30 Minutes with Joan Fitzpatrick

A conversation with Joan Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive Officer, ANZIIF.

What is the focus of ANZIIF ('the Institute')?

We are focused on growing and developing professionalism in the insurance industry across all disciplines, underwriting, claims, broking, general, life, risk, workers compensation and compulsory third party insurance, loss adjusting and even financial planning. We are also committed to improving the image of the industry in the eyes of the general community.

The Institute has been around for over 120 years. What have been some of the main challenges and opportunities?

The Institute has always been an integral part of the insurance industry in Australia. It is one of the oldest professional associations in the world and began life in 1884 in Melbourne before spanning the continent and expanding into New Zealand and Asia Pacific. Our members live in more than 50 countries around the world and our students live in more than 30 countries.

The biggest challenge is perennial and that is to remain relevant and provide a valued service and set of products to the industry. That means that we must stay constantly on our toes and be capable of moving and adapting in tandem with the local and global industry.

A quite significant series of product and service changes have been made over our nearly 130 years of history and some important structural changes have also been successfully implemented. One example of the latter was the way in which we were able to unify the Institute structure from nine separately incorporated companies to one single Institute entity in 2000.

Our most recent major governance and structural review took place last year as we looked out over the horizon of the next five to ten years and asked ourselves: was our structure fit for purpose for the future? We are in the process of implementing a whole series of exciting structural changes which are focused upon enhancing our service delivery to members and our education delivery to students via online and social media platforms. We launched our new Faculty structure on 1st May 2012 - ensuring that we now have a dedicated Faculty for our broking members.

What are the current global or local issues facing the insurance and financial services industry?

One of the big issues for the industry in Australia (and this has resonance globally) is widespread under-insurance and non-insurance. The level of knowledge and understanding about insurance - its value, its purpose, how and why it works - is very low across Australia's population. This lack of knowledge is a core component of the under and non-insurance issue. In addition there are many unwarranted negative views of insurance companies in the community and politicians and media largely support these.

The Institute has been working to try to change public perception and improve understanding and knowledge of insurance and risk management through a series of initiatives over the past decade. One example is the running and hosting of the industry awards each year recognising and celebrating excellence in our industry here and in New Zealand for the past 9 years. Our most recent initiative is the KnowRisk platform (KnowRisk.com.au), which we will launch to the general public later in 2012.

The Institute is committed to the pursuit of professional excellence and business success. How is this achieved?

We believe that a well educated industry leads in turn to professional excellence and business success. Our education programs are acknowledged to be the most comprehensive quality technical education available in the Asia Pacific region. We have won the coveted Asia Education Provider of the Year Award 8 times in the past 10 years. However, we do not confine ourselves to formal education and training programs. We provide all sorts of continuous professional development opportunities via a range of delivery methodologies - online, face-to-face, short courses, intensive and custom built courses, seminars and conferences.

We also know that belonging to a professional community and being able to engage, meet and network with fellow industry participants is an important element of professional growth and excellence and so we provide diverse opportunities for this amongst our member and student community.

How does the Institute provide guidance, support and advice to the end user/client of insurance and financial services?

We do not have a direct relationship with the customers or buyers of insurance cover but we aim to ensure that the customers' experience of our industry and their product is a professional and ethical one. All our members abide by a strict code of ethical behaviour. Our direct contact with the community is however growing through our community education initiative Know Risk (KnowRisk.com.au).

What are the key issues facing women leaders in the corporate world and/or what needs to be done in the industry around gender diversity?

Our industry has much to do to truly address the issues of gender diversity and equity for women. All the statistics are quite damning and we are particularly unequal when it comes to remuneration. I could talk about this subject for hours because it is such an important issue for our industry.

I believe that attitudes and beliefs are beginning to change and more organisations are learning to focus on the dearth of senior women executives and board members and the serious business problems this causes.

A core driver for positive action is the difficulty companies are experiencing in attracting, recruiting and retaining talent. I believe that they should look inside their own ranks and the women occupying important roles and doing great work below executive level. Focusing on growing existing female talent and working out ways to help them work flexibly so that they can handle their caregiver and parenting roles would be a very positive step.

On the other side of the coin, it is also true that women need to take charge of their own careers and their ambitions and ask for more experience and opportunity.

Very often the bias against promoting women is unconscious. Women tend to get senior roles in areas such as marketing, HR, communications or accounting. They need to strive to get some profit and loss experience if they are to rise to executive and senior ranks or the CEO role.

How important is educational awareness within the industry and how is the Institute promoting this?

I think that the industry does very well in terms of its commitment to education and professional focus. It has a long tradition of this commitment although there are some pockets of the industry that still prefer to do as little as possible as cheaply as possible to gain the minimum level of education for regulatory compliance. The really enlightened organisations understand that the better educated the staff, the better performance is achieved for the whole business. Knowledge, education and technical skills, all lead to confident, capable staff members who make less mistakes, are more likely to stay longer with the company that provides education and development and are more likely to use initiative and problem solving techniques.

The Institute promotes the value of education constantly in every activity every day - it is truly embedded in the organisation's DNA.

What lies ahead for the Institute around new or upcoming initiatives?

We are very excited by the new Faculty structure and the opportunity for us to reach our members and break down traditional geographic barriers via our online services delivery. Our KnowRisk platform is also very leading edge and the innovation required and challenges presented to realise our vision of improved understanding of risk and insurance in the general community is most invigorating.



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