Giselle Walther, Group Managing Director for Aon Inpoint across Asia Pacific, believes she was destined to work in the insurance industry.
‘My mother and father both worked in insurance and had done for most of their careers so there was definitely some less-than-subtle pushing in that direction,’ she laughs.
Walther, who has over 25 years of international experience working for some of the world’s major insurers completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Macquarie University, majoring in Marketing and Statistics, followed by a Graduate Diploma of Insurance, at Deakin University.
Her early career saw her secure a position on the Graduate Trainee Program with Minets, which she says gave her ‘great exposure across multiple facets of the broking and insurance industry’.
Prior to accepting her role at Aon Inpoint, the management consulting and advisory arm of Aon, Walther was Head of Corporate Market Management Americas at Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty in New York and Head of Broker Distribution at Allianz SE in Munich.
She joined Aon in 2015, as Managing Director, Growth Strategies for Aon Risk Solutions.
As Group Managing Director for Aon Inpoint across Asia Pacific, Walther has a vision for her team to become a leading provider of advisory and consulting services within the region.
‘While Inpoint has great exposure with the major insurance firms, we have embarked upon a journey to build our brand more broadly within the industry, differentiating via our proprietary data and deep industry expertise,’ she explains.
‘To support our goal, we aim to attract and retain the best talent in region.’
DELIVERING THE BEST OUTCOMES
Walther is a firm believer that the entire industry will benefit from creating diversity at the top.
‘All leaders want to build environments that are conducive to their staff delivering the best outcomes,’ she says.
‘That is, creating diverse and inclusive environments rich in learning opportunities and collaboration, that provide longer-term growth opportunities for all team members.’
BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIERS
However, Walther recognises that there are certainly barriers to achieving equality and inclusivity in the industry.
‘As a woman in a leadership role, I feel it is incumbent upon us to continue addressing the topic of pay parity and the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership roles,’ she says.
She also asserts that as an industry, we need to ask what each of us is doing in terms of talent pipelines and recruiting to ensure that we address these issues.
A MORE FLEXIBLE APPROACH
She says employers need to adopt a more flexible approach.
‘We need to accept that people will not always have 100 per cent of the skills required for a role and that is okay — good leaders are adaptable across multiple disciplines and will learn fast.’
While there are systemic changes needed, Walther maintains that there are also individual actions that women in the industry can take to create a smoother path to leadership.
She says that it is important for women to ensure that they are putting their hands up for roles and making their ambition known and advises women to be open to a path forward that might be different from those that came before them.
For Walther, the challenges of being a working mother are also familiar.
‘I have found that you need to find the routines that work for you and your family,’ she says.
‘For example, I will not accept calls (where possible) between 6pm-8.30pm so I can spend quality time with my son around dinner and bed time.
‘Boundaries need to be communicated early on to ensure expectations can be managed.’
HOT TOPICS IN 2020
As a panellist at this year’s ANZIIF General Insurance Virtual Breakfast, Walther says emerging industry issues important to discuss include climate change and autonomous vehicles, which are creating significant interest and opportunity in the industry.
‘These are certainly hot topics and frequently raised in executive agendas,’ she says.
‘Our challenge is to understand how we can support clients navigate these changes with certainty when all the answers are not yet known.’
Another trend is the automation of value chain and what this means for the industry’s future.
‘We see parts of our value chains being more effectively delivered by non-insurance providers, so how do we partner with them to ensure the best outcomes for our clients and shareholders?
‘Furthermore, what does this mean for the underwriter or the broker of the future? How do we ensure that we are recruiting for the right talent and skills now to support our future models?’
IMPACT OF COVID
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 will have an impact on the future of the industry.
‘I think that most obviously the way we work will change,’ Walther predicts.
‘The old taboos and stigma attached to working from home have been eradicated and that will afford employees the opportunity to seek greater balance and flexibility, whether that means being able to take your kids to school more regularly or moving your home base further afield.’
Walther says as employers, 'it's important that we ready ourselves for the changes that have already begun'.
‘Expanding flexible working policies and recruiting with a different lens will deliver insurers with a lot of upside for as well,' she says.
‘The opportunity to access a broader set of people on the basis that we can expand flexible and remote working practises is very appealing!’
PROMOTING THE INDUSTRY
Walther says an area of focus for her is the promotion of the industry as one that can offer and broad and diverse career.
‘I still do not hear insurance as being a preferred and go-to place to start your career,’ she says.
‘The insurance industry has afforded me a career spanning over 25 years across all major geographies and I am incredibly thankful for that.
‘I would like to see that message being delivered more broadly and it is essential to work with bodies such as ANZIIF to continue to build our profile as an industry of choice.’
GI BREAKFAST GOES VIRTUAL
One of the most highly anticipated events in the calendar, the General Insurance Breakfast is sure to be a dynamic, enjoyable and interactive.
Virtual for the first time, the breakfast will include a panel of insurance experts from across Australia who will review the current market, explore issues and opportunities, and discuss what the future holds.
NOT TO BE MISSED
Register now to meet Giselle Walther and the other expert panellists online to discuss the current issues and challenges impacting the industry.
Attendees will also learn more about the of areas of change and opportunity for the industry and gain a deeper understanding of how these elements shape our industry.