Incoming NIBA President Tim Wedlock would be no stranger to those in broking. He’s been Vice President for a couple of years and on the association’s divisional committee for many more. Meanwhile, he’s also running a successful business in Austbrokers AEI Group. He talks to Insurance Adviser about his passion for the broking profession and what he wants to achieve as President.

Insurance Adviser: You must be one of a minority of brokers who didn’t just ‘fall into’ insurance. What was your journey?

Tim Wedlock: I am pleased to confirm I didn’t fall into insurance. I was recommended it by my uncle, Stephen Bennett (who is also a NIBA mentor). I was going to attend university and follow in my father’s footsteps with a career in science. But I was swayed by my uncle who was heavily involved in the insurance industry and was telling me all about it. So I wrote off to five different insurance companies, went in for an interview and the rest is history!

My first job was with GRE Insurance, which was eventually bought by Zurich. I was fortunate to get a position in the reinsurance department and I found that really interesting and stimulating.

After two years working for GRE, my uncle, a founding director of AEI, asked if I wanted to interview with his company because they were looking for a junior insurance broker. I went for the interview and got the job; and here we are 30 years later.

Trucking is a speciality for us due to a transport and logistics firm being one of our earliest clients when AEI was formed back in 1983, and from there things evolved.

We are extremely proud of our rich history and we’re pleased to also be part of the Austbrokers network from the late 80s.

IA: You’re a big sports fan, having played rugby for years and basketball as well. What did you learn from those sports that you apply to other aspects of your life and career?

TW: I thoroughly enjoyed rugby when I was younger. I played for 14 years with one club. There are a lot of things that rugby taught me that helped me in business decisions today, for example, team spirit/culture. Trying to get the right team and the right culture is, to me, what allows you to achieve your goals and gets you to the Grand Final.

At AEI, I’m proud of the partners working with me (they too have sporting backgrounds). Together we try and make sure we continue to set goals and align ourselves with some of the values we learnt playing… sport.

I think that is the same with NIBA. It’s getting together to work out what the end goal is, and then working as a team to ensure you achieve them.

IA: You’ve had a long involvement with NIBA. You’ve been on the board for six years and before that on the divisional committee for several years. Now you’re going to be President. Why has NIBA been important to you, and why should it be important to brokers?

TW: Without a doubt, NIBA is the voice of insurance brokers throughout Australia. And those involved with NIBA… already fully understand and appreciate what NIBA does for brokers.

For example, at the moment, if it wasn’t for what NIBA has achieved with education and professionalism over the last 30 years, given the current review of financial services, we’d be in a much worse position. It’s getting that message out so brokers around Australia appreciate and know what we do and get behind us. We can’t be here without them.

Unfortunately, I know a lot of people out there in the broking world do not understand exactly how much NIBA is doing in being that voice. And that is something that we need to improve on as a board. That includes the wider community.

Over time we’ve also seen the evolution of clusters so there has been change in the footprint of what broking looks like, so it’s good to have AIMS and Steadfast on our national board now. With our international broking partners and clusters now on the board, understanding our direction and our own vision and purpose has been key.

I want NIBA to maintain its relevance and for brokers to understand and appreciate what it does because without NIBA, we would be in a world of hurt …

The next step is how we engage our divisional committees to help us get the message out there. I think it is important to get those involved with NIBA to understand what we stand for and spread the word to educate some of the others who might not appreciate what we do – that’s half the battle.

NIBA‘s past CEOs and Presidents have done incredible work. Now we have a new team coming through and we need to harness all that, while also making sure we are still relevant, on top of our own game and that we understand the needs of brokers across Australia. NIBA needs to have that national footprint – to make sure we’re seen for what we stand for.

IA: In your opinion, what are the key issues facing industry at the moment?

TW: The topics of professionalism, education and careers in insurance are very close to my heart.

NIBA’s partnership with ANZIIF, I believe is a… solid move for the association. Now we need to do the work with ANZIIF to make sure that the education pathway to a Diploma is accepted and understood.

I would also like to raise awareness of insurance as a career. At the moment, people don’t leave school seeking a career in insurance. Accounting or law seem to be what business graduates want to get into – why not insurance?

This includes making sure that at a university level we can see more courses around insurance. When a school leaver chooses to study business management, they should be able to see insurance as a pathway, not just accounting or law.

If that happens, then hopefully, more people will see that a career as an insurance professional is there. I believe more awareness on these things will help us with where we are going.

Then there’s the regulatory piece. The government is starting to focus its sights on financial services, including insurance. There are also various regulatory reforms happening in different states, for example, in NSW alone, there are the proposed reforms to the Home Building Compensation Fund, the Emergency Services Levy, CTP and workers compensation. NIBA will, in all these matters, stand up to help members and be their voice.

IA: Recently, there has also been a lot of commentary around changing the community’s perception of insurance brokers by referring to them as ‘risk advisers’ not brokers. What’s your take on that?

TW: Our role is definitely changing to be an all-round risk adviser but at the heart we are brokers. At the moment, it is the National ‘Insurance Brokers’ Association. I’m an insurance broker and I’m proud to be an insurance broker.

Having said that, if we want to survive, we need to make sure that we are doing more than just being price negotiators and policy providers. We really have to be overarching service professionals.

But the title “insurance broker”, for me, at the moment, is still relevant.

IA: What do hope to achieve as President of NIBA?

TW: First, I would like to thank Graham Stevens, our current President, who has done an outstanding job.

I see my role as working with our international partners and cluster groups to make sure we have our message right; and also working with CEO Dallas Booth and the rest of the board and our state committees on ways of promoting our message for the future.

Without a doubt, NIBA is the voice of insurance brokers throughout Australia… it’s getting that message out so brokers around Australia… get behind us.

As part of this, I would like us to work more with our insurer partners to promote the role that NIBA plays as well. There is so much more we could be doing together – working with all our partners, including the ICA – to continue our journey as one industry, especially when it comes to the roles we all have to play… and in what we stand for.

I want to ensure too that as things change, we change with them; and that we are in a better position to continue to be the voice of our people and stand up for them when we need to. I want NIBA to maintain its relevance and for brokers to understand and appreciate what it does because without NIBA, we would be in a world of hurt, and all of our underwriting partners know that.

As NIBA, we also have the Convention each year, so I’m keen to make sure that looks right and that it provides a valuable professional development and networking opportunity for our brokers.

Further, as I’ve already mentioned, I would like to raise our career opportunities and professionalism, so that insurance brokers are respected by the community. If we can see the day when more people are choosing insurance as a career, as opposed to falling into it, that would be a great achievement.

In fact, I know how much insurance means to people in the real world in their time of need and if it weren’t for the insurance companies and brokers in a time of disaster many people would be in a worse position. So, in that sense, it frustrates me that the community’s view of insurance is still not up there with somebody that you can respect as a true professional. That is something that I want to change.

I’m really looking forward to the challenges ahead and I’m very passionate about our industry.