NIBA has two new directors – Piranha Insurance Brokers’ Heather Peirano and Marsh Chief Client Officer Australia Mike Hutchinson. In one sense, they could not be any different – one is from regional North Queensland and the other one is a big-city broker. But in another sense, they are same with both keen to give back to an industry that they’ve spent their whole career in.

Insurance Adviser: Welcome to the NIBA Board. What was your reaction to being invited to be on the Board and why did you agree to becoming a director?

Heather Peirano: I was surprised and thrilled. And I said ‘yes’ because I believe that it is important to give back to the industry which has been so good to us.

I’ve been a NIBA member since we first opened our brokerage.

We are a little different. As a family-owned brokerage in Rockhampton, I collect the mail, empty the bins, etc. I can be quite outspoken and have strong opinions, so when I accepted the role on the NIBA Board, my son said: “Don’t shock them in the first meeting.” But I’ve got some ideas…

Mike Hutchinson: I was approached by David Duffield, who after many years as an active member of the Board has been appointed to the Insurance Brokers Code Compliance Committee. I was surprised by the invitation, and a bit daunted. My first thought was: “those are going to be big shoes to fill.”

I accepted because I thought it was the right thing to do and a chance to contribute more broadly to a profession that has been very good to me. Also, I see it as great learning opportunity personally.

My view of the insurance industry and broking profession is inevitably influenced by having always worked for an international broker, the same one in fact for my whole professional life. Interaction with the NIBA board, executive and membership will broaden my perspective.

Having said that, I do bring 40 years of professional experience across many different client segments and have gone through many market cycles and remember vividly what they were like. Market conditions are changing and I’d like to think that some of the experience I’ve had will help the Board’s deliberations about what issues brokers will be facing.

I’m enthusiastic about joining the Board and looking forward to making a positive contribution.

IA: WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY INTO INSURANCE?

IA: What do you hope to see NIBA achieve as an organisation representing brokers?

HP: I would like to see NIBA sell itself and the work it does better. No one is fully aware of the real value of the work that CEO Dallas Booth does behind the scenes with regulators. It doesn’t register with brokers.

The previous NIBA CEO did not come to Queensland much, and if he did, he would only go to Brisbane. But Queensland is a big state, and it would be good for brokers to see NIBA active not only in Brisbane.

I’d like to be able to spread the word about how good NIBA is and encourage all brokers to join, be involved and support the good work NIBA does.

MH: I hope to see NIBA maintain and further develop its important connections with regulators and government, so that it continues to be an effective voice representing the interests of the whole profession.

To do that, NIBA also needs to continue to be out and about communicating with and listening to its members and being receptive to their sometimes divergent views.

I think some members may not be fully aware of what NIBA’s advocacy has achieved on their behalf, but I hope the time will come when the whole insurance broking community in Australia acknowledges the value that NIBA delivers.

IA: WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY INTO INSURANCE?

IA: What do you see are the challenges that brokers currently face?

HP: In the regional areas, the most urgent challenge is staffing. Most brokers fall into the industry, and we currently don’t have a clear pathway for an insurance broking career. I’ve been talking to universities in Central Queensland about incorporating insurance as part of a tertiary course. CQIB currently provides training but people also believe they need to go to university to get a good job so we should try and tap into that.

Insurance is a good career. You can have a job in Australia and go anywhere in the world if you have the qualifications and the drive. This is something that needs to be promoted to the younger generation.

I’d like to encourage all brokers to join NIBA, be involved and support the good work NIBA does.

Another issue for regional brokers is the lack of insurers in our area. In Rockhampton, CGU is the only one with staff in the region. We are often serviced out of the North Coast.

So many insurance companies have also taken the decision-making authority away from their BDMs. BDMs now need to refer to an underwriter who is usually sitting in a capital city office and has no idea about Rockhampton – they have boxes they want to tick and if you don’t fit that box, they won’t write you. That’s frustrating.

All the insurers know my thoughts on this. Eventually they all need to come out and meet the people they deal with during the claims process so why don’t they start the relationship earlier? Insurance is all about people – it’s a people industry. It’s important that we communicate with our clients but we also need to communicate with the underwriter as well. It’s a communication circle.

The industry has seen quite a few changes and one that impacts us daily is the expectation for instant communication. We all expect that we send an email and within 30 seconds we will get an answer; and client rings wanting a response. This assumption that everything happens instantly is a problem and we need to allow more time in the communication process.

At the same time, we let our calls go to voicemail or we send an email rather than just make a phone call. Communication, despite the technology, is still not good from underwriter to broker.

MH: The key challenges are the ones that every business faces – the challenges of change. So we as brokers face changes in regulation, technology, client and colleague expectations and demographics, new competition from disruptors and, perhaps for the first time in a while, signs of changes in market conditions that will test broker capabilities.

The whole financial services sector, including insurance broking, is under scrutiny by regulators. Through NIBA, brokers have a connection into regulatory bodies which understands how they think, anticipates what they need and is proactive about addressing their concerns.

Technology increasingly enables those individuals and companies who want it to have direct access to a vast range of information about insurance and risk issues from many sources, potentially challenging the traditional role of a broker. It is now more important than ever that brokers be the best source of relevant and timely information and advice, deliver better outcomes and be easier for clients to do business with than alternative channels.

NIBA needs to continue to be out and about communicating with and listening to its members and being receptive to their sometimes divergent views.

Demographic change is anissue. The future of the industry depends on recruiting and retaining young people and other new entrants from a diversity of backgrounds and communities that make up the society we live in. I know that some NIBA members are actively promoting the profession to secondary schools and tertiary institutions and that is so important. I heard Tim Wedlock say recently that when he talks to students about considering broking as a career he describes it as a profession that provides opportunities to “Go Anywhere, Do Anything”. I think that captures it perfectly.

I think the NIBA Young Professionals initiative is a great vehicle for attracting talent. As an industry, we also need to make sure they have opportunity to be involved with NIBA early in their career.

IA: What does NIBA mean to you?

HP: I believe associations like NIBA start off small, but if the industry supports them, they can become an important vehicle for change and a way to control our destiny. And if we don’t control what happens in our industry, the government will step in and take it out of our power. We don’t want that.

The insurance industry is constantly changing. Having been in the industry for over 30 years now, I would say the secret is to be true to your values. It’s important that whatever decision we make at NIBA, we stick by it. If we focus on creating good outcomes for both the industry and its customers, we can go home knowing we’ve done our best.

MH: To me, NIBA is the representative face of the insurance broking profession to government, business and the community. NIBA is a tremendous organisation. It plays an important role navigating the increasingly complex regulatory and economic environment we all face as brokers, and ultimately that also benefits the clients we serve.