For NZbrokers CEO Jo Mason, bringing world-class cyber security to members and really getting them to believe in technology as an enabler for the future is an achievement she is really proud of.
‘We are only just beginning this journey and still have a long way to go but our members are very much onboard with this,’ Mason says.
‘I think building the best team in the market to support our brokers is also a key achievement. The team is awesome.’
Mason, who was appointed in 2016, says brokers must keep pace with technology and ensure they get out from behind their desks to do what it is they are good at – that is — giving quality advice to determine great client outcomes.
LEGISLATION IS A NOTABLE MILESTONE
She also points to the current changes to New Zealand legislation affecting brokers as a notable milestone of her time in the CEO role.
‘The new FMA regime and Code of Conduct for financial advisors requires brokers to focus on ensuring great client outcomes through product suitability and competency of the broker (adviser),’ she says.
‘I think focusing on great client outcomes is what our member brokers have always done, it is now a matter of demonstrating that to the regulator through the new regime.
‘The professional image of brokers can only be enhanced through proving competency – something I believe our brokers will do with ease.’
As a leader, Mason describes herself as both consultative and as inclusive as possible.
‘Our management team is relatively small, but we come from diverse backgrounds and its great listening to all the different opinions,’ she says.
‘I’d like to think that the team feels they can contribute to strategy. Our membership culture is also one of inclusion.
‘We have an advisory board and IT Group made up of a representation of members and they have a lot of say in where we go and what we do as a group.’
According to Mason, affordability is a huge challenge and hot topic, not just for brokers but for the whole industry.
‘Affordability is driven by the availability of capacity across different classes such as Material Damage (earthquake-prone regions and coastal erosion) as well as Directors & Officers and Professional Indemnity,’ Mason says.
‘It is a fact that in some areas people are going to have to accept that if they choose to live and operate in risky areas their insurance premium will be higher.
‘However, I still believe there is a place for community pricing and ‘smoothing’ of premiums across New Zealand.'
Mason concedes that the competitive nature of the insurance industry has seen some insurers choosing risk-based pricing which means other insurers have to respond to lower prices in non-risky zones and higher prices in risky zones.
‘There is no easy fix for this, but if we as an industry cannot fix it, the government may well intervene,’ Mason warns.
A CASE FOR COMMISSIONS
With the structure of renumeration in the public spotlight, Mason remains unequivocal on the issue of broker commissions.
‘Brokers save insurers the cost of distribution, they know the insurers’ products well and can promote the best product for a great client outcome,’ she argues.
‘I think there is a mistaken belief that if an insurer did not have to pay a broker commission, the premium would come down. This is simply not the case.’
Mason says NZbrokers members get paid the same commission from every insurer, so there is no incentive to place a product based on what the broker will get paid.
‘I do not agree with incentive payments based on targets, or growth incentives. These types of arrangements work against obtaining great client outcomes,’ she says.
INDUSTRY UPS ITS GAME
In the lead up to International Women’s Day, 8 March Mason asserts that it is great to see AIG appoint Toni Ferrier New Zealand CEO.
‘I think we are slowly getting there – in New Zealand we’ve had Jacki Johnson and Toni both lead insurers which is better than it has been,’ she says.
‘We also have a number of senior women executives in insurance companies.
‘This is better than when I started in insurance 30 years ago, when women were pretty much secretaries and low-level assistants. It is slow though.’
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY MESSAGE
While Mason says the elevation of female insurance professionals should be about competency first, she maintains unconscious bias shaping individual perceptions of competent vs incompetent is rife in the industry.
‘I have seen many competent women give up in frustration because they’ve either being sidelined or turned over for a job because they are not viewed as having the skills,’ she says.
She adds that there are many men who think they promote equality but do not change their management styles at all.
‘I believe men and women – at times – need to be managed and led differently. This is the biggest change that needs to happen – leading differently.’
Mason’s International Women’s Day message for women is to ‘be bold – speak up and build networks.
‘Ask for that next promotion or pay rise. Challenge fixed mindsets. Talk to other women and do not compromise your values or your standards.’
KEY ELEMENTS OF CHANGE
As MC at the upcoming 2020 ANZIIF New Zealand Business Breakfast, Mason will facilitate communication between industry representatives and participants about opportunities and challenges within the general insurance industry.
‘We’ll hear how we can understand key elements of change including regulation, culture and conduct and technology, and apply this knowledge in our roles,’ she says.
‘The breakfast is always a great opportunity to network and I encourage all who can to come along and meet new people.’
Hear Jo Mason speak at the 2020 ANZIIF New Zealand Business Breakfast.