First, the Australian Government’s Protecting Your Superannuation legislation, aimed at guarding super savings from unnecessary erosion by fees and insurance costs, came into effect on 1 July 2019. Like other players in the market, MetLife Australia had to renegotiate its pricing with its partner super funds. According to Nunn, ‘the team did an amazing job’.
He says MetLife Australia’s group business, the third biggest in the market, is growing. ‘It’s quite mature and established, and I am really happy with the team and the way we are progressing.’
On the corporate insurance side, where MetLife is the biggest player in the Australian market, Nunn is also pleased with the way the MetLife sales team succeeded in retendering contracts through partner brokers and retained market share.
Much more challenging, however, has been MetLife’s attempt to break into the retail life insurance market.
‘I think it’s well documented that we had a slower start in retail than we would have liked,’ says Nunn. ‘That said, in the past six months we’ve completely revamped our market strategy and changed our pricing and product design on the back of feedback from our partner financial planners.’MetLife Australia, a subsidiary of the US-headquartered global giant and the 2019 ANZIIF Life Insurance Company of the Year, launched a new retail offering in December and has spent significant time, effort and resources on bolstering its operations, product and distribution teams.
COMING FULL CIRCLEBy joining MetLife Australia, Nunn has now come full circle in many ways. ‘I am coming back to where I started,’ he says.
Nunn admits to having no idea as a teenager of what he wanted to do for a career. ‘I did a lot of science subjects and that was part of my real interests. But when it came down to getting into university, a business degree was a new kind of thing and I kind of landed in that a bit by accident, but I enjoyed it.’
Of his first graduate job, Nunn says: ‘At the time, I was living in Adelaide. You took the graduate job that was available. And the job available to me was at National Mutual [now AXA]. So, I spent the first 13 years of my career in insurance.’
Nunn then worked in retail funds management, wealth management and banking in Australia and Asia for companies such National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, IOOF and AXA, across a range of management roles.
He joined MetLife from Statewide Super, which manages more than A$9.9 billion in assets and has over 136,000 members. During his more than three years as CEO of the South Australian-based industry super fund, he got to know the MetLife Australia business, because it provided the fund’s group life insurance for its members.
A NEW DIRECTIONNunn says the opportunity to join MetLife Australia came out of blue. ‘At Statewide, I had got to the inflection point where we had transformed the business to get it growing and sustainable and either me or someone else would have to look at taking the business to the next level. It was just the time to go. MetLife was an exciting growth opportunity for me, and I felt I could add value across its business.’
Of his management style, Nunn says: ‘For me, what you see is what you get, and I would like to think that I am reasonably transparent and authentic and that if people want to talk to me they can. I like to get the team [together] to plan, set and then I get out of the way.’
THE CHALLENGES OF LEADINGOver the course of his career, Nunn says his biggest leadership challenges have involved large restructures or transformation programs.
‘Not only are there people issues; you are asking people to embrace change,’ he explains. ‘It can be fun, but you are responsible for outcomes. To me, it’s all about leaving the business in a better shape than I found it and making it a better place for people to work in.’However, Nunn adds that the large amount of regulation both before and after the Hayne royal commission ‘has led to the most challenging time I canemember in 30 years in financial services — not just for me, but for the financial services industry as a whole’.
‘It’s impacting just about every part of the financial services sector,’ he says. ‘There’s a huge amount of change being forced on the industry. It’s a day-to-day challenge to navigate through that, manage it and keep people motivated.
‘From an insurance perspective, this is probably the most regulatory spotlight we’ve had on us. It’s changing the economics of our businesses, customer relationships, distribution channels, product design, you name it.
‘It challenges me, because we have to apply resources, change our operating models and adapt … learn new ways of doing things.’
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHANGESLooking ahead, Nunn says MetLife’s number one challenge is to support its super fund and financial planning partners in navigating all the changes.
Next up is getting its retail business growing. ‘We’ve learnt a lot over the past 18 months,’ he says, ‘and I believe the changes we have put in place will enable us to catch the opportunities out there, particularly with distribution options that were not there 18 months ago.’
Here, Nunn points to changes in the financial adviser market. ‘If you look at distribution, two years ago, 75 per cent of the Australian advice market was locked up by the banks and AMP. That’s changed,’ he says.
‘Banks are exiting and a lot of advisers are coming out into a more open architecture environment, but that doesn’t stop them selling insurance.
‘They are looking for partners as well. If we’d tried to launch the retail business three years ago, it would have been incredibly difficult to break into distribution networks. But the opportunity is out there now, not just for us, but for all firms. It’s a good time for us to be pushing ahead with our retail strategy.’
Other challenges include MetLife Australia’s legacy back book and ensuring the company maintains its leadership position in its corporate business.
‘For me personally, maintaining a customer and staff focus is crucial,’ says Nunn. ‘We want to offer a great customer experience, but I also want people who work at MetLife to enjoy the experience.’
Nunn sees 2020 as a year of opportunity for MetLife Australia.
‘It’s quite a unique time in the industry,’ he says. ‘It’s a once-in-a-career type of thing with distribution breaking open. There’s a lot of change going on in the group market and there’s consolidation among super funds. MetLife Australia is quite well positioned to capitalise on those changes.
‘We have a growth agenda. We are backed by a strong global parent. We have a really good culture. It’s a good place to work, and we are getting great people coming to us from the external market.’