The 2014 NIBA Broker of the Year is still reeling after returning from his prize trip to the US, an experience that delivered professional insights, thought provoking forums and overwhelming hospitality from award sponsor Zurich.

Last year, InterRisk Managing Principal John Mutton was awarded Broker of the Year at the NIBA Convention. The award came alongside a trip to the US to attend the PGA Zurich Classic golf tournament, as well as a range of business forums, networking events and philanthropic activities.

“It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Mutton says of the trip that he shared with his wife, Suzanne. “Once we were dropped off at the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, we both knew it was going to be something pretty special. We got to our room and there was a hand-written welcome note from one of the Zurich executives, Joe Murphy, who looked after us through our stay.”

John Mutton

John Mutton

Once in New Orleans, Mutton networked with delegates from all over the world at the Zurich PGA Golf tournament.

The Zurich-led business forums gave Mutton the opportunity to hear speakers, including former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CEO Zurich North America Mike Foley, and baseball dignitary and Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane.

The business side of things also included discussions on technology, which Mutton found particularly interesting and valuable. “The business sessions were fantastic. Also of interest was a session on big data, which opened my eyes up to what can be achieved when smart people collaborate to a common objective,” Mutton says.

Mutton was invited to join the not-for-profit St. Bernard’s Project on a clean-up expedition to help re-build homes for those in need. John and Suzanne were bussed to the suburb of St Bernard that had been affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Suzanne and I were part of a gang of 10 who went into a small shotgun house. We were cutting the skirting board and beading for the whole house. Power was supplied by generator which was only enough to power the circular saw we used,” Mutton explains. “A storm came through and the house was so dark that we were literally doing our handiwork via the torch app on our smartphones.

“It was a surreal experience. This gave us a small insight into what people had experienced in terms of the absolute devastation – it also gave us a wonderful feeling of giving something back. It truly was a highlight of the trip.”

This year’s Broker of the Year will be announced at the NIBA Convention in Melbourne on 7 September. The finalists are made up of the five regional award champions and the winner will be awarded a travel opportunity valued at approximately $20,000.

Attesting to the unique and invaluable encounters he experienced on the trip, Mutton expresses his gratitude for being awarded the prize. “I was humbled to be awarded the NIBA Broker of the Year Award for 2014. The nomination and selection process was a career highlight,” Mutton says.

“Now that Suzanne and I have lived the prize, I can also say the trip was a professional and personal highlight that we will never forget.”

Career head-start

Adele May

Adele May

Meanwhile, for Adele May, winning last year’s Warren Tickle Memorial Award was truly a champagne affair.

As part of her Vero-sponsored prize, the Willis broker was flown to the UK to meet with senior industry figures and work alongside her international contemporaries.

“I was very lucky to be able to have a bottle of champagne with the CEO of Swiss Re, UK and Ireland, Russell Higginbotham,” May says. “We went to the top of the Gherkin as the sun was setting. It was absolutely lovely. Swiss Re also took me out for dinner. I was very lucky to be able to experience that.”

Apart from being swept off her feet from the generous hospitality shown by her hosts, May was delighted to be able to spend time with her British counterparts. “I went and spent some time with the Willis Insolvency Team in Birmingham,” May says.

“I spent two days with them learning about how insolvency works in the UK, how they service their clients, how they deal with insurers, pretty much comparing apple for apple. As much as I learnt from them, they also learnt from me as well, so that was a fantastic opportunity.”

Further to professional development, May also grew her network through connecting with industry leaders. “I actually spent the whole day with CEO of Willis Reinsurance Australia Cameron Green from the Sydney office, who I had never met through my five years of working with Willis. The next time I go to Sydney I know that I am definitely going to swing around the other side of the office and see him,” May says. “It’s good to have those relationships with people because you never know when you will need them.”

Following her whirlwind tour of the Willis and Lloyd’s offices in London, May has returned home with newfound strengths and goals for her future within the industry.

“I think I’ve always had confidence in dealing with people, but I think my confidence with underwriters has definitely increased. I was dealing with senior underwriters over in London, which I would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise,” May says.

“I think I still want to work in insolvency, but I want to branch out into developing the insolvency world in Brisbane, or in Australia, obviously with the help of Willis. Also, reaching out to new prospects – I’ve never been a part of that. I’ve always been in the background. I want to be involved in the acquisition of new business.”

This year’s Warren Tickle Memorial Award winner will be announced at the NIBA Convention in Melbourne on 7 September. The victor will be selected from the pool of regional YP of the Year winners, and will be prized with an overseas trip similar to May’s, valued at approximately $10,000.

Although May is still pinching herself following her jet-setting expedition, she remains grounded regarding what she has gained from the once-in-a-lifetime experience. “What I learnt, I’ll never forget it. I have definitely grown as an account executive as a result.”