Katie Stephenson - Young Insurance Professional

By Zoe Meunier | Vol: 39 Issue: 1 | Mar 2016
  • Claims
  • General Insurance
  • Insurance Broking
  • Life Health and Retirement Income
  • Reinsurance
  • Risk Management
Katie Stephenson

Growing up in small country towns in Central Queensland, Katie Stephenson learned a lot about dreams and the challenges involved in making them a reality. She helped her mother run her own coffee shop before and after school, seeing first hand “the blood, sweat and tears that go into it”. 

“Being in a working-class family and seeing a mother who worked tirelessly and, in turn, sacrificed a lot of time with her family, you understand the weight business owners carry and develop such respect for it,” she says. “It takes both passion and drive to start a company and these people are our unsung heroes, trying to do the best for their families and communities. It formed a sensibility in me that makes you take pride and uphold integrity in everything you do.”

And when she began her career in insurance, this sensibility also made Katie appreciate what a critical role insurance plays in people’s lives.

“We help people protect their dreams, whether that be through a risk management framework and/or via an insurance investment,” she says. “If my family had lost that coffee shop, we would have lost our livelihood. When you help someone with their business, you’re helping their families, their community, their employees and their employees’ families. If you can help them get back on their feet then you’ve saved people’s livelihoods.”

While Katie knew she’d found the right career path when she started in insurance, she took a fairly circuitous path to get there. After high school she tried her hand at university, before packing it in to go travelling, eventually following a job offer to Uluru.

“I got out there to this red dust and sunburnt land, having never experienced anything like it and ended up staying nearly three years,” says Katie. A short stint working in Sydney made Katie realise the Northern Territory was where she felt at home.

“I drove with my sausage dog from Sydney all the way to Darwin, with the intention of being there for six months. That was eight years ago,” she laughs. “It really grabs you by the reins and pulls you in, you just fall in love with it. There’s a real sense of community here.”

After three years in the automotive industry, Katie spotted a role with a brokerage as a PA.

“I thought, ‘Risk insurance, I know all about that’, when I really knew nothing!” she says. “I got the job and within a month I was studying my Tier One and the rest is history!”

As well as the gratification of being able to help people, Katie could also see a great opportunity for career advancement.

“Talent in insurance in the Territory is hard to obtain and retain, so I knew if I focused all my efforts into this and studied hard, I could excel,” she says. “The insurance industry boasts plenty of equal opportunity and it’s such a welcoming community, opening up lots of doors in terms of friendships as well.” 

Now a Business Development Executive at global insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher, Katie believes her impressive career progression comes down to her attitude and her passion for the job.

“Sometimes you have to do the job you want before you actually get it. A lot of people, particularly of my generation, want everything ‘now’ before they’re willing to put in the effort. But I see it as the reverse. You need to be able to put your hand up and take on those additional responsibilities before getting the recognition, whether that be a promotion, job title or money.”

Katie’s involvement in setting up the Young Insurance Professionals (YIPs) NT and then putting her hand up to be the NT treasurer, then Australia and New Zealand treasurer, is a prime example of this attitude in action. (“Money is not my forte but my philosophy is if you don’t know it, do it, because then you’ll learn,” she says.)

It also means staying a step ahead of the market. Katie believes that despite everyone’s talk of a soft market, the current climate is the new norm and brokers should be prepared for their roles to change.

“I don’t think it’s going to get any easier,” she says. “We’re in such a technologically advanced industry and era, around 40 per cent of consumers will research their own insurance needs and solutions. I think brokers will take more of a risk-management path, while insurers will handle more of the insurance investment and portfolios and plans. I think there’ll always be a place for a broker, but we’ll need to take more of an integrated approach.”

That being said, Katie believes there’s “huge potential” for anyone wanting to enter the industry – and says she’ll be there to help. 

“I look up to so many people and think, wow, I’ve got such a long way to go. But if I keep at it, hopefully I can be a role model for many others who enter the industry. I’m forever indebted to the mentors I’ve had through my insurance career and humbled to think I can be viewed in the same light.”

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