Student of the Year finalists confirmed

The three finalists for NIBA College’s Student of the Year Award have been announced, with brokers from Queensland, Victoria and NSW contesting the top prize.

Samantha Forkas of Willis in Victoria, Rebecca Haines from Strathearn in NSW and Brendan Zanoni from OAMPS in Queensland are the contenders after they attained the highest levels of achievement in their studies in the 2013/2014 financial year.


The winner of the QBE-sponsored award will be announced at September’s NIBA Convention in Adelaide. As well as travel, accommodation and registration costs for all finalists being covered by QBE, the winner will also receive $1000 cash prize; a trophy; and a place on QBE’s acclaimed eQuip program.

The award celebrates the hard work and dedication of NIBA College’s top students and aims to put a spotlight firmly on developing strong pools of talent.

Tony MacRae, QBE Australia Intermediary Distribution Executive General Manager, says the industry can only have a strong future if it’s backed by capable staff. “There’s no doubt insurance is a highly specialised industry and we believe its success is built on the depth of our talent and our ability to continually attract new entrants and develop their skills,” he says.

“We believe by encouraging those entering the industry to undertake further studies and strive to produce their best work, we can help raise the professionalism of our industry, while also supporting our partners to grow and strengthen the abilities in their ranks.”

In June it was announced that QBE would also sponsor a new NIBA College Trainee of the Year Award, with the winner set to be named in August. The inaugural Student of the Year Award was won by Aon’s Alexandra Fox-Slater in 2013.

Last year’s winner, Alexandra Fox-Slater, says winning the award has been a boon for her professional reputation.

“I think all young professionals should aim for the Student of the Year award as it does provide significant advantages for career progression and the prize is very generous.”

Since winning the award, Fox-Slater has taken on a new role as a financial lines specialist with Aon.

“Having won the award was important to securing the new role as it demonstrated my commitment to learning,” she says.

The three Student of the Year finalists are profiled below.


Sam_Forkas1Samantha Forkas QPIB

Account Executive, Willis, Victoria

Your reaction to being a finalist: I was extremely proud of having the efforts in my studies recognised and being chosen as a finalist for such a significant award.

What do you attribute this success to? I feel a strong work ethic and dedication to increasing my knowledge of the industry through study has helped in my ongoing success.

Why is on-going broker education important to you personally? I have always believed ongoing education is paramount to a successful career, it ensures you are keeping up with an industry that is constantly evolving.

How important is the backing of your employer to successful education? Extremely important. Without the support of my former employer, Planned Cover, I wouldn’t have had such opportunity to develop and learn through further education. Much of my success in my studies I attribute to them.

Rebecca_HainesRebecca Haines

Account Executive, Strathearn Insurance Brokers, NSW

Your reaction to being a finalist: I was very excited. It came as a complete surprise, but I put a lot of hard work into my assignments so it was a great feeling to have my efforts rewarded.

What do you attribute this success to? A passion to succeed and to do well. And caffeine! I spent a lot of late nights and early mornings in the office working on my submissions. Goal setting and constantly revaluating my goals to make sure I was on track and focused was also very important.

Why is on-going broker education important to you personally? Our industry sees rapid change all the time so on-going education is a must for all brokers who want to succeed and stay well-informed of industry and legislative changes.

How important is the backing of your employer? Very. I had some great colleagues at Watkins Taylor Stone (where I completed my studies) who were always there to with a different outlook and to give advice and guidance when I didn’t feel as though I was on the right track. Strathearn Insurance Brokers have provided me with new challenges and I look forward to continuing my career development with them.

Brendan_ZanoniBrendan Zanoni

Account Executive, OAMPS, Queensland

Your reaction to being a finalist: Surprised and excited, I didn’t expect it at all and it was nice to be recognised. I’m very excited to attend my first NIBA Convention in September.

What do you attribute this success to? Managing my time effectively. There were a substantial amount of components to each assessment, so I needed to allocate my time early and concentrated on one element at a time.

Why is on-going broker education important to you personally? Ongoing education makes me more confident dealing with my clients, assists with my analysis and presentation skills, and increases career opportunities.

How important is the backing of your employer to successful education? OAMPS’ backing was essential, from having the right mix of staff with specialties to mentor me, to the standard of documentation we are providing, as much of the assessments were based on presentation skills as well as content.