2021 ANZIIF Lifetime Achiever Wayne Goodall feels he has been the beneficiary of so many talented and supportive individuals during his lifetime.
That’s why he’s always tried to pay it forward by investing in the next generation of talent coming up through the ranks of the insurance industry.
Goodall, formerly Head of Insurance at Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA), says he’s honoured and humbled to be in the elite company of past recipients, and sees it as an indication of how the claims function has evolved to ‘actively set strategy and standards’.
‘Since receiving the award, I’ve been overwhelmed by wonderful messages, many of them about my leadership of people — but also how I’ve led change in the hope of making things better,’ Goodall says.
‘My approach was always to listen to claimants and aim for outcomes that were often left field but always within policy terms—and in the case of catastrophic losses, supported by reinsurers.’
Public service start
Born and raised in the Victorian bayside suburb of Chelsea to parents who were blue collar workers, Goodall believed his career pathway lay in a trade.
‘I went to Aspendale Technical School, where I quickly learned that a career "on the tools" wasn’t for me so I transferred to Bonbeach High School,’ he recalls.
Having completed ‘what’s now called Year 12’ he opted to join the Victorian Public Service rather than go straight to university.
‘I eventually went to university in my 40s thanks to my then-employer, the Transport Accident Commission,’ he says.
Coming full circle
As a 17-year-old, Goodall was assigned to the State Insurance Office (SIO), the precursor of VMIA.
‘I knew very little about insurance, so I was heading into the unknown — quite a daunting experience,’ he says.
Having spent the last part of his career at VMIA prior to retiring, it wasn’t lost on him that he had come full circle.
‘We were the insurer of many government agencies I might well have been assigned to as a teenager from the suburbs all those years ago.
‘I didn’t choose insurance, but I’m very grateful to have had a career with diverse opportunities and challenges.’
No fault compensation
Particularly notable in Goodall’s career, was his time at the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in the 1980s and 90s as it had a huge impact on him.
TAC, which had assumed the SIO’s Compulsory Third Party liabilities for victims injured in road accidents, moved from a full-blown adversarial claims system to a hybrid combining liability litigation and an innovative no-fault compensation scheme focused on treatment and rehabilitation.
‘The old SIO system was heavily litigious and open slather with opportunistic exaggeration and fraud that was impacting the financial viability of the scheme,’ Goodall recalls.
‘TAC centred on outcomes for individuals, with world-class rehabilitation for catastrophically injured road accident victims.’
Peer review models for the various treatment regimes were set up to help people get back to work.
Compulsory third-party property
Another experience that had a profound effect on Goodall was dealing with challenging portfolios of first party and third-party claims when he moved into general insurance.
‘Although we were bound to follow policy terms and conditions to make sure the claims were legitimate, the overarching goal was to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes.
‘That often came out of thinking left field and talking to the impacted party.’
As part of a vehicle registration and roadworthy project team put together by the Overseas Projects Corporation of Victoria, Goodall also travelled to Nepal, where he recommended a basic Compulsory Third Party Injury system.
‘At the time, the compensation paid to injured victims was contingent on the wealth of the negligent party, which invariably was miniscule.’
Goodall says the overarching challenge was dealing with the processes and systems of Nepal as a developing nation and government.
‘This was quite different to what I was used to. There was also the complication of knowing you’d eventually get sick while you were there, no matter how careful you were about hygiene.
‘As luck would have it, I did become ill the day before I was to present my findings to the government committee. I successfully delivered my report and promptly returned to my sickbed.’
Child sexual abuse claims
Later in his career, in his role at VMIA, Goodall also contributed his expertise in handling child sexual abuse claims to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
‘Even after years of handling bodily injury claims (many catastrophically injured), nothing could have prepared me for dealing with these sorts of claims,’ he says.
‘Although the conventional legal system still had to be observed, I tried to steer claims away from the traditional litigation path and create a forum where victims could tell their story.
‘The most important outcomes were apology and closure.’
As part of this important work, Goodall was required to engage with the organisations, the insureds and to personally apologise for appalling acts committed (often by people who were deceased) as well as listening to what could help with closure for survivors.
‘It was often just the apology and compensation, but there were occasions where we agreed to setting up a memorial such as a tree,’ he says.
‘The outcomes of the Commonwealth Royal Commission and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry both lay strong foundations for managing the future risk of child abuse in society and set up a redress as low threshold compensation scheme. ‘
Diverse talents and strength
Goodall says the most important things for him as a leader were active listening and inclusiveness.
‘Throughout my career I’ve been surrounded by strong teams with diverse strengths and talents,’ he says.
‘My philosophy is that it takes a leader to invest the time needed to understand then leverage diverse skills in a team to create a better outcome for the organisation, its clients, and our community.
‘I hope I’ve played some small part in the careers of my colleagues and showcased the importance of the claims function.
‘It’s wonderful to look back with pride on claims being elevated to its rightful role as an active participant in strategic planning, playing a pivotal role in developing products that address the ever-changing risks facing our society.’
Looking out for claims staff
During his lifetime in the industry, Goodall also hopes to have played a part in ensuring the emotional wellbeing of claims people is looked after.
The obvious examples are in the management of liability claims involving catastrophic injuries and sexual abuse, but also the response to events like Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires where the team was dealing with calls from people who’d lost their homes and witnessed loss of life.
‘As you’d expect, Black Saturday had a profound impact on the team and we introduced group and individual counselling to help them through the emotional impact,’ he says.
‘It isn’t just the natural catastrophe losses. It’s also having to deal with claimants losing heirlooms and precious belongings where it’s impossible to agree on a claims outcome.
‘These discussions are usually filled with anger or tears, sometimes both.’
Goodall says such events have a lasting impact on people’s lives and ultimately wear claims teams down.
‘That’s why I’m so pleased to have seen welfare measures emerge that protect the wellbeing of our colleagues who are on the receiving end of those emotionally challenging phone calls.’
Keeping pace with risk
According to Goodall, the key challenge for the insurance industry will be keeping pace with the changing risk landscape and ensuring financial viability while continuing to innovate and develop new products and schemes.
‘Another challenge is attracting talent — not just university graduates but also talent straight out of secondary school, the pathway I took into the industry.
‘As an industry and as a community, we need to stay focused on achieving diversity of all kinds in our organisations.
'This includes gender, but also diversity of age, thought, life experience, professional skills and cultural background.
‘Finally, technology will be the key to the industry’s ongoing viability; using data and insights to deliver relevant, timely solutions for risks that are approaching over the horizon.’
Goodall adds that he’s been fortunate to work with so many talented professionals over the years.
‘Many of them remain friends to this day and the retirees among us never miss an opportunity to reminisce about the good old days,’ he says.