Higgins stepped into the role of acting CEO earlier in July while the insurer searched for a new leader, and has now been confirmed for the role effective immediately. Smeaton will be taking up the role of Chief Operating Officer - Insurance in Brisbane, Australia.
Higgins was formerly the CFO of Suncorp New Zealand, and had previously held the role of Executive General Manager, Claims. He was a chartered accountant before joining Suncorp, specialising in audit and forensic accounting.
Read more: Suncorp New Zealand announces CEO departure
Commenting on the appointment, Suncorp Group CEO Steve Johnston said that Higgins was a “highly experienced financial services executive” with a strong understanding of the New Zealand insurance market.
“Jimmy has been a valuable member of Suncorp’s leadership team for many years and has made a strong contribution to the operational and financial strength of our New Zealand business,” Johnston said.
“Since joining the Group in 2008, he has worked across many aspects of our insurance businesses and has been instrumental in leading our response for some of the worst natural events in our history, including the devastating Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes and 2011 Queensland floods.
“I’m confident Jimmy’s extensive insurance experience and contribution to wider industry position him well to build on the strong momentum in our New Zealand business.”
David Flacks, Chair of Suncorp’s New Zealand Boards praised the appointment of an internal candidate to the role of CEO, saying it demonstrated the strength of talent in Suncorp’s team.
“In what has been a year like no other, Jimmy’s leadership, experience and knowledge of the business have been real assets and will enable Suncorp to continuously improve the experience and outcomes it offers to customers,” Flacks said.
Commenting on the future of the business, Higgins said that Suncorp New Zealand is “uniquely positioned” to help Kiwis during a time of upheaval and uncertainty.
“Suncorp New Zealand has gone from strength to strength in recent years,” he stated.
“I’m excited to lead a team of truly passionate people as we shape our business for the future and continue to deliver more for our customers and intermediary partners.”