Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods created the highest demand FMG has faced in its 118-year history, generating more claims than from the Kaikōura and Canterbury earthquakes combined.
The insurer’s response went a long way to convincing the judges of ANZIIF’s New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards that FMG should be named General Insurance Company of the Year for 2023.
The annual New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards bring all sectors of insurance together to celebrate the accomplishments of businesses and individuals as well as nurture the diverse talent that represent the future of the New Zealand insurance industry.
In their comments, the judges noted that: “FMG distinguished itself by implementing the RAPID decision-making model to allow senior leaders to be moved to places they might be needed around the organisation. Individuals with claims experience were retrained, certified EQC assessors were deployed, and 6,000 east coast clients were offered assistance and support within two weeks.”
A real-life stress test
It was pure coincidence that the cyclone and floods occurred soon after RAPID was introduced.
“The new model was very quickly tested to the nth degree,” says FMG chief people officer Nicki Mackay.
The disasters, which occurred less than two weeks apart, triggered thousands of claims for damage to homes and businesses including vehicles destroyed by flood waters, crops lost to silt, businesses interrupted, stock lost, and farm fences demolished.
“What we wanted to do really, really quickly was mobilise the wider business and separate out a team of people who could take control,” says Mackay.
“RAPID enabled this and made it much easier for us to continue with business-as-usual operations at the same time as we were responding to a huge unfolding crisis. It’s easy to forget that, even when we’re in the middle of a flood or cyclone, someone elsewhere who has been displaced by, say, a house fire is equally in need of our help.”
Given the scale of the crisis, contacting clients was a priority.
“We moved people around the business to increase the number on the phones, and we also visited affected clients as soon as we could,” says Mackay.
“They were really quick to email their thanks — one told us that an FMG car coming up the driveway was the best thing they’d seen because they’d been feeling so isolated. We’re incredibly proud of the way our team rallied to stand shoulder to shoulder with our clients, and we’re also proud to have closed around 85 per cent of claims and paid more than $230 million into affected communities.”
Taking care of their own employees was also a major concern.
“Some were directly affected,” says Mackay. “Others were deeply moved by the stories they were hearing on the phone or in person. Every client with an open flood- or cyclone-related claim had their own FMG consultant and, as a result, many of our people felt personally involved.”
FMG’s Wellbeing and Safety team rolled out several initiatives in recognition of the emotional toll on employees.
“These included on-site counselling at the Palmerston North office and online resilience workshops designed to bolster our employees’ emotional stamina,” says Mackay.
“We also provided support for Service Centre teams, who were engaging in difficult conversations every day.”
A model of everyday efficiency
While RAPID proved itself in an emergency, it can also help FMG to make decisions faster and more effectively on a daily basis.
“It helps us to ensure we’re having the right discussions and that the right people are making the decisions,” says Mackay.
“Like any change management process, it takes a while to become embedded throughout the organisation but we plan to weave it into the fabric of everything we do.”
Significant as it proved to be, the deployment of RAPID wasn’t the only achievement to impress the New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards judges.
The panel described the submission as data rich and well presented, highlighting strong initiatives and a resulting robust client retention rate. FMG’s updated five-pillar strategy received specific mention, as did the efficient rollout of the Insurance Professional Framework to meet new regulatory standards.
The judges were impressed by the level of customer satisfaction research carried out and “awed” by FMG’s people initiatives, including world-class wellbeing offerings and human-centred design.
The panel also noted that, for the second year in a row, FMG was the only New Zealand business to be recognised with a Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award for significantly high employee engagement, professional development and culture.
“We are very proud to have received the award given the challenges that we and the entire New Zealand insurance industry have faced this year,” says Mackay.
“It’s wonderful to receive recognition for the way the whole team rallied to deliver on the promises our clients trust us to keep.”
Pictured: Chief Executive officer at FMG Adam Heath accepts the New Zealand General Insurance Company of the Year award at last year's Insurance Awards ceremony.