Changing perceptions

Sometimes it takes a significant event to make you realise what’s most important in life. For Lauren Duffy, that event was Cyclone Larry.

Shortly after the Category 5 cyclone cut a devastating path through the Far North Queensland town of Innisfail in 2006, Lauren began working at Suncorp’s Brisbane call centre. “I was working as a temp with the catastrophe team and I was thrown in the deep end with so many calls from people who had been affected. I realised right away that what I really wanted to do was to help.”

This desire to make a difference – along with many years of hard work – has fuelled a successful career. Lauren had just arrived in Brisbane from her home in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty when she landed her first job in the industry. “I was only 18 at the time and was looking for any kind of employment because I wanted to be able to keep travelling,” she says. “But insurance was something I became passionate about very quickly. I put my head down and worked hard.”

Lauren’s experience with Suncorp led to an assessing position at Cunningham Lindsey. She moved to Canada in 2010 and worked as an underwriter for Canadian National Trust before returning to Brisbane the following year to take up a role at jewellery claim management business, IVAA.

“We manage jewellery claims from the beginning, right through to fulfilment,” Lauren explains. “We organise replacements and independently validate products to make sure people are getting what they are entitled to through their insurance claims. In the first year it was just two of us. Now we’re a team of 10.”

Lauren has always been motivated by continuous improvement. “I’m very KPI focused,” she says. “I strive to please the insurers that we work with and we’re getting great feedback and repeat business, which is very satisfying. It’s also very rewarding to hear from happy customers. I’ve had insurance claims myself and I know what it feels like to experience a loss, so it’s great to able to help people who have had a negative experience in their life.”

Lauren believes such negative experiences can be compounded by a lack of understanding about insurance and that the industry plays a vital role in bridging the gap. “We need to work on educating the public about their cover,” she says. “Even I have thought I was covered on some occasions and then discovered that I wasn’t, so if I can’t get my policy right, imagine what everyone else knows about their own policies. I think insurers can do better.”

Despite this, Lauren says she has seen positive changes in the industry over the past decade. “When I first started it felt like everyone was kind of heading towards retirement and new people weren’t really coming in to develop new processes,” she says. “That has changed. As an industry we are becoming more consumer focused rather than money focused and the reputation of insurers being the bad guys is changing. People are really starting to see that we’re out here to help them and that’s what I’ve always promoted.”

Lauren is currently on maternity leave with her third child but works from home when she’s needed. “We’re a very flexible company and this means there’s a lot of loyalty from staff. We’re all quite young at IVAA and lots of us have family commitments, so flexibility is important.”

Although her current employer promotes flexible arrangements, Lauren questions whether the same can be said for the industry as a whole. “The insurance industry is very limited in terms of what you can do on a part-time or flexible basis,” she says. “Or if there is flexibility, it’s not advertised enough and that really needs to change. It would be almost impossible for someone like me to come out of the industry for a few years to be with my kids and then hope to continue my career path. I need to keep my foot in the door and I’m fortunate to work in a supportive environment.”

Lauren is about to start studying for her diploma in loss adjusting and has also joined the committee of her daughter’s school. “I’m the parent liaison for her classroom. I like to keep busy. I’m really engaged in what my kids do and I’m very community focused.”

Work and family commitments can make it hard to find time for herself, but Lauren carves out a few hours every week to sing with an African gospel music choir. “We all love the music so much, even though none of us are African!” she says. “We sing every Sunday evening. It’s a great stress relief.”