Vol 46: Issue 1 | March 2023
When you’re heading up the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), it’s critical that you’re open to honest conversations and hard questions.
So, perhaps it’s no surprise that ICA CEO Andrew Hall started out his career as a print journalist in the New South Wales country town of Grafton.
“I loved being a journalist and I loved being part of everything that happened in our regional community,” he says. “At a certain point, though, I wanted to become front and centre of driving the stories, rather than reporting on them.”
Hall moved across to politics and spent six years as a ministerial adviser to MP Warren Truss, who subsequently became the leader of the National Party and deputy prime minister. The job was unrelenting, requiring 24/7 commitment — and the experience was invaluable.
“It taught me a lot of skills that are hard to learn in other professions, such as how to speak truth to power,” says Hall. “A ministerial adviser needs to be able to give advice to the minister and to tell them what’s going to work and what clearly isn’t working.”
It aso gave Hall a broader understanding of advocacy and the ability to solve problems under time constraints. He remained in politics for 11 years, by which time he was ready for a fresh challenge and a slightly less intense work environment.
Hall moved across to the private sector and held senior roles in corporate affairs at two of Australia’s biggest companies — Woolworths and the Commonwealth Bank.
Throughout his varied career, Hall has led teams big and small and approaches his work with a fundamental mindset: curiosity. Asking questions has deepened his understanding and skills, and he sees the value in taking the wrong turn.
“When things go wrong, the lived experience is the equivalent of doing an MBA in a very short period. You have to problem-solve and learn the root cause of the issue in order to solve it,” he says.
During the depths of COVID-19 lockdowns in September 2020, Hall became the ICA’s new CEO. Within the first week of his tenure, issues were erupting over whether a pandemic was considered a business interruption for the purposes of claiming from an insurance policy. It was an incredibly fraught time.
In October, the High Court delivered its verdict on the test cases for business interruption insurance policies. One of its key findings was that insurance claims will ultimately be determined on the specific wording of individual policies. When the pandemic began, most insurance policies in Australia were not intended to provide pandemic cover. Had they all been deemed to cover a pandemic, the insurance industry would have collapsed.
“Pandemic insurance is something that’s much larger than any private market can really ever cover,” Hall says. “A pandemic is what’s called a ‘concurrent event’ because it is so large and widespread. It’s very expensive to price.”
He cites the best-known example of pandemic coverage policy: the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The organisers paid millions of pounds every year to maintain their insurance policy — and it paid out. It was one of the few policies in the world to cover a black swan event such as a pandemic.
“Moving forward, there should be more of a debate,” says Hall. “The pandemic has left behind many unanswered questions on how industries can best respond, and work needs to be done on answering those questions.”
As CEO of the ICA, Hall aims to advocate for the wider recognition of the fundamental role insurance plays in the Australian economy. “I saw an opportunity to take a sector that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves and put it front and centre of the national discussion,” he says.
In July last year, Hall joined the ASX Corporate Governance Council as a part-time member, advising the ASX on corporate governance principles.
“It’s an important body that has done very good work over a number of years,” says Hall. “It is great for me to be there because directors-and-officers [D&O] insurance is an area that’s now being tested frequently through litigation. The ASX principles are designed to better protect corporates from making the kinds of mistakes that lead to litigation.”
Another part of insurance’s critical role is to demonstrate a way forward for mitigating climate change. During this past decade of increased extreme weather events, the role insurance can play in reducing the impacts is sharpening in peoples’ minds. In November 2022, the ICA released a roadmap to help insurers to achieve net zero emissions for their operations by 2030 and across their activities by 2050.
“We are coordinating the activities of the industry through the roadmap, which was effectively designed to provide a plan for the sector on achieving net zero within certain time frames including interim measures. While a lot is still unknown about how different aspects will be achieved, we now have an established pathway for getting there,” he says.
“Insurers are taking action to reduce emissions in a variety of ways, from setting a shadow carbon price to ensure investment portfolios align with the economic transition already underway, through to building electric vehicle charging infrastructure and underwriting clean energy technology of the future.”
Hall believes investing in the clean energy transition is important, such as supporting the development of renewable infrastructure, as well as upskilling in the industry, so it’s possible to underwrite a range of new energy technologies.
The ICA has also been responding to challenges from government to lower insurance premiums in regions where risk mitigation measures have been taken. For example, the peak body is working with the government on the implementation of the Hazard Insurance Partnership, which was announced in the federal budget.
“As part of that, the government will be looking to insurers to understand where resilience and mitigation investment money should be spent, and how it will contribute to premium reductions,” Hall explains. “Given the impacts of worsening extreme weather that are being felt all over the country, the community expects industry, governments and stakeholders to work together.”
The insurance sector has faced unprecedented challenges during Hall’s tenure, including the pandemic, the 2022 floods and other severe weather events. Affordability is set to remain one of the most pressing issues in the long term. However, that can’t come at the cost of cutting corners in serving customers well and fairly and acting in their best interests.
Hall believes insurers have been working hard to be fully compliant with the recently updated General Insurance Code of Practice.
“As the year progresses, we will invariably see areas where insurers need to do better in terms of their obligations, and that will reflect the sheer volume and scale of the events that may occur. But equally, the beauty of the Code is being able to see where there are problems and areas of focus for improvement, and how to remedy that.”
Andrew Hall began his career as a newspaper journalist at a country newspaper in Grafton, New South Wales
Hall went on to hold senior roles in politics and retail banking, before joining the Insurance Council of Australia in 2020 as its CEO
OUTSIDE THE DAY JOB
Travel. Hall has just returned from an extended visit to Italy
“Take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to you, even if you think they might be boring.
To be perfectly honest, if someone had told me a long time ago that I’d work in banking, I would have laughed because I used to think that banking would be boring. Nowadays, when someone asks me how interesting it is to work in insurance, I say, ‘Well, we’ve just been through the worst floods in Australian history. I’m dealing with communities with tens of thousands of claims. It’s not dull. It’s a fascinating sector.”
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