Broker profile: ‘making insurance painless for clients’

Report proposes 'self-funding' insurance model for export industries

ii-A Account Manager Chris Payne got his start in broking doing administrative work for a brokerage 10 years ago. His turning point came when his employer at the time, Omnisure, asked him to start helping out with claims and he has not looked back since.

Tell us about your early broking experiences

I remember years ago when I first started in administration, there were only four of us and they told me to start helping with the claims for the business. Most of the claims related to motor but it was an eye-opener. It allowed me to see the power of insurance and what a piece of paper does, how it can help people rebuild financially, recover after a loss.

From there I had clients ring up saying “Chris, can you help me” and it gave me this initial rush that I was in a position to help them.

Working at ii-A, I have really matured has a broker. I’m looking after more in-depth accounts that need more focus and attention to detail. I have certainly learnt a lot about myself and my skillsets under the leadership of Peter McDermott Jnr and Polina Kesov.   

What keeps you motivated?

I think what really gets me going every day is I have this mantra to make insurance painless for my clients.

What keeps me going is also the opportunities to meet new clients from all walks of life, talking to them, understanding them and their insurance needs. And it makes my day when my clients have their claims paid.

Share examples where you helped a client with a claim  

There’s a few that stood out. There was this claim, it was a little one, but I remember a client dropped and broke their mobile phone. They didn’t have general property insurance, but I was able to get that claim under his business pack policy by triggering the temporary removal of contents and the claim was accepted.

I can never forget the first claim I had as a broker. It was an old lady who had a landlord policy in Katoomba, NSW. She had a little fire at the place, the tenants were staying there. I will never forget her ringing up and sobbing, telling me about what happened.

I quickly arranged for the tradies to come in, get the assessors out there. It really wasn’t that much, about $7000 worth of damage.

It was a really nice feeling at that time getting the cheque from the insurer and posting that out to her. I would have been in my early 20s at that time so I just felt really good, happy that I helped with her claim.

The best advice you received in the early years of your career?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had, and it has actually shaped my attitude, is “trust but confirm”. So basically it means trust what your clients are saying but still get them to confirm it in writing.

Which leads to the other best advice I’ve been given: always have the proposal form completed and signed. This is the advice that I’ve always remembered.

So I make it a point to take notes and then I confirm the discussions in writing.

How has the market changed since you started 10 years ago?

There’s been a lot of changes. I remember in 2014 rates started going up and then there’s the spate of natural disasters. There were the hailstorms, bushfires. And things will change again after all the floods we’ve had recently.

There was also the time when Lloyd’s started pulling a lot of their capacity out of the Australasian market. It has certainly had ripple effects for brokers like me with SME clients. Some lines just became more and more difficult to place and I had the challenge of trying to make sure my clients were continuously insured.

Are there any lessons from the hard market?

One good thing was I resolved to keep up with my market research and I also made it a point to have constant conversations with various underwriters from different agencies, asking them about a product and if this can be done, that can be done for my client.

I’m constantly reading the UAC (Underwriting Agencies Council) website, talking to my colleagues to see how can we help a client secure the insurance. And I speak with other brokers too, to get a feel for what’s going on in the market.

Is it difficult to have conversations with clients about the hard cycle?

It can be difficult. However, it really depends on what they want to get out of their insurance portfolio. I just try to do my best for the client. Show them the facts, show them my work and let them decide. It’s critical to have good rapport with your clients otherwise they will just see and treat you as a price point. At the end of the day, the current conditions are out of my control and all I focus on is doing the very best by my clients.  

Is it difficult to convince clients they need to have adequate insurance for peace of mind?

Sometimes, but it also depends on their perceptions of what insurance is. Some are motivated by price, some worry about cover, some don’t even care.  

Sometimes the conversations can be difficult but it’s only difficult if you’re not really prepared to have that conversation.

All I can do is provide information about the products, why they should consider them, give them a quote and give examples.

But I’ve noticed that if I keep reminding them, they will come round to it. I had a client who finally took up cyber insurance after two years of not having it.

Has perception of brokers changed since you started?

Yes, especially when insurance is becoming harder and harder.  

I know some still see us like a “compare the market” platform but a lot of brokers like myself, we are making a difference for our clients.

Insurance can be tricky but it’s why I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s all about the clients and what they need so they have peace of mind.

Have the recent floods highlighted the value of insurance?

Coincidentally at that time I took some annual leave and drove up to Queensland to meet my partner’s parents for the first time.

This would have been about February when we drove through Lismore to have a look, having heard so much about it through work, the news.

I wanted to see in the flesh what it was all about. I remembered my jaw dropping, seeing all the devastation. It was awful. I remember seeing a family on the side of the road handing out water bottles to everyone.

It was a real eye-opener, you can just smell the mud.

So back to your question. There are two sides. There are going to be areas in NSW particularly that are going to be uninsurable. It’s a catch 22. Insurers don’t want to be in guaranteed flood zones but clients can’t afford $25,000 a year insurance.

We’ll have to see what transpires.

What is your typical day like?

It’s fairly flexible, I work 9 to 5 sort of hours. I go to the gym in the morning. If I haven’t done it the previous night, first thing I do when I am in the office is have the list of things I need to do for my clients every day.  

What do you do to relax, destress?  

I do a lot of bike riding, I go to the gym. I share a lot with my partner, take it off my chest. And it’s also important to have frequent debriefs with my co-workers.