Q&A with NIBA College’s Student of the Year

She’s only been in the industry three short years but Alexandra Fox-Slater is already being noticed in high places. The Perth YP has been named NIBA College’s Student of the Year, a new QBE-sponsored award.

Fox-Slater, a Services Executive at the broking giant, topped the standings ahead of NSW pair Cristen Giles from Carriers Insurance Brokers and Megan Butchart of OAMPS.

Alexandra_Fox-Slater

Fox-Slater will receive her award at October’s NIBA Convention, with sponsor QBE covering her accommodation and travel costs. She will also receive a cash prize and a place on QBE’s Leadership Program.

Colin Fagen, Chief Executive Officer, QBE Australia and New Zealand, says: “QBE is extremely pleased to be able to support the professional development of students of our industry through this award. We congratulate Alexandra on taking out the inaugural prize and are proud to be making it possible to recognise and reward the excellent work of NIBA students.”

Insurance & Risk Professional: How long have you been in the industry and how did you find your start?

AFS: Like a lot of people in the industry, a family member suggested that I look for work in the industry. My career started three years ago with EBM Insurance Brokers in Melbourne. I had just come back to Australia after living in Russia (where I was teaching English) for a year and I asked my sister, who works at EBM, if they had any openings.

She suggested I apply for a role in Human Resources. I had been with the company about six months when the Queensland floods occurred and I moved to the RentCover division to assist with the increased workload. One thing led to another and I ended up being the Personal Assistant to the General Manager and training and supervising a team specialising in Landlords Insurance.

In October last year I made the decision to relocate back to Perth and was keen to get some experience with an international where I could have the opportunity to travel and to broaden my experience. That’s how I ended up at Aon.

IRP: What has your approach to your studies been?

AFS: Very structured. I made sure that I set realistic time frames and goals which allowed me to get the course work done thoroughly and as quickly as possible. During my first month with Aon I started my Tier 1, which I completed in December. Whilst I was on a roll I thought that I may as well finish my Diploma of Insurance Broking and get that done and dusted. I started the second block of my Diploma in February and aimed to have it completed by the end of March which, with a lot of late nights and regimented quiet weekends, I managed to do. I had to sacrifice a few nights out with friends and Friday night drinks to get it done!

I also utilised the talent and knowledge available to me at Aon to get some guidance in areas where I felt I lacked experience or expertise. I owe a massive thank you to Derek Ford, Jeremy Lea and Louise Hunt for their advice on how to approach a few of the tasks.

IRP: Why do you think professional qualifications are important at this stage of your career?

AFS: I completed a Bachelor of Communications in Public Relations before I started working in the industry and I quickly came to understand that I would need more relevant qualifications for my role, as well as professional development to provide career advancement. At EBM I completed Tier 2 in General Insurance and undertook some supervisory and management courses. When I started my current role with Aon I was new to the broking world so I wanted to complete studies that would give me knowledge and an understanding of the industry and my role. I wanted to challenge myself as well as demonstrate to my managers that I had the ability to study independently whilst successfully taking on a new role.

Professional qualifications are important at any stage of your career, especially if you desire career development and progression. The insurance industry is always changing so it is important to continually study to keep abreast of product and legislative changes and developments. Brokers are lucky that in order to maintain the professional designation of QPIB, we need to ensure that we participate in ongoing training and development despite our hectic schedules.

People have a perception of the financial services industry as being dry and dull which is really not accurate. It is a great industry for young professionals as it is a global industry and there is an abundance of employment opportunities.

IRP: What excites you most about the insurance industry?

AFS: It is rapidly changing and expanding all the time. I think that people have a perception of the financial services industry as being dry and dull which is really not accurate. It is a great industry for young professionals as it is a global industry and there is an abundance of employment opportunities. It is one of the few industries that encourage professional development and professional qualifications and actually puts its money where its mouth is.

This industry has so many opportunities for career development, progression and change. It is such a versatile industry and there are always developments and changes that present young brokers with the opportunity to prove themselves.

Young brokers have the opportunity to engage with young business owners who currently don’t see the value of employing a broker. I intend to use my time in the industry to educate both those I work with and those outside the industry to understand our value as brokers. The current social discourse and the portrayal of the industry by the media presents brokers with a challenge and also the chance to work towards changing the perception of the industry and communicating the value of brokers in a time of increasing risk and uncertainty.

IRP: What have your career highlights been so far?

AFS: I was thrilled to win Student of the Month for my Diploma studies – I didn’t expect this award as well! I also recently had the opportunity to have lunch with Aon’s CEO Steve Nevett.

I’ve been lucky to be part of a friendly and dynamic workplace where I have been able to make friends and also network in the industry.  I love that the insurance industry is so social and that we have the opportunity to meet and network with other professionals.  The great thing in Perth is that you run into industry colleagues at events and seminars or on a Friday night in the city. It has been fantastic to get involved in the industry as a committee member of the WA NIBA Young Professionals.

IRP: Who are your role models in the industry?

AFS: Inside the industry it would be my sister, Sharon Fox-Slater. I am younger than her so growing up I watched her thrive and break through the ‘glass ceiling’. She has demonstrated success and an incredible work ethic. Without her influence I probably wouldn’t have ended up in the industry.

IRP: What are your goals in insurance?

AFS: At the moment I am focusing on mastering my current role while continuing to develop professionally through education and participation in the industry. I will assess new career opportunities as they arise and decide what is best for me and my career at the time. I would like to consider opportunities to go overseas and experience the industry in different markets and cultures. I’m terrible at planning into the future but I guess in five years I hope to be a well-established and reputed broker or specialist. In the long term, I want a successful career where I have the opportunity to impart my knowledge to others and aim to become an expert in my field.

As a sign of their commitment to Australia’s most dedicated brokers, QBE is the proud sponsor of the inaugural NIBA College Student of the Year Award. 

Alexandra Fox-Slater will attend October’s NIBA Convention in Melbourne courtesy of QBE, with her rewards set to include the presentation of an official trophy; a cash prize; and a place on the QBE Leadership Program.