"It's always great to have a plan, and we had one"

Insurance giant lifts the lid on cyclone and flood response

"It's always great to have a plan, and we had one"

Catastrophe & Flood

By Terry Gangcuangco

It’s been revealed that general insurance giant IAG New Zealand recruited an additional 500 people not only locally but also from Australia to support the company’s response to its second and third biggest ever claims events since the earthquakes in Canterbury.

Speaking about the North Island floods and Cyclone Gabrielle, IAG NZ executive general manager for claims Wayne Tippet (pictured) said: “When it comes to managing the event itself, it’s always great to have a plan, and we had one.

“That means activating our major events response plan, which calls for rapid recruitment of additional staff. So, we’ve actively engaged our recruitment partners to support that recruitment drive that is well advanced.”

From the two events, IAG received a combined total of 51,000 claims.

Part of the response was the setting up of community hubs, two of which continue to operate today, IAG told Insurance Business. These are the ones in Auckland and Hawke’s Bay, at Sylvia Park Shopping Centre and 21 Station Street in Napier, respectively.

‘Never on this scale before’

Tippet, explaining how the insurer quickly adapted, highlighted: “We have been active and visible in our community. We’ve never had to do this on this scale before. Often it’s one community hub in one city or one town that’s been impacted. And here we’re talking about large areas of the North Island.

“So, we stood up six community hubs… which we’ve never done before. We were out in mobile campervans around various parts of our communities, in particular East Cape and in Hawke’s Bay. We’ve never done that before. And now we’re standing up more of a semi-permanent presence in the Hawke’s Bay to support that community for a longer period of time as well.”

Across its community hubs, IAG had supported around 4,000 customers by the end of June.

“So, [our response involved] rapid recruitment, making sure that our customers can contact us, and our community hubs, extending our operating hours so that people can connect and get through and get their claim lodged,” the claims EGM said.

“[There’s] a massive focus around ‘how do we support our customers with their claims’, as well as customers that are having non-weather event related claims, as well as ‘we do need to think about the next one as well’. And so ‘how do we make sure that when it rains here again, or we have an earthquake, that we’re able to respond to that as well?’”

For Tippet, the most challenging aspect of it is not knowing when the next event is going to come.

He asked rhetorically: “How do we make sure that we’re ready as we can be for the next one?”

Role in helping to develop solutions

Meanwhile, IAG has expressed its commitment towards being part of the solution amid the persistent impacts of climate change.

“As the largest general insurer in Aotearoa New Zealand, we take our role seriously helping to identify and develop solutions that keep New Zealanders safe,” IAG said in its latest Annual Snapshot.

“In response to the growing damage from flooding, in August 2023 we called for three practical, collaborative steps to be taken to lead to a real reduction in the flood risk faced by some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most exposed communities.”

The steps – which require collaboration between government, councils, and insurers – are 1) a joint government and private sector project to build a common understanding of priority flood-prone communities; 2) the implementation of a National Policy Statement to cease development in flood-prone locations; and 3) the establishment of a national programme of investment in flood protection.

IAG noted: “Since it was announced, we have worked with the government to advance this three-step plan and are pleased that step two is now being worked on by the Ministry for the Environment.”

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