#NIBA2020: Leading in the COVID-19 times

Day three of #NIBA2020 kicked off with the industry leaders discussing Leading in the time of COVID-19

Written on 28 October, 2020
Tanaya Das

Day three of #NIBA2020 kicked off with the industry leaders discussing Leading in the time of COVID-19.

The insurance broking leaders were asked:

  1. What are the key challenges you are facing in this area at the present time?
    and
  2. How do you see things developing in the next year or so in relation to this topic?

Sarah Lyons, Chief Executive at Gallagher Australia said there’s been a significant shift in leadership dynamic as we progress through 2020.

“At the start of the crisis, it was very much a challenge of reaction. There was so much happening, that each of us had to react and develop plans accordingly.”

She continued, “As leaders we look forward, and that’s becoming increasingly difficult when you don’t know what will happen from one day to the next.

“The sheer pace and complexity of change we’ve seen throughout COVID has shown us that even the simple problems are much more difficult to solve. And the way we solve those problems has changed as well.”

Lyons concluded that leaders must be strong, resilient and comfortable with ambiguity, especially for the rising starts and emerging leaders.

Robert Kelly, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Steadfast, said he’s been impressed by the role NIBA’s taken in terms of bringing together the leaders in the broking industry.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed by how the egos are left outside the door, and that the people who run the major distribution businesses in Australia are aligned.”

Mike Emmett, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of AUB Group, said he has the good fortune of having many leaders across the business and network.

“What I’ve seen is how responsive, entrepreneurial and creative the different parts of the business are – that’s the benefit of a diverse portfolio of businesses.”

James Baum, Chief Executive Officer at Aon Australia, said he would swap the word challenging for exciting.

“We’re clearly going through an unprecedented time and I’m sure lots of us have said, ‘there’s no training manual on how to lead remotely’. But I think if leadership is something you’re passionate about, and you care about the development and wellbeing of your colleagues, then this is actually, and it might sound bizarre to say, but I actually find this time really exciting.”

Baum also highlighted the importance of authentic communication, “As we learn about this ‘new better’, and what this could mean, I think as leaders, you’ve got to listen to more people in your organisation – you need to get deeper into the layers of your organisation and hear about the things that are challenging colleagues.”

Nick Harris, Chief Executive Officer, Pacific, at Marsh, said COVID has taught him that there’s a big difference between leading and managing.

“I think you manage during the good times…but during the tough times, you have to step up and lead.”

He continued, “Sometimes we get caught up in the numbers, caught up in the budget and the day-to-day, but that’ll take care of itself if you look after your people.”

Finally, Simon Weaver, Head of Australasia at Willis Towers Watson, said he’s also learnt a huge amount throughout this process, but admits he doesn’t have all the answers.

“How do you maintain your business culture if people aren’t interacting with one another, day in, day out, in an office environment? We don’t have the answers yet, but we’ve certainly got to learn and adapt,” he concluded.

Thank you to all our insurance broking leaders for contributing to the 2020 NIBA Virtual Convention.