made you want to take on the role at ANZIIF?
I was just starting to think about my next step, I had four options on my list – one of which was a tram driver cause I’ve always wanted to be a tram driver – but I was really looking for a CEO role of this sort of size of organisation.

What I found attractive was we’re quite a small group of people, but our impact is quite significant across the whole Asia Pacific region in terms of growing the professionalism and education standards across insurance and risk services.

I’ve been working in financial services for 25 years in a whole variety of roles, ranging from finance to product management in both insurance and superannuation retirement income and investment products and have also spent the last six years working with Victoria University.

I’ve had a lifelong interest in education and also a lifelong interest in community service so this role brought together a real unique combination of financial services, education and community services. For me it really felt like the stars were aligned when this role became available.

You recently visited New Zealand – what did you hope to achieve during the visit and did you achieve it?
I was aiming to speak to as many people as I could across a whole range of aspects in the industry so I met with IBANZ, ICNZ, brokers, health insurers, general insurers, our New Zealand staff and some loss adjusters.

That was very helpful and gave me a wonderful overview of the particular complexities of the New Zealand market and also the depth of our fantastic partnerships that we have over there.

I aim to be there 4-6 times a year at least. Our fantastic member advisory board is a wonderful cross section of senior people across the industry and they provide me with a very direct line into the New Zealand market, so I will be there both physically and through those connections.

What's your overview of the NZ industry?
It’s a very vibrant industry, and there’s lots of change occurring, like insurance globally, it has similarities and differences and many things that are particularly unique.

I was very interested in the regulatory structures in New Zealand and how products are regulated and then what that actually means in terms of consumer take up of different kinds of products.

A great example of that is the health insurance industry, Australia has a very regulated health insurance industry and that drives consumer behaviour in a particular way whereas New Zealand of course doesn’t have the same regulatory drivers and take up of health insurance is much lower particularly in the younger age groups.

It’s a really key product in terms of supporting the economy and supporting a vibrant healthcare system for the entire community so that was a very interesting area in understanding how that plays out with consumers.

A great topic with New Zealand is its role in terms of natural disasters. I was particularly interested to hear about the tail end of dealing with claims – and what that’s meant in terms of growing the skills in New Zealand – and how creatively organisations have staffed up and staffed down in terms of dealing with those particular types of incidences.

Read Part 2 in Wednesday's Insurance Business newsletter.