Life outside the office

Peter Peirano, Piranha Insurance Brokers Founder, Drag racer

Motorsport has been a passion for Peter Peirano for more than 43 years and one that shows no sign of abating.

It has taken him from drag races on the Gold Coast in the early 70s and illegal street races to NASCAR, Formula One and most motorsports in between, although his strongest passion lies in the sheer explosive power of drag racing.

Each year Peirano makes a pilgrimage to the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield USA, the spiritual home of drag racing.

One year he returned with a $100,000 race car ‘souvenir’.

“When I came home and had to tell my wife I had bought a Nitrogen Funny Car I was pretty nervous. I was white as a sheep,” he says.

His wife Heather describes drag racing as Peirano’s obsession but it is not only what he lives for; it is his livelihood.

“I came home and had to tell my wife I had bought a Nitrogen Funny Car. I was white as a sheep.”

The couple established Piranha Insurance Brokers in 1978, with their stand-out product being their Real Deal Motorsport Insurance. Piranha’s product list includes cover for all types of motorsport vehicles, race vehicle transporters and trailers.

“We developed a whole niche of motor racing products for the enthusiasts that are as mad or obsessed as we are,” Peirano says.

Drag racing is a family affair for Peirano, with his two sons Nathan and Zac in the driver’s seat and their wives and children in tow. “When you sit in the truck for 22 hours on your way to a Sydney race, you really get to talk. You have to,” Peirano says. This quality family time is one of the biggest drawcards of the sport for Peirano.

While he says he is too “old and useless” to be behind the wheel, Peirano definitely gets his hands dirty. Every Wednesday he is in the shed working on the cars with the Piranha Racing team, and is back at it all day Sunday.

His investment and continued involvement in the sport gives him an advantage when it comes to the business side of Piranha.

“We speak the language of the people we insure and understand their passion for the sport, which leads us to be more involved with their business,” Peirano says. “It’s a much closer bond between broker and client. You get to know them well at the track and get to know more about their business.”

Paul Hines, GSA Insurance Brokers Principal, Art Collector

It was as a student in the 1980s that Paul Hines saw his first Martin Sharp artwork, fell in love and began his career collecting.

Today, Hines boasts the largest private collection of Sharp artwork in the world, owning 80 pieces in total.

The collection covers all periods of the iconic Australian pop artist, who is best known for his psychedelic music posters, album covers and cartoons and reached much acclaim in the UK and US.

“The collection will stop, I think, at about 100 pieces over the next couple of years. Maybe I might start collecting Warhols if I strike it big in business,” Hines laughs.

Hines speaks passionately about Sharp. “I love music and music is a constant theme in his artworks, working with greats like Eric Clapton, Cold Chisel and Donovan, (and) creating arguably the best representation of Jimi Hendrix,” Hines says.

“Martin’s provocative use of colours and shapes has given his art both a ‘moment in time’ feel as well as maintaining a very current and fresh appeal.”

“Maybe I might start collecting Warhols if I strike it big in business.”

Hines displays the works at the GSA office where the high ceilings and staircases work perfectly with the larger pieces.

The pop art pieces provide a stark contrast to the interior of the traditional 1880s heritage building and are a talking point for many visiting the office.

“Our business is a cutting edge organisation in a traditional industry – I believe the modern art in the heritage building exemplifies what we are about to a T,” he says.

Diana Marsh, Willis Financial Lines Account Executive, Taekwondo champion

In no way shy to admit it, Diana Marsh’s passion for Taekwondo comes down to winning. Marsh first began training in India when she was 10 years old, winning her first State Championship medal a mere two months after taking up the sport.

From this moment on Marsh was “hooked on winning” and has kept the passion her whole life.

On a few occasions Marsh says she forced herself to try other things, she found herself quickly drawn back to Taekwondo.

Her commitment has paid off, with Marsh representing New Zealand twice at the Taekwondo Commonwealth Championships

She has competed many other international competitions, earning a bronze medal at the Oceania Championships in 2008 and a silver at the Korean Open Championships in 2002.

“Training around work is hard but fun. I could never just go home and watch TV.”

After meeting her husband at university Marsh encouraged him to take up the sport and they now travel and compete together internationally. It was even the high quality of Taekwondo offered in Australia that prompted the couple to move to Melbourne, joining Willis in 2007.

Marsh says Taekwondo has been an extremely positive force in her professional life. Fitting her training in around full time work, Marsh says she quickly learnt discipline and commitment.

“The mentality of getting results helps in my day-to-day work,” she says. “Training around work is hard but fun and I could never just go home and watch TV.”

Marsh’s average training session runs for two and a half hours and involves drills, pad work, sparring, high intensity fitness and flexibility training. Marsh says the discipline of attending something regularly helps in everything she does, as well as giving her the skills to multi-task projects.

Marsh commends her employer on the support they have shown towards her training and its associated travel.

The confidence that Taekwondo has brought Marsh, along with the mentality that nothing at work or in life is unachievable, is something that makes Marsh a role model for colleagues.

“Over the years, I’ve often had people at work talk to me about time management and seek tips in general to achieve a good work/life balance,” she says.

Armando Verdiglione, AR for Finance and Insurance (Brokers) Australia, Wine-maker

Verdiglione’s passion for wine began in Italy, where as a young boy he would help his grandfather produce olive oil and run a small winery.

Migrating to Australia in 1963, Verdiglione continued to produce wine for personal use but it wasn’t until 1990 that he sold his first wines, from grapes grown on Kangaroo Island.

Ten years later he joined forces with his brother in-law, Dominic Versace and together they developed their own brand, based on the Adelaide Plains.

Verdiglione says their wines are set apart by their adherence to Italian tradition, using Sangiovese fruit and open fermentation tanks, producing a unique bouquet.

Verdiglione says his work at Dominic Versace Wines is a release from his responsibilities as an authorised representative for FIA Brokers, and a way for him to relax.

“The insurance industry is very intense and you have to think all the time, while the wine industry gives a broader look on life.”

“The insurance industry is very intense and you have to think all the time, while the wine industry gives a broader look on life,” he says. “You are at the cellar door amongst the vines, you have a chat with friends, share a barbecue and a glass of wine and talk about life in general.”

Verdiglione is heavily involved throughout the wine-making process, present during maturation, fermentation and pumping, as well as helping choose which batches to release.

“It’s all about passion. I work because I enjoy what I do,” he says. “Seven days a week, who cares. I enjoy it.”

Despite the demands from wine-making and insurance, Verdiglione says both fit seamlessly into his life.

“Of course the client comes first. If there is an urgent matter or I have to attend to a claim that comes first, because I know I have a good support system and the wine business will be taken care of,” he says.

In Verdiglione’s opinion the roles complement each other, with each requiring skills such as promotion, sales and customer.

Having an interest outside of daily work activities is something that Verdiglione says is important for all brokers.

“By being mentally and physically occupied at all times you live longer and maintain a healthy life and mental attitude,” he says.

Aged 68, Verdiglione says he has another 20 years in him at least. “This is my passion. This is what I live for, so why would I want to retire?”

Karen Searle, Financial and Professional Liability Practice specialist at Marsh, Underwater photographer

When looking for an escape from her role as at Marsh Australia, Karen Searle’s preference is to grab her camera and head underwater.

Equipped with a Panasonic Lumix camera in an underwater housing, a strobe and lenses, Searle says she will capture whatever she finds.

Although she obtained Open Water Diver Certification in 2000, it is only in the last four years that Searle has actively pursued diving and in turn underwater photography.

“At first I was nervous about being underwater, but it didn’t take long when I was doing it regularly to become quite comfortable,” she says.

Searle’s interest in photography came about when a friend sold her their camera and she started experimenting.

Travelling regularly with her scuba diving club, Searle says most of her fellow divers are armed with a camera, offering a wealth of experience for her to draw on.

Searle recently returned home from a trip with the club to Indonesia, where they completed 27 dives.  For Searle the benefit of travelling with a group that loves to take photographs is that after the dive you can share what you have seen, providing a much broader experience.

Despite achieving the highest recreational diving qualification possible, Searle says he has no plans to pursue the next level of qualified instructor, preferring to keep it as a hobby rather than another job. Underwater photography allows Searle not only an escape from the office but a way to share her experiences with friends and family.

Searle’s passion for photography also holds a place in the office, with patience a highly valued skill both above and underwater. “You need patience to wait for the right shot and pick up the right angle,” she says.

“It’s also a good talking point with clients. Lots of people are curious.”