A CEO’s pitch to attract new people to the insurance industry

Industry 'lifer' thinks it's a shame people are falling into insurance rather than choosing it

A CEO’s pitch to attract new people to the insurance industry

Diversity & Inclusion

By Terry Gangcuangco

Falling into the industry is an all-too-common scenario in insurance. If Steadfast New Zealand chief executive Neil Cousins (pictured) would have his way, though, he’d like people to intentionally consider an insurance career.

In an interview with Insurance Business, Cousins said: “I’m a bit of a lifer when it comes to insurance. I had my first job in London in insurance when I was 16, so over 33 years ago now. Insurance is all I know, and it’s all I ever envisage doing throughout my life. Like everyone, you tend to fall into insurance rather than choose it, which I think is a real shame.”

The insurance stalwart’s more than three decades in the industry includes time spent at AXA, QBE, and WTW. At Steadfast NZ, Cousins worked as broker services manager before he took on the top post. For the CEO, insurance is a “terrific” career.

“I’m very much an environmentalist, and I see myself being at the front lines of climate change being in insurance,” he said. “We can see it happening around us. What we do is incredibly important. What I’m incredibly keen on is how we get new people into the industry.

“I’m on the IBANZ (Insurance Brokers Association of New Zealand) board, and that’s something that we’re discussing in great depth – how we get out there and talk to school leavers and university leavers and encourage them into the industry.”

Chubb Life New Zealand chief executive Gail Costa, in a recent interview with Insurance Business, pointed to the importance of making people understand what the industry does, as a way to attract new colleagues. In her view, insurance should be taught in schools.

Cousins, meanwhile, went on to say: “Every time I talk to our insurance partners, I ask them, ‘How are you bringing in new people in the industry?’ The likes of NZI and Vero have done a really good job bringing in new claims people to support the events [in 2023] and then keeping those people on and re-utilising them within the business. It’s great to bring new people into the industry.”

Highlighting some of the benefits of working in insurance, Cousins cited the global nature of it and how one’s skills and know-how can be transferred into other markets.

“With a background in insurance, I suspect I could probably go work anywhere in the world if I chose to,” he said. “I moved to New Zealand 15 years ago from the UK without a job, and within a month I was fully employed. And I always knew I would be, because the experience in insurance, especially overseas experience, really supports a good career in New Zealand.

“I think it’s a great career, and I’d really encourage others to join it.”

Cousins’ pitch centres on the value that the industry brings.

He told Insurance Business: “I see what we do as highly valuable. It’s not just about when you have a big weather event, or if your house burns down, or you crash your car. That’s the obvious part of insurance – putting it right. But without insurance, everything stops.

“If tomorrow you couldn’t buy insurance for your car, would you drive it? If you couldn’t get insurance on a house, would you buy it? It’s fundamental to everything we do in a developed country. I don’t think people realise that – the importance of it.”

His message to people outside the industry is this: “If you like helping people, insurance is a really good opportunity to do that. If you’re worried about the environment and climate change, insurance is a really good place to be a pivotal part of that. If you want the opportunity to work around the world, insurance can support you to do that.

“Insurance is a great career, and the more we can become recognised for the value that we offer – not just in New Zealand but the world – the better.”

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