What does the new leadership shaping NZ insurance look like?

What does the new leadership shaping NZ insurance look like? | Insurance Business New Zealand

What does the new leadership shaping NZ insurance look like?

The end of the year is often the opportunity to wipe the board clean on the past 12 months in preparation to start afresh in the New Year. Many who have endured an extended lockdown will want to put some distance between themselves and 2021 and look forward to a better year ahead.

The New Year traditionally brings with it a raft of new resolutions and, with that, change. As we approach the tail of this year, we can already see significant senior leadership changes with our regulators and a critical partner to the sector, the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

The degree of change is unprecedented and is occurring at a time when the extent of legislative and regulatory change could not be greater. We only have to reflect for a moment on pending legislation related to the EQC, insurance contracts law, climate-related disclosure standards, amendments to the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act and the conclusion of the Conduct of Financial Institutions Bill and its associated regulations.

Beyond these specifics, there are the ongoing critical issues to address in the climate, cyber and pandemic risk space.

So, what does this new leadership look like?

Samantha Barrass, an economist, replaces Rob Everett as the head of the Financial Markets Authority. She’s a Kiwi who is described as a consensus builder. She has been both poacher and game-keeper having led a sector advocacy organisation in London as well as having been chief executive of the Gibraltar financial regulator covering both prudential and conduct regulation.

She brings with her the perspectives of the regulator and the regulated and would also be very familiar with the CBL case. Interestingly, her most recent role saw her lead the establishment of a non-statutory dispute resolution service in the UK.

Christian Hawkesby, also an economist, will replace Geoff Bascand as Deputy Governor of the RBNZ. He is more well known to the banking sector than to insurers though, having worked as a private sector fund manager, he brings the experience of dual perspectives to the role.  

Change at the RBNZ coincides with several other key imminent departures. These include the head of supervision, Andy Wood, the head of financial system analysis, Toby Fiennes, and the retirement of the long-serving manager of insurance supervision Richard Dean. All leave taking many years of institutional knowledge with them. It is not clear yet what the new senior team will look like, but Richard’s replacement is Stan Christian, who is based in Auckland.

Stan held the role of RBNZ’s supervision manager and rates climate risk as a top priority. He has said that it is not enough for regulated entities to say they are aware of climate change.

“Mitigation plans need to be on the agenda for future meetings with these firms and we need to see evidence of progress against these plans,” he has said.

The implementation of the historic agreement between private insurers and the EQC for the former to manage and settle claims is barely a few months old as EQC’s chief executive, Sid Miller, and right-hand person in negotiating the arrangements, Josh Lindsay, prepare to leave.

The new partnership is a milestone achievement for New Zealand and promises much, but it is young, untested and needs to mature. We look to the new team at the top maintaining the commitment to work as constructively together with us as their predecessors.

Inevitably, there will be changes in style and emphasis as the new leaderships establish themselves. The roles of these institutions do not alter, but it is increasingly clear that many of the issues in our sector will be better addressed in the spirit of collaboration.

Some of the elements that are critical to support that aim are acting transparently, with integrity, being responsive, having an open door and being prepared to listen. Responding proportionately and predictably to material issues are also important features.    

I wish you and your families a relaxing summer break.