Growing up on a farm in Western Australia, Amanda Whiting recalls frequent conversations about the weather. “Almost every day, my father would tap at the barometer to try and work out whether it was going to rain, or how hot it was going to be,” she recalls.
“At some point in my childhood, I remember thinking, ‘Well, I never want to be a farmer and I don't want to work in any job where I have to be worried about the weather. Of course, I ended up working in insurance, so weather is something I think about every day.”
Mitigating the risks of climate change is high on the agenda for Whiting, Chief Executive of IAG New Zealand, which consists of AMI, State, and NZI.
Whiting has been awarded ANZIIF’s 2023 Insurance Leader of the Year and says it’s vital that the insurance industry continue to lobby New Zealand’s incoming government to ensure climate change remains a key area of focus.
“Climate change is having a profound impact on the country and presents huge risks for the insurance industry,” says Whiting. “We’ve done a lot of great work in keeping mitigation on the agenda, and we need to continue this work with the new government.”
A world of experience
Whiting has worked in insurance for more than two decades and has held senior positions in both general and health insurance, as well as telecommunications.
She joined IAG in Sydney in 2008 and was appointed Chief Executive of the New Zealand business in July 2021.
“I started my career in a health insurance business, which branched into selling general insurance, and it wasn't until I started to sell it that I realised the benefits it brought to people in terms of taking on risks for them,” says Whiting.
“I think about insurance as something that allows our customers to take risks, whether it's having a mortgage, driving a car, or running a small business, and that’s something I’ve always really liked about the industry.”
Throughout her career, Whiting says she’s held “almost every role in an insurance company”. She says her diversity of experience has been invaluable in her current role.
“The opportunity to move to New Zealand and take on the Chief Executive role came up a couple of years ago and I really liked the idea because of the breadth of being in a separate country and running a division where you have more control over the way that things happen.”
Collaboration in the face of climate change
During her time with IAG, Whiting delivered the first automated insurance advice model for SMEs in Australia, as well as leading award-winning customer experience teams that delivered record employee net promoter scores.
Her commitment to the industry includes working on several internal and external boards and committees, such as the Climate Leaders Coalition, Sustainable Business Council, Global Women and Champions for Change in New Zealand. She is also a member of Chief Executive Women in Australia, and Vice President of the Insurance Council of New Zealand Board.
Whiting’s work as Chair of the Cyclone Taskforce Insurance Subgroup was applauded by ANZIIF award judges. The Taskforce spearheaded the recent climate disaster response, recovery, and next steps alongside central and local government. It also applied shared claims data to models that now help councils make decisions about how to categorise vulnerable properties.
“I'm really proud of the work we did following Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland flooding,” says Whiting.
“It has been challenging for the industry, and it could have been so easy for those companies to just bunker down and do their own thing, but instead, everyone came together. We got working on not only solving the problem for now, but also looking at what the future may hold. It was a privilege to be a part of that.
“I also think, what a mature industry we've got in New Zealand, where we're not competing against each other in this kind of situation because there's no value in that,” adds Whiting.
“We understand that if we all show up together, then we'll all benefit. The work in this space is probably one of my proudest achievements.”
Leading the way
In awarding Whiting Insurance Leader of the Year, judges described her as “a visionary CEO” with a track record of fostering innovative and diverse workplaces that deliver exceptional culture and customer-centred outcomes.
Whiting describes strong leadership as “an ability to understand when to dive into detail and when to stay out”.
“I think being able to paint a picture for people around what great looks like and supporting them in their development is super important,” she says. “You also need to genuinely care about people.
“I also think that if people believe that you are supporting them to do what they need to do, you get this amazing extra effort or discretionary effort, because people want to back you as well.”
As a leader, Whiting believes mentorships are a valuable asset for career progression and development.
“I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of different mentors throughout my career and, when I mentor people, I get a lot out of it and I learn so much,” she says.
“The benefits of mentoring go both ways. There's always something to learn from the way that others view things.
“Mentorships are such a powerful relationship to have as a leader, because it can help you understand the reasons people think in a certain way and it expands your own thinking as well. I think leaders should always seek out different points of view.”
Whiting describes her leadership role at IAG as a huge opportunity and that being recognised as Insurance Leader of the Year is “a privilege”.
“I feel privileged to have been nominated for the award, and grateful that I work in a role that gives me an opportunity to make a difference,” she says.
“I’d describe winning the award as both a privilege and a bit of a surprise.”