Driving future value: An interview with NIBA’s President, Dianne Phelan

In this month's issue of Insurance Adviser, Dianne Phelan discusses changes to the NIBA Board and the value and future of broking.

Written on 27 April, 2022
Wendy Martin

Appointed at the mid-point of Australia’s worst COVID-19 related restrictions in February 2021, which impacted brokers and their clients across the board, and during a seemingly entrenched hard insurance market, NIBA President Di Phelan could be forgiven for thinking the challenges facing insurance brokers could not get any greater.

“It was certainly a busy year,” Di recalls. “We had some critical projects, which have now come to fruition, but the many hurdles and barriers all brokers have had to face means a changing agenda is now the norm.”

One of Di’s first ‘big ticket items’ on becoming President was finding a replacement for long-serving NIBA Chief Executive Officer Dallas Booth. “This was a daunting task and certainly not one I completed alone,” she says. “The subcommittee charged with the responsibility embarked on an extensive process which led to the appointment of Philip Kewin and the Board is delighted with the smooth transition that ensued – a credit to both Dallas and Phil. The experience Phil brings to the role means that he has been able to hit the ground running since taking over from Dallas in November and I could not have hoped for a better outcome.’’

With the new 2022 Insurance Brokers Code of Practice, which was launched on 1 March coming into effect on 1 November, Di urges brokers to engage with the implementation guidance and support NIBA has put in place to ensure compliance. The heightened regulatory scrutiny on the industry, however, is just beginning.

“The work NIBA is now undertaking on the Federal Government’s Quality of Advice Review is our next vital project,” Di says. “We need all our members to respond when we seek input and action as the review progresses. Successful outcomes for both projects by the end of the year is certainly a key objective for us.”

Di says the words “resilient and proud” come to mind when she thinks of how brokers responded to the challenges of the pandemic and extreme weather events

“When the pandemic hit, many brokers moved to completely working from home within a few days, while being inundated with client queries,” she says. “Many clients were so scared of losing their businesses overnight and I know there was an immediate reaction of people wanting to cut costs without a thought to the risk involved.

“But brokers maintained their focus on clients and what would help them through this. We should all be so proud of the way brokers went above and beyond and adapted to the change thrust upon them.

“The challenging hard market, which we all continue to experience, just added another layer of difficulty. I’m not just referring to the issues created by a retracting market in some segments and premium increases, but also challenges brokers are facing when claims occur and the difficulty in trying to resolve matters and obtain the best possible outcome.

“In these times, the conversations with clients can be difficult; why has a premium increased so dramatically or why they haven’t been invited to renew their policy when there haven’t been any claims. These discussions take place across the country every day.

“Brokers have had a prolonged period of being the bearers of bad news and shouldering client frustration. They have had to build a level of resilience that might not have been there two years ago. That saying of ‘what doesn’t break you makes you stronger’ is never truer than right now.

“It is heartbreaking to watch the devastation people are going through with the flood emergency, not once but in many cases twice. We might have the best claims team in the world, but that will not be enough to repair the damage in a timely manner when trades and supplies are insufficient to cover the demand. Helping clients to navigate through this time will require even more resilience and I have no doubt that brokers will continue to rise to these challenges.”

To read the full article, please refer to the April issue of Insurance Adviser.