It was in 1993 that Emma Turner (pictured) came on board at Tower Limited; now, three decades and seven roles later, the insurer’s Pacific sales and service operations manager is advising industry newcomers to learn as much as they can.
A native of Whangārei, Turner entered the insurance sector via a customer service officer position at Tower in her hometown. The opportunity came up towards the end of Turner’s contract with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Prior to joining the central bank in the early ‘90s, she lived in the UK for her overseas experience.
In 1995, Turner was presented with a claims team leader post in Auckland under Tower’s FinTel brand.
“Going from London to Whangārei is quite different,” the Tower executive told Insurance Business. “My manager drove me down to Auckland, which was lovely of him, introduced me to the claims manager, and I got an interview which landed me the job.”
Later that decade, Turner moved into a process improvement job in the firm’s head office. It was during that time, Turner said, that she gained a good overview of how insurance really worked as a business, having met colleagues from different departments as part of her remit then.
From 2004, Turner served as a business analyst, initially within the business performance unit before she took on the same designation in the Pacific team based in New Zealand.
She recalled: “What I found when I started in the Whangārei branch in the ‘90s was that I received really good guidance from knowledgeable people, so – over a decade later in 2005 – I wanted to be able to give that back, as well. It was like paying it forward – a win-win.”
Turner was referring to the opportunity to know the Pacific business more and to share what she could. Later on, when she did audit quality assurance from 2018 as part of Tower’s risk and compliance function, Turner visited the different Pacific operations along with an external auditor.
Back then, the business was known as National Pacific Insurance in Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa, while having a Tower-branded branch in Papua New Guinea. The latter was sold in 2022, leaving Tower with its present-day Pacific operations in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa.
“It was good to be on the ground across all of our Pacific locations because as much as you think you know and as much as you can communicate virtually, when you’re actually there you better understand both the successes and the challenges,” Turner said.
In 2019, the company veteran was tasked with dealing with insurance brokers for the Cook Islands in her capacity as intermediary sales coordinator, prior to being elevated to her current position.
For Turner, what worked was exposing herself to as much of the business as possible.
“Volunteer for anything even if it’s not in your area of expertise because the more variation and knowledge you have, the more help you can pay it forward to help others,” she said.
“Don’t just stick to what you know – get out there and find out about other things. Share your knowledge and be a sponge and take in as much information as you can.”
As for her choice of employer, Turner cited the importance of getting along with peers.
“The people are the biggest thing,” she told Insurance Business, “because if you’re not getting along with your colleagues, then you’re not going to have a good time. You’ve got to be able to have a bit of a laugh... I want to be able to help and, wherever I can, I will. As long as I enjoy coming to work and working with the Tower team, then I’m happy.”
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