"Insurance facilitates superheroes.”
Think about this for a moment. A statement like this immediately conjures up some pretty positive vibes. It’s easy to discount such a comment as a pithy throwaway line, but according to Richard Wyatt, Chief Underwriting Officer, Ansvar Insurance, it typifies exactly what the industry means to its customers and practitioners.
A captivated guest at the recent Celebrating Success dinner, Richard looked on as five of his colleagues humbly strode onto the stage and accepted their diplomas.
“I was very proud of them. The effort and commitment they’ve made to a career in insurance is remarkable,” said a delighted Richard. “We were very keen to support the night. We had five of our underwriting and business development team receiving diplomas.”
“It’s something we should do more of —celebrate our success. More companies across the industry should support initiatives like this.”
It’s an interesting point. Success comes in many forms and means different things to different people. For some it is intrinsically measurable — columns of numbers that, when compiled, add up to something easily recognisable as successful. But Richard sees it as something far less tangible. Success, prosperity, triumph — call it what you will — comes from something far less calculable.
Professionalism and a willingness to continually better oneself are critical in Richard’s eyes and, he believes, have a profound impact on how individuals and the industry at large are viewed.
“The public doesn’t understand the level of professionalism within the industry. Let’s be honest, it’s a distress purchase, it’s a commodity purchase,” admits Richard.
“It takes a lot of hard work and continued effort from the industry as a whole to change the perception of the public and highlight the level of professionalism that sits behind the service we provide.
“Both the general public and people in the industry need to know they’re dealing with professionals who are committed to their industry and are willing to go out of their way and do the time, get their qualifications and demonstrate their capability,” he adds.
In a career which started out in the UK and has taken him across the world, Richard has been steadfast in his belief that a professional industry can change public perception and since joining Ansvar in 2011, has found that despite the industry’s best efforts, there are still obstacles to overcome.
“I think one of the issues the industry has had is that we’ve copped a bit of a bad rap over the years and it’s one of those areas that people are suspicious about,” acknowledges Richard.
“For many people, we’re still known as a bit of a ‘small print’ industry.”
Despite some of the local quirks, Richard says his transition to the Australian market has been relatively seamless and believes that consumers should have a certain level of confidence in an industry that he regards as one of the best regulated in the world.
“We don’t make enough play of that,” he says. ”We always hear the negative stories about the industry, never so much about the positive ones where we help organisations get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Generally speaking, good news doesn’t make good copy.”
No it doesn’t. A nightly scan of the tabloid news shows won’t dig up feel-good stories of how insurance has helped a battler in distress. Something that most of the industry bemoan and have begrudgingly accepted. Something Richard believes we need to reverse.
“We’ve taken a few knocks in the media and while I don’t think we believe it, not completely at least, we need to stop and say that we’re doing a pretty good job,” he says.
INSURANCE HELPS EVERYDAY SUPERHEROES
At a recent Ansvar gathering, customers spoke of the work they did and how having adequate insurance relieved the burden of potential mishaps.
“At Ansvar we work with a lot of not-for-profit organisations and during a recent gathering, one of our customers said something which has sort of turned into a mantra for us. He spoke about all of the good deeds his people did, and then said that insurance facilitated superheroes and without it they wouldn’t be able to do all the wonderful things that they did for the community.”
There’s that statement again: “Insurance facilitates superheroes.”
While you could argue that small business owners, law firms or accountants aren’t superheroes, the role insurance plays in the not-for-profit sector is enormous. For every welfare worker, charity worker and volunteer actively helping the disadvantaged and disaffected, the threat of potential disaster, both physical and financial, is ever-present. Insurance, as Richard points out, is vital in keeping those remarkable people doing the work they do — and it’s something we need to talk more about.
“As an industry, we allow people to get on with their jobs and I don’t think that we allow ourselves to make enough of those positive aspects,” he says. “If we showed more pride in our achievements and if more companies had that sort of approach and celebrated it then public perception would change.”
Richard reasons that events like the Celebrating Success dinner help support this aim by highlighting and promoting professional achievements.
“All of the guys were very proud and felt it was great recognition for what they had achieved and were very pleased that both ANZIIF put it on and that Ansvar encouraged and supported them to attend.”
RECOGNITION IS GOOD FOR THE PSYCHE
As famed jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordon proclaimed, a little recognition is very nice and is good for the ego and for the psyche. Many scholars believe it is also fundamental to both personal and business success. According to research by the University of Leeds, recognition of our colleagues’ achievements and their successes is critically important to how they perform in their role and how they help to propel an organisation forward.
Richard agrees, “Becoming qualified is a significant achievement. Balancing work, life commitments and then adding a full study load is not easy, which is why it’s so important that the industry recognises this.”
Richard says that the rising level of professionalism, especially among the cohort that deals with public, will help change the public’s perception and instil confidence in the industry and can be used to attract new blood.
“Currently, in terms of status, insurance doesn’t rank as highly as accounting or engineering or law but with more professionalism and a continued commitment to getting qualifications, we can change that.
“Companies can help by encouraging their staff to show their credentials on their business cards, on their emails – much like other professions do.”
Professionalism, commitment, development — these are more than mere corporate buzzwords to Richard. He believes that they are the building blocks that will help forge the insurance industry of the future.
“As an organisation, we’re working towards everyone in our business development and underwriting teams being qualified — we’re getting close to that now. It is also a key assessment criterion when it comes to employing people. They need to show that they’ve made that commitment to the industry and have their qualifications to show they’re a practitioner of insurance,” he says.
Which is why continued professional development is critical.
“We monitor it very closely and everyone in our team is committed to reaching their 25 annual points. Literally every month, we get a progress report and if anyone is behind, for whatever reason, we find out why and work at ways of helping them catch up.”
It’s the commitment and professionalism that Richard regards so highly that will hopefully see the industry prosper.