Midas touch — Transforming teams for success

By Anna Game-Lopata — ANZIIF Writer | 23 Oct 2018
  • General Insurance
  • Claims
  • Insurance Broking
  • Life Health and Retirement Income
  • Risk Management
Amy Jacobson Vero Finding your y

Amy Jacobson loves nothing more than seeing people’s faces light up when they discover their passion, which she describes as 'finding your y'.

Jacobson (pictured right), who is Executive Manager Corporate and Commercial Underwriting at Vero, is an internationally recognised neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner who specialises in using the language of the mind to consistently achieve specific, desired outcomes. 

‘It’s our minds and communication that determine our effectiveness, not only in our work environments but in life in general,’ says Jacobson, who has over 20 years’ corporate experience, almost 19 of which have been in financial services and insurance.

‘NLP techniques increase your emotional intelligence and improve communication, which plays a major part in success.

Mastering communication, she says, will improve results in influencing, selling and negotiating, rapport and relationship building, strategic thinking, and self-understanding.

Inspirational leadership

When individuals become empowered and are performing at their highest potential, they are the kind of people that others want to be around and that leaders love having in their team.

‘That’s the kind of person who makes a brilliant leader, and it’s these kinds of people who ensure the success of businesses,’ Jacobson says.

‘The most profitable businesses in the world focus on their people and culture, knowing if they get that right, the customers and business will naturally follow.

‘Creating a great culture is about the empowerment and development of people through inspirational leadership and the core principles of honesty, fairness, transparency and recognition.’

But she also says it takes time to build the right kind of culture, as you need leaders in place who prioritise people leadership.

‘Unfortunately, too often people leadership is seen as a tick-a-box exercise,’ Jacobson laments. And while the negative effects of this approach may be gradual, she says, they will definitely be felt.

What’s most important

Like many, Jacobson didn’t plan a career in insurance.

‘I was in a leasing role at another company and was looking for a change, so I joined the call centre at Royal and Sun Alliance,’ she relates.

‘That was my first taste of insurance. I really loved speaking with customers, and I appreciated the way insurance protects what is most important to them.

‘People rarely leave the insurance industry once they are in, and I’m no different.

‘I became passionate about helping others and learning as much about the industry and its progression as I could, and here I am almost 19 years later,’ Jacobson says.

As Executive Manager of Corporate and Commercial Underwriting at Vero in Western Australia, Jacobson leads a very experienced underwriting team while working with ‘some of the best brokers in the market’.

‘Together with our stakeholders, we build strategies to support our customers with the insurance that they need while balancing risk and growing the profitability of the market,’ she says.

Strategic delivery

Jacobson says her current role doesn’t differ that much from earlier positions with Vero and Asteron Life as Senior Product Manager and State Underwriting Manager.

‘These roles, like my current position, involved strategic delivery, customer and stakeholder relationship management and service, people leadership, and growing and developing products that align with customers’ needs.

‘Each role has been underpinned by the same fundamentals of insurance: understanding the risk factors of what you are insuring, and applying logical and justifiable decisions based on experience and research.

‘These are the basics of roles in our industry. We sometimes overthink it. If you get these fundamentals right, then you are on right path.’

Jacobson feels privileged to have been able to experience both the life and the commercial side of insurance in such detail.

‘I have worked with amazing people in all of my roles, and our achievements have always been a big team effort.

‘I’d say the standout for me is exactly that — the way the teams have come together, lifted to their full potential, developed, grown and become passionate about what they do.’

Outstanding results that Jacobson points to include winning Branch of the Year and increasing net promoter scores by double digits within 12-month periods.

She is also proud of growing company brands and their presence in the market, as well as delivering ‘fantastic projects’ that have improved coverage for clients, supported intermediaries and helped to develop great partnerships.

‘I have been a part of so many highs in an amazing company and industry,’ she enthuses.

Transitioning to a hard market

However, of all her years in insurance, Jacobson says the one we are in currently is the toughest she’s seen for the industry.

‘We are in the spotlight, and we are experiencing a hardening market, having now emerged from a soft market that lasted for almost 10 years,’ she says.

‘Some people have never experienced a hard market before; it’s really difficult for them to adapt.’

Jacobson adds that there has been an increase in the number of risk factors, including:

  • the cost of replacing car parts due to technology, which in turn affects fleet claims expenses
  • exposure related to the north-west weather patterns
  • the role of expanded polystyrene (EPS) in buildings and flammable cladding issues, especially in relation to how and who will pay to reduce the exposure
  • molestation claims and the increase in all claims focused on malpractice and liability internationally.

‘The hard-to-place risks have become even harder to place, with some becoming uninsurable,’ Jacobson says.

‘An uninsurable business either self-insures or shuts up shop. It’s a grim reality. Getting a placement has become much harder and more time consuming for both broker and insurer.’

The human factor

As a panellist at the upcoming Western Australia Business Breakfast, Jacobson says her key message will be ‘Education!’

‘We need to educate our customers, educate our staff and invest in our own education,’ she says.  

‘It’s critical that we understand the current market we are in and what the future for insurance will look like.

‘Customers need to be educated about risk management and encouraged to invest now in getting those risk management steps in place.

‘Selling on price alone is a dangerous approach,’ she adds.

‘Check your coverage, your wordings and make sure your clients understand the real need for insurance and how to control and minimise risk for the long term.’

With the increased use of automation and robotics, Jacobson says, emotional intelligence is more important than ever.

‘Insurers need to counter the brilliant automation tools starting to surface with the human factor. We can’t have one without the other.

‘The products will continue to evolve, with approaches and definitions changing to align with the new environment,’ she says.

‘The human factor needs to balance technology in the workforce, and people in these roles will need to have brilliant people skills.

‘It’s an exciting time, really. Strap yourself in and embrace the biggest changes we have seen so far in our industry.’ 

Meet Amy Jacobson at the WA Business Breakfast.

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