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Jun 2024

Thought leadership and teaching soft skills in insurance

Source: Asia Insurance Review | May 2024

The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance has been firmly entrenched as a core part of the APAC landscape for many years, providing education, training and professional development. But the institute is also witnessing professional development of its own under the guidance of its new head, Ms Katrina Shanks.
By Paul McNamara
Towards the end of 2023, the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) announced that its new chief executive officer would be Ms Katrina Shanks.
Ms Shanks brings the wisdom of a career in financial services to the institute, having started her career in audit, headed her own accountancy business, held the financial controller position at the New Zealand National Party and most recently served as CEO of Financial Advice NZ.
Ms Shanks relocated from Wellington to Melbourne three months ago in order to take up her new position. We caught up with her to find out what s on the ANZIIF agenda and what her priorities will be.
First steps
Ms Shanks is keen to leverage her decades of experience in the financial services sector to continue the steady growth and development of ANZIIF.
“I’m interested in thought leadership, where the sector is going, how we can help the sector in terms of the legislative, regulative and technical change that is coming at insurers, underwriters and brokers in the whole chain of production of insurance,” said Ms Shanks.
“We can understand what those issues are and assist companies to be ready for that change. We need to be seen as a source of truth for information, then the community can reach out to us and understand what being a professional is in terms of qualifications, in terms of professional development and in terms of ethics,” she said.
And this process has to be collaborative.
“I want to work with the sector to ensure that we are always meeting the standards and the expectations of the customer and also the legislators,” said Ms Shanks. “ANZIIF will be very customer focused and ensure that good customer outcomes are at the centre of everything that we do.”
Geographic focus
ANZIIF has historically looked to the whole of the APAC region rather than simply its core base of Australia and New Zealand.
“We are working in China, Hong Kong and across Southeast Asia,” said Ms Shanks. “Next month we head to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to have a look at those markets in which we’ve already got a presence. An emerging market for a lot of organisations is India, and at some stage we’ll have a look at that market as well.”
Ms Shanks has recently returned from a trip to China and Hong Kong, talking to the industry. What lessons did she come back with?
“Agricultural insurance is a big issue in China - and one in which all the insurance companies are interested,” said Ms Shanks. “The government now provides about 80% of all premiums that they pay on behalf of organisations and individuals. This is an area of the China market where they’re seeking good quality education as support.
“Hong Kong is quite a different market, a mature market. It’s about working with Hong Kong insurance companies and understanding how we can add value to the organisations and the change that they’re also facing. They’re struggling to retain and attract staff,” she said.
New areas of focus
For many years, ANZIIF was focused on the non-life side of the industry, but this changed recently to see the institute become more involved in life. It recently introduced a course to provide a detailed overview of the Life Insurance Code of Practice 2.0 and how it applies to insurers relationships with customers, including when customers are buying insurance, making claims or complaints and requesting information.
“We’ve done general insurance for a very long time and life is a new market for us. We’ve only been in it for about three years,” said Ms Shanks. “So, we’re going to have a strong focus on life over the next couple of years, ensuring that we deliver and meet expectations of our customers about what education and professional development look like in the life sector.
“We’ve worked closely with the industry to provide a framework in the last couple of years, which puts us in a good place to be able to launch more professional development and engage more in the life sector than we have before. It’s an exciting opportunity for ANZIIF to increase what we’re doing in the life sector and ensure that we are also known to deliver high-quality life education,” she said.
The future looks soft
Are there any specific modules or niches that ANZIIF will be focused on in the immediate future?
Ms Shanks said, “The future is in specialisation and ensuring that once you have got the qualifications, what does that professional development look like so that you continually growing within your role? What are those challenges and how do we engage with people to ensure that we’re providing relevant education, professional development above the foundation that they already receive through their formal qualifications?
“One module that we are releasing at the end of this month is empathetic claims management. That came out of the inquiry from Canberra, where they emphasised three things, which we, as educational providers, think we can assist with.
“One is empathetic claims management. Another is vulnerable customers, and the third one is how do we provide skills to those in the insurance sector who are taking calls continually in the middle of a crisis or a disaster. How do we help those employees to last their day when they’re under extreme pressure all day? What soft skills can we help them with so they can improve that or enhance and empower them to deliver the high-quality service which they do all day long?
“An example that came out in the inquiry was that for the first three or four calls of the day for an underwriter or a broker, they do very well. But by the time they’ve got their eighth and ninth call, it’s very difficult because they’ve had so much grief transferred to them over that day. We’re looking at what soft skills we can develop to help,” she said.
Looking ahead
What does the rest of the year hold for ANZIIF?
“We’re going to have a strong focus on the value proposition for membership of ANZIIF,” said Ms Shanks. “We know that we deliver a good value proposition, but we need to articulate that better within the sector so that it understands more about having that base qualification and then having professional development to enhance that continual learning - and then having good ethics training to deliver the three components of being a professional.
“The future is exciting and there’s a lot of opportunity in the insurance sector. It’s all about increasing people’s financial health, wealth and wellbeing through building their financial resilience, and insurance is an important part of that. We’ve got an exciting opportunity to get more people insured so they’ve got the protections they need so they can have that peace of mind at night so that when something goes wrong, they’ve got something that will respond,” she said. A 
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