Angela Kelly credits good early career advice with helping her embark on a stellar 30‐year insurance industry career.
A respected industry thought leader in the Asia Pacific region, Kelly has extensive experience in delivering traditional and innovative insurance and reinsurance solutions to customers across a broad range of sectors.
RICH ENVIRONMENT FOR INNOVATION
In her previous role as CEO of Lloyd’s of London in Singapore, she was responsible for coordinating market development, regulation and compliance, operations, and finance teams to drive the strategic direction, promotion and oversight of Lloyd’s in Singapore, and promoting Lloyd’s in the broader ASEAN region.
She recalls being inspired by the rich environment for innovation in the Asia Pacific region. ‘There’s so much going on — from new products to technology-driven innovation.
The result is an environment where organisations can respond quickly when things change,’ she says.
‘The market potential for insurance and reinsurance in growing economies with lower penetration rates has set the scene, supported by regulatory frameworks that encourages innovation,’ she adds.
INSIGHTS AND ANALYTICS
Kelly was appointed Chief Insurance Officer for VMIA in September 2020, where she is responsible for leading the Insurance Services, Claims, and Insights & Analytics functions.
As the Victorian Government's insurer and risk adviser, VMIA insures more than $220 billion of public assets and invests in harm prevention initiatives to improve outcomes for the Victorian community.
It has more than 4,600 clients including government departments and agencies, schools, hospitals, public transport, cultural institutions, community service organisations and major infrastructure projects. It also provides domestic building insurance to protect Victorian homeowners.
OFFICE WITH A VIEW
Kelly started her career in insurance with Marsh & McLennan, a company she came across while looking for work after finishing high school.
‘I didn’t know what an insurance broker was back then, but I was pretty impressed with the view from the office window and I knew that working in the city for a big company would be great,’ she recalls.
‘I had applied for another role in a different sector of the industry and the female recruiter suggested the Marsh & McLennan role would be a better fit. It was the first time I had received career advice. Turns out it was the right advice.'
She subsequently completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Insurance & Management) from Deakin University and a Masters of Commercial Law from the University of Melbourne.
She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of ANZIIF.
One year into her role as VMIA’s Chief Insurance Officer, Kelly’s vision is that the protection provided by VMIA is contemporary and relevant, and also innovative and creative enough to anticipate Victoria’s changing needs.
‘I’m looking forward to leveraging our data for deeper insights and innovation, so Victoria can go about its business with confidence, knowing it’s protected if something goes wrong,’ she says.
She is also building a culture of calculated risk-taking and learning from things that don’t go according to plan.
‘It’s part of our ambition to become a learning organisation — and that extends to creating opportunities for our people to build their skills and knowledge by taking on different roles in VMIA, and through secondments into our client organisations and the broader public sector,’ she says.
Kelly believes that there is no difference between effective insurance or reinsurance leadership and effective leadership in other sectors. ‘It’s about the basics of understanding where you want to go and why, and how to get there,’ Kelly says.
With a talented team boasting a strong client service mindset and a suite of products to support her vision, Kelly is committed to supporting people and creating environments where the team understands the company’s purpose as well as how they contribute to the bigger picture of making a difference to their clients and the community.
For Kelly, it’s an exciting time for innovation at VMIA.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided opportunities, often very quickly, to support Victoria with new types of cover.
BENEFITS OF A CAPTIVE INSURER
She believes that one of the benefits of a captive insurer is being able to innovate in areas where commercial markets feel uncomfortable or can’t respond to unique risks.
‘It’s a fantastic example of delivering contemporary protection in an agile way,’ she says.
‘The major infrastructure projects underway in Victoria are shaping different ways of working together in public private partnerships, with new thinking on how risk is transferred via insurance,’ Kelly says.
‘With the scale of infrastructure investment in flight, supporting these big changes to the way Victorians will move around the state in the future is one of the most dynamic parts of our portfolio.’
FAIL FAST MINDSET
When asked about barriers to innovation, Kelly lists fear of failure, and emphasises the importance of creating a ‘fail fast’ environment to foster innovation.
She adds that the insurance industry loves data, noting that data that is incomplete or missing altogether can also create a barrier.
Finally, Kelly lists a lack of resources, whether people, data, capacity and capability or proven analytical tools, as other barriers to innovation.
‘Understanding downside risk, and more actively collaborating across the industry and with government, are the pieces of the puzzle to overcome some of these barriers,’ she says.
A SPACE FOR DIVERSITY
Kelly is the also executive sponsor and chair of VMIA’s employee gender reference group. In this role, she aims to create space for gender diversity in the insurance industry.
She’s seen first-hand how encouraging diversity in the industry contributes to positive client outcomes. She says that breaking down barriers for women – and all genders – is more complicated than ticking actions off a list.
‘It will take a holistic approach, with social structures to support the behaviours that create equality, all working together as one,’ she says.
She believes that creating structures for women to develop financial independence benefits our whole society.
‘Pay parity is a start, together with frameworks for contributions to superannuation for periods of time when women are not in the paid workforce,’ she says. ‘There’s still so much more to be done and this is my way of paying it forward,’ she continues.
WOMEN IN INSURANCE MONTH
As part of Women in Insurance Month, ANZIIF has invited leaders in the industry to discuss women's contributions to innovation and technology in a virtual panel to take place from 12:00 to 2:30 pm AEST on 30 September 2021.
Recognising that learning and networking have changed as working lives have been transformed over the past 18 months, Kelly is looking forward to participating.
‘Creating new connections and hearing how different parts of the sector are responding to the challenges of our environment is a terrific way to build your own knowledge and make a contribution to the exciting future of insurance at the same time,’ she says.
‘After 30 years in the industry, the past year has been most exciting time of my career.’