Esteemed judges have deemed him 2014’s best broker. So what is it that makes Melbourne’s John Mutton tick?

by Chelsea Wallis

Chelsea Wallis: Tell us about your reaction to winning the award.

John Mutton: I was surprised, humbled and proud to have even made it as a finalist at state level. Winning the state award was fantastic. I was actually on holiday in the US when the Broker of the Year announcement was made. I didn’t have a speech, because I didn’t expect to win.

There are a lot of good brokers out there. The other finalists are all highly capable professionals who have a number of achievements. I was dumbfounded when I won. But winning was a very special thing.

CW: Would you encourage others to get involved in the awards?

JM: I would. I was independently nominated, and I was fairly reluctant at the start. But then I thought it would be fairly good PR for InterRISK. If nothing else, we get some free advertising – that was one of the main reasons I went through with it.

Then once you’ve been nominated, you go to clients and other people to get references to support your nomination, which is pretty confronting because you’re asking people to write about you and you don’t know what they’re going to say.  But the support I had was fantastic. The whole process was great. It’s brought me closer to a couple of my clients – it’s been a great experience.

CW: What are some other highlights of your broking career?

JM: The main one was a long time ago. I transferred to Mildura to work for NZI, and I inherited a claim that had been going on for some time. I had a cheque on my desk that I was to take out to the claimant, around $7000–$8000. I got out there and realised she was on struggle street.

I went back to the office and did my homework, and realised that my predecessor had sold her the cheap and cheerful basic policy that only gave her indemnity value for what she had damaged through a storm. I made a few calls and a week later I went out with a cheque for $22,000 – we basically replaced everything.

It wasn’t a lot of money to NZI but it was a lot to her, and I’d say that was probably a life-changing moment from her point of view. I’ve been involved in claims involving tens of millions of dollars, but the look on her face I’ll never forget.

CW: What does professionalism mean to you in terms of broking?

JM: It’s the basic stuff, making a promise and delivering on it. It’s also being realistic. Personally, I find there’s nothing more frustrating than someone who under-promises to over-deliver. We ensure we set a realistic expectation that we should be able to achieve. That way the client has no surprises, which is a big part of it as well.

CW: Why is it important to the future of the industry for brokers to pursue professionalism?

JM: If we stand still and don’t improve, our role in the insurance value chain will just diminish because of what’s happening online.

Ten years ago, people said the internet would only have an impact on domestic insurance – the easy stuff. Fast forward 10 years and you can now buy commercial insurance freely online from a number of sources, not just your fish and chip shop business but major businesses. The reach and appetite of direct or online insurers will only continue to grow.

A broker needs to add value, and being professional is part of that.

CW: Do you have any advice for the rest of the broking industry?

JM: Try to give something back. I’ve got my charity interests, especially my work with the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre, which is personal as much as professional.

If we stand still and don’t improve, our role in insurance will diminish because of what’s happening online.

But I also sit on the ANZIIF faculty as a subject matter expert assisting students with exams and assignments. I get paid to do it, but I donate all that money back to charity. What makes giving back so special is that it’s easier not to do it. I firmly believe that if you’re in a position to, it is a good thing to ensure you put something back in.

As his prize, Mutton has won an all-expenses paid business development trip to the US, valued at $20,000.