In all the years Donna Walker has worked in insurance, this is without a doubt one of the most dynamic and exciting periods.
‘Both the challenges and opportunities are vast,’ says Walker, who is Chief Technical Officer at Allianz Australia.
‘Firstly, this is a period of enormous regulatory change — the scrutiny of our sector in recent years has led to a change in expectations overall.
‘The broader business community, consumers and government have higher expectations of business as it relates to conduct, compliance and customer-centricity.
‘But I believe these increased expectations, along with the assessments and reviews we’ve seen recently, have provided us with an opportunity to strengthen and improve our industry and our businesses,’ she says.
Walker is very passionate about the insurance industry.
‘Every day our people make a difference, in moments that really matter, for our customers and other business partners,’ she says.
‘As an industry, we help people and we give them choices about how to protect the things that are important to them, like their homes, businesses, treasured possessions, and health.’
Walker says people outside our industry often don’t fully appreciate how ‘people-focused’ the sector is.
‘Insurance is an industry built on trust generated between customers, brokers and insurers. A lot of people work very hard to support those who might have suffered some sort of loss.’
In her role at Allianz, a substantial portion of Walker’s mission is to use data and technology to create efficiencies and simplify processes and she sees it as a great opportunity.
‘What’s really exciting for me is that, in today’s digitally-enabled environment, we can use our access to data and technology to create a simpler customer proposition while still holding true to the tenants of insurance,’ she says.
‘One of the things I love most about my role as Chief Technical Officer at Allianz within this unique environment is that it has brought me full circle back to the core fundamentals of insurance,' she says.
'These include making sure the products we sell and our ability to understand and price risk delivers reasonable shared value to customers, our business, the community and other stakeholders.’
A FORTUITOUS START
An actuary by training, Donna Walker came to the industry with little in the way of experience in general insurance.
However, a good friend offered her the opportunity to join CGU Insurance to help build an actuarial capability.
‘I thought it would be a great opportunity to be part of the creation of a new team. Twenty years on, I haven’t looked back,’ she says.
Over the past 20 years, Walker has taken on leadership roles across broader parts of the insurance value proposition.
‘Leading large market-facing divisions such as the claims and broker businesses really made me appreciate the value that customers place in insurance to support them when it matters,’ she recalls.
‘And this experience has taught me the importance of good relationships — that the ability to be empathetic and to have open and honest conversations when they are needed most are essential attributes to succeed in this sector.’
THINKING MORE BROADLY
As the opening speaker at ANZIIF’s 2019 Reinsurance International Study Course (RISC), Walker emphasises that reinsurance is a core part of the insurance industry and encourages anyone working in underwriting to come along.
‘The RISC course allows participants to learn about reinsurance and also about the issues that are impacting the industry,’ she says.
‘It’s a fabulous opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and create broader networks across the industry.’
A PIVOTAL TIME
Walker believes that at this pivotal time for the insurance industry, RISC provides participants with a great opportunity to think more broadly about how the industry can respond to broader, macro-environmental matters.
‘There are other new and emerging issues to consider such as cyber risk and security and shrinking capacity in key areas such as the ecosystem around high rise buildings (cladding, engineering, professional indemnity insurance).
She adds that there is also the challenge of climate change which continues to be a great concern for the community.
‘The insurance industry is already responding in different ways and environmental-related matters will continue to escalate in terms of importance for the insurance industry,’ she says.
Hear Donna Walker speak at the 2019 Reinsurance International Study Course.