NIBA’s mentoring program has thrown together scores of people from across the industry, to give young up-and-comers direct access to old hands and their hard-earned wisdom. In a new regular feature, IRP meets a pair who have done just that.

by Cecilia Harris

Coming together with developed levels of experience, Kemp and Low have proven to be a seasoned pairing. Although accomplished in the South African insurance industry, Kemp’s recent move to Australia has found her in want of specific and mature guidance; Low, with almost a half-century of working knowledge, was the perfect person to bestow it. Discussing facets of the mentoring program that inspired them most, Kemp and Low show that people of all ages can benefit from industry advice and support.



My situation is probably slightly different to most. I am new to the industry in Australia. I’ve only been here for two years so my thinking in joining the program was more along the lines of being able to see outside the box.

I took the suggestion in the mentorship program handbook about keeping a journal. Each week I came back to Rob and said, “This is what we discussed last week and these are the steps that I’ve taken to work towards.” It made me focus more on what I wanted to obtain, not just running around like a headless chicken.

I have 18 years of experience in insurance from South Africa, but the industry there was very different to Australia. I am interested in compliance factors, which govern the market here. I had a lot of questions surrounding that, as well as understanding the different regulatory bodies and getting a general feel for the market.

We went through quite a bit about Australian culture. That’s why it was really good; you’re not just talking business. I’m fairly new, it’s not like I have a thousand friends who I can always ask about things. It was good to be able to also just say, “Okay, Darwin. Tell me about Darwin. What’s it all about?” Rob gave me insights like, “Well, if you’re ever out that way, these are the no-nos and these are the yes-yeses.”

You’ve got the perfect opportunity to have somebody who knows what they’re doing, who spent years in the industry and who can answer any of your questions,

What I didn’t realise in the beginning was that I was looking for somebody to get behind me and say, “Come, come. I know you can do this. You know this stuff. You can do it.” I was looking for a bit of confidence. Rob gave me perspective and took me back to the basics. I really enjoyed that.

My long-term goal was to do my Tier 1. I have 18 years’ experience but my qualifications are from South Africa and they mean nothing here. There were a couple of big decisions I needed to make and Rob helped me to figure that all out in my mind. I just went, “Right, scrap that. We’ll just pretend that the past 18 years didn’t happen and we’ll start all over again.”

I have a definite boost of confidence. That’s number one. Number two is the direction it has given me, because immigrating is hard enough, trying to fit in, let alone trying to learn an entire new culture. I really enjoyed his support. It was almost like I had stepped off the path and all he was doing was just shepherding me back onto the path I know. I just needed that boost.

There are things that we discussed that will come back to me at various times. He sort of said to me, “You want anything, you look for it, you find it, you do your thing.” That all comes back to me at different times when I’m doing something and I think, “Remember, Rob said do this, so do it.” You are being assigned a person with a wealth of knowledge, years of experience, that you would not normally have access to without this program. Where I come from, people are trained by somebody who’s just above them. They’re not given access to the top person. They’re not given access to that experience. They have to gain it on their own.

You’ve got the perfect opportunity to have somebody who knows what they’re doing, who spent years in the industry and who can answer any of your questions, and if they can’t they’ll definitely find it out for you. It’s like owning your own library.

That is the biggest advantage. The little-recognised thing about it all is that these guys are busy. Super busy. Beyond busy. They are selflessly dedicating that hour a week to train up young people. Okay, I’d love to be called young. I’m 45, I’m not young anymore.
But, they’re selflessly giving their time to train up young professionals so that we can keep this industry going. I just think that’s magnificent.



I have been involved in mentoring before, during the 1980s, but that was internal.

I’ve been involved with NIBA for years and I was asked to come on board with the mentoring program. It wasn’t anything really difficult to decide, from the point of view that I’d done that sort of thing before.

My ideas on mentoring aren’t rigid. My ideas on mentoring are basically to instil in the person confidence to work in the industry. Give them the confidence to go out and seek the information that they need to be a success. A lot of people make the mistake of telling them what they should know, rather than say, “look, if you go to this meeting, you’ll find out all about that product or if you speak to this person, he’ll be able to help you with that specialist line.” It’s about giving them contacts and the confidence to do it on their own.

Delene’s been out here for two years and was, not depressed but, she was a very confident woman in South Africa, had her own business in the insurance industry. When she got to Australia, she had no contacts, the insurance industry is completely different here and her confidence was right down.

The program says to meet once a fortnight and then follow up with goals and that sort of thing, and then tick the boxes from the point of view of how far you’ve got. I said to Delene, “Look. I’d rather see you once a week and go through what you don’t know and what you want to achieve and then from that, I’ll point you in the right direction.”

She didn’t know that Aon would sponsor her doing the insurance certificate. She didn’t know about industry forums that are held after hours. We’d go along for an hour and a half and listen to various industry people talk about specialist products. I told her how to get in contact with people and do that.

I think the NIBA program is excellent for new people in the industry, regardless of age. I don’t think age should be a barrier.

I talked to her about things in everyday Australian life. How customers perceive things. In England and America, when people ring up somebody and say, “could you do this for me,” they expect two- or three-day turnaround. In Australia, they want it the next hour. One of the things that I’ve told a lot of young people in my career is not to over-commit. Don’t say tomorrow morning or this afternoon, make sure the person understands that the commitment’s going to be at least 48 hours.

Probably after about the third meeting, Delene was soaking up information like a sponge. She went to a lot of the meetings. She got in contact with NIBA. She deals in heavy transport and liability insurance and I put her in contact with a couple of specialists guys who do that sort of thing and they all were really happy to pass on some knowledge. Over a two-month period, she really blossomed.

From my point of view, I think the NIBA program is excellent for new people in the industry, regardless of age. I don’t think age should be a barrier. I think everybody can learn. I have had people, especially women who have had children and come into the industry at 40 or 45, benefit greatly from learning through others who have been in the industry for a long while. People think mentoring programs are for young people, but I think they should broaden their horizon.

Delene and I still communicate and we talk to each other about different things in the industry. I think everybody should have an avenue to express their concerns about the industry. I’ve spoken to other people about the mentoring program and they’ve all said that they’d put their hand up again. I certainly would.