Talent, technology and Towers Watson

Talent, technology and Towers Watson | Insurance Business

Talent, technology and Towers Watson
As part of IBNZ’s series of interviews with key industry figures discussing their highlights of 2015 and expectations for 2016 here is Marsh’s Grant Milne and Willis’ Peter Lowe with theirs.
Talent – or the lack of it – is becoming a huge challenge for the industry as a whole, according to two New Zealand broker CEOs.

Grant Milne of Marsh and Peter Lowe of Willis have both told Insurance Business that more needs to be done to attract quality employees to address the shortage.

Milne said: “Perhaps the lack of quality training over the past few years is starting to show – especially as some of the grey hair is retiring from the industry.”

Lowe said the key was education.

“We must promote our industry in the tertiary sector and attract quality graduates to our industry.

“We are one of the few industries that allows for transfer of talent around the world and we must promote this.”

He added that it wasn’t just potential new staff that needed education: “We must educate the public on the value we provide to New Zealand. In fact, insurance provides more economic benefit to the country than the banking industry.”

Other industry-wide challenges, said Milne, included that of new technology, which at the same time also presented vital tools for improving business.

“Being able to reinvent ourselves as technology takes hold and disruption from non-traditional spaces such as Google becomes more of the norm [is one of the biggest challenges].”

However he said: “Technology is such an important tool for us. How we use it to accumulate knowledge of our clients, their industries and the trends and emerging risks from their claims and risk data has become so vital for us to differentiate.

“I see this as something that has had, and will continue to have, a big and positive impact for our business internally and externally.”

Lowe said Willis was developing new client facing technology that would enable its clients to have a vastly improved insurance renewal experience.

A bigger impact for Willis though was the global merger of the company with Towers Watson.

“[It] will be a game changer,” he said. “It will allow us to provide additional services to our New Zealand clients that they do not access at the moment.”

Lowe said he hoped the new offerings would spark continued growth in the New Year, which would coincide with a softening of insurance rates.

“The pricing is now back to pre-earthquake,” he said, describing it as a highlight of 2015. “A steadying of the insurance rates will be welcome.”

Grant Milne said there was a general hope for a stabilised insurance market at Marsh.

“The current situation is not a sustainable one long term,” he said. “That said, we are pleased to be getting really great results for our clients with pricing and coverage.

“With that there are more opportunities to be innovative with product and coverage solutions, particularly in our specialty areas, which we will continue to focus on in 2016.”

One such area was cyber, with Milne describing Marsh’s efforts as a real highlight of the past year.

“The work we have done around cyber, as an emerging risk, and the forums we have been able to get in front of to build out the awareness of this new risk.”

Another highlight for Peter Lowe was: “The emergence of new insurance capacity in New Zealand, in a very crowded market place.”

The state of the economy was a big issue for Willis, he said: “The slowing down of the economy will increase cost pressure on our clients and we must be able to address this issue.
“The low milk prices will continue to affect our rural economy and this will have a knock on effect to our export economy.”

The burning issue for Marsh this year, Milne said, was around costs: “The continual pressure to contain costs is a biggie for everyone so operational efficiencies and looking for smarter ways to deliver better solutions for customers sits right up there as a high priority.”