Vol: 43 Issue: 3 | Oct 2020In the mid-2000s, John Lyon spent almost two years on the ANZIIF board as president of the New Zealand Branch Executive Committee.
When he was invited back to the board in May this year, he welcomed the opportunity to contribute again and to advocate once more for New Zealand members.
‘Paul Munton and Karl Armstrong have done a great job of representing New Zealand’s insurance market over recent years,’ he says.
‘Now they’ve moved on, I’m very happy to work alongside Catherine Dixon in that role.’
As CEO of Ando, the company he formed in 2015, Lyon is also keen to share his contacts and industry relationships.
‘My aim is to help develop member services and propositions that will help both ANZIIF and the New Zealand industry,’ he says.
‘I firmly believe the insurance sector needs a professional body that, along with educational and accreditation services, provides a forum for networking and a sense of community. ANZIIF is ideally placed to do this.’
A CHANGE IN BEHAVIOURLyon is also pleased that ANZIIF now has a proposition for advisers and brokers in New Zealand to achieve accreditation under the new code of conduct regulations that come into effect in March 2021.
‘The regulations require that all brokers achieve their accreditation, which is a good development,’ he says.
‘ANZIIF’s associated accreditation program will add an extra dimension to the industry by enabling brokers to remain with a service they know and trust.’
However, notes Lyon, regulatory changes can only go so far in bringing about lasting change.
‘It’s clear that the increasing focus on conduct, transparency and accountability is a permanent shift driven by consumer demand and competition within the industry,’ he says.
‘Anything that helps raise the standards of professionalism and advice is going to be beneficial. But we have to remember that, ultimately, everything comes down to the behaviour of individuals and individual firms.’
MAKING NEW ZEALAND HOMELyon’s journey to the ANZIIF boardroom began in Dublin in 1977, the year he left school.
Having decided against university, he took the first job on offer — a traineeship with Sun Alliance. After 10 years with the company in Ireland and four more in the United Kingdom, he accepted a two-year secondment to New Zealand. Three decades on, he’s still there.
‘My career has been quite varied, covering underwriting, sales and claims,’ he says.
‘That put me in a good position to move into a general management role with Royal Sun Alliance, as it was back then. As it evolved to become Vero Insurance, I took on various executive roles that built up my management and leadership experience.’
In 2008, he was invited to run Lumley Insurance New Zealand.
‘At the time, the company wasn’t performing as well as shareholders expected,’ he says.
‘My job was very much focused on reinventing the company by giving it a major overhaul. We had to refresh the technology from end to end and initiate significant changes in the culture, bringing more process and discipline to many aspects of the business.
'It was a great opportunity for me to apply different thinking, bring in new talent and help current employees to develop their true potential.’
Then, in 2010 and 2011, the Canterbury earthquakes struck.
‘My time with Lumley certainly tested all of my leadership capabilities, from the fast-paced, reasonably autocratic approach required in a turnaround situation through a more consultative approach needed to manage major technology changes to crisis management in the earthquake environment,’ he says.
Then came a different kind of challenge.
‘I’d spent five or so years building up the team, bringing people into the business, turning the business around and re-establishing the culture and the brand when I was told the business was being sold,’ he says.
A GAP IN THE MARKETLumley was acquired by IAG in 2014 and Lyon left soon after.
‘IAG is a hugely successful company, but I was more interested in leading a challenger brand than being part of a large market-dominant organisation,’ he says.
‘I’d also learned that, even when you’re CEO, if someone up the line has decision-making powers, your influence on certain outcomes can be quite tenuous, which means you can’t fully protect the interests of key stakeholders like staff and partners.’
He and a group of colleagues responded by forming Ando in 2015.
‘We could see that the market was ready for something new and fresh,’ says Lyon.
‘We believed that, with a hand-picked team of like-minded experts wrapped up in a vibrant culture supported by current state technology, we could build propositions and services to support the local market.’
From the outset, Ando appointed global insurance technology systems provider SSP to implement its Pure Insurance platform designed to support digital innovation and new products as they enter the market.
Since then, the focus has been on improving customer experiences by harnessing new technologies, such as Live Assessment, a New Zealand-first digital claims handling tool.
Customers make a claim using live-streamed video software, which enables claims handlers to make an assessment and process the claim almost immediately. The technology provides a streamlined experience for the customer and reduces processing times, giving staff more opportunities to engage with their clients.
Ando operates as an underwriting agency, underwritten by the Hollard Insurance Company with some specialist facilities provided by Lloyd’s.
‘We needed a partner and we saw right away that Hollard was a good fit in terms of our values and ways of operating,’ says Lyon. ‘As they have a 40 per cent stake in the business, our interests are also closely aligned.’
The rest of the business is owned by Ando’s senior management team, many of whom are former Lumley colleagues. Lyon says the owner-operator model was ‘a key element in driving commercial outcomes for the business’, which is closing in on an annual turnover of NZ$250 million.
UNCERTAIN TIMESLyon believes the New Zealand insurance industry did well to maintain operational continuity through the worst of COVID-19.
‘We were fortunate that lockdown didn’t last as long as in some other parts of the world,’ he says.
‘But it seems we’re yet to experience the full economic impact, as there are predictions of more business failures and rising unemployment over the next three to six months.’
Most of Ando’s employees were already set up to work remotely, and it took just 48 hours to settle the rest into working from home.
‘A really big challenge that we and others are facing now is how to maintain your culture when people are no longer working as part of a physical community,’ he says.
‘For Ando, culture is imperative. It drives behaviour and conduct, and it’s also one of our biggest competitive advantages. We don’t know how this will play out over the next year but we do know it won’t be the same as it was before.’
Despite the uncertainty, he’s very excited about the future.
‘Agility and insight are key,’ he says. ‘I don’t think there’s been a better opportunity in the industry to differentiate yourself by delivering value and customised services to customers.’
TWO-MINUTE BIO: JOHN LYON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER — ANDO INSURANCESliding doors moment
‘Deciding not to go to university in favour of earning a living.’
Career turning point
John Lyon says his appointment to CEO of Lumley Insurance was a chance to step up from being on an executive team to leading one. After the Lumley sale, he saw an opportunity to co-found Ando with a group of colleagues.
Beyond the day job
Apart from family activities, Lyon’s main passions are photography and travel — preferably combined — staying fit and playing soccer.
His most recent trips include Iran, Mongolia and Antarctica, but with fewer opportunities for travel in the current pandemic situation, he’s taking time to explore more of New Zealand’s landscapes.
‘Rather than attempting to predict the future, keep your options open and try to understand the influencing trends. Follow those influences and, if you’re agile enough, you can respond as soon as you spot an opportunity.’