He may have been awarded the 2015 Lex McKeown Trophy, recognising a lifetime contribution to the broking profession and outstanding service to NIBA, but Marsh Practice Leader and Executive Director David Duffield doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

In fact, Duffield has just been appointed Chief Client Officer for the Asia-Pacific region at Marsh, which will see him apply the multi-disciplinary expertise he has gained over four decades’ worth of industry experience to international custom.

“My experience has come from following clients and learning about different types of industry. I’ll be out to dinner with people discussing something and they’ll say, ‘How do you know all that?’ It’s simply because I’ve been exposed to so many different industries,” Duffield says.

But even the most accomplished brokers have a beginning. And, for Duffield, it all started with a humble, 1970s’ sandwich.

“One day following end-of-school exams, my mother made me lunch – a Devon and tomato sandwich. She’d cut up little job ads and put them around the plate. One of those ads was for an insurance broker position,” Duffield recalls.

“They described the role of an insurance broker as ‘the intermediary between insurance and industry’. I thought that sounded pretty interesting. I got my hair cut, bought a suit and went to the interview. I ended up with a job at Price Forbes Sedgwick, my first employer.”

Duffield has since been with Marsh, and its predecessor companies, his entire professional life.

Backing industry

Commensurate with his reputation for long-standing allegiance, Duffield has spent the past 10 years serving the NIBA Board – as Director, and as President from 2010 to 2012.

“I’ve enjoyed being part of the industry body. We come together, not representing individual brokerages, but purely with the interest of the industry at heart,” Duffield says.

“We have a lot of discussions with APRA, Treasury and ASIC over regulatory issues. We’re always working to protect the broking industry from unnecessary regulation that adds cost, but doesn’t add any value. I think they trust and value what we say to them. We’ve earned that trust over many years.”

Forward thinking

In the time Duffield has spent backing brokers’ worth, he has also notched many victories of his own. Having been actively involved in the development of the first-ever maximum loss policy, Duffield knows a thing or two about overcoming pessimism.

“When I first came into the industry, someone would have a separate policy for their building, a separate policy for their plant, and a separate policy for their stock. If someone bought a new photocopier, they would have to ring their broker,” Duffield says. “If your client had a hundred locations, then there were 300 policies. We thought, ‘this has got to stop’.

“So we designed the maximum loss policy. I think it might have been $100 million for any one loss, any one location. When we did the first maximum loss policy, which is commonplace today, people said, ‘no, you can’t do that. That’s impossible’.”

It was this achievement that defined Duffield’s attitude towards the future: facing the impossible is the first step to overcoming it.

“If someone 10 years into the future were to look back at the way we’re doing business now, how do we minimise their laughter? We’ve got to think of something that’s not possible and make it a reality,” Duffield says.

“What can we do today, that doesn’t seem plausible, to change life in five or 10 years time? That should be the goal of brokers, generally.”

New potential

But a lot more than industry perspective has shifted in Duffield’s time. The role of broking within Australia has transformed too.

“In the early days, we were just there for a transaction. We didn’t provide much in the way of advice. Now we are business advisers in many respects. We’ve made a lot of progress in that regard,” Duffield says.

“Clients see their insurance brokers as part of their management team. We need to continue to lift our profile in that direction. That’s one of the challenges we have in attracting younger people into the industry.

“People spent a lot of time helping me develop. It’s incumbent on me to take others under my wing and help to bring them forward as well.”

David Duffield