June 2019


Fellow WA committee members Rosena De Freitas (left) and Victoria Branson (right) with WA President Rebecca Pember at the welcome drinks at last year’s AILA National Conference.

Rebecca shares her passion for insurance

by Kate Tilley, Resolve Editor

Like so many in insurance, AILA WA President Rebecca Pember didn’t choose the industry as her career, but “fell into it”.

A neighbour was working at Wesfarmers Federation Insurance in 2005 and, when a vacancy arose, suggested Rebecca apply. She wasn’t happy with her role as a telco’s call centre consultant, so “took the leap to try something new” and she’s “so glad I did”.

“It’s catapulted me into so many different opportunities, avenues and specialties,” Rebecca told Resolve.

Initially, the money was less than her previous role, but that changed quickly as Rebecca moved up the ladder.

She worked through a range of roles with Wesfarmers before joining QBE in October 2011, initially as a legal liability claims officer before becoming a technical adviser in workers’ compensation for six years.

In January 2018, she moved into a new role as a claims investigator. She concurrently was elected AILA WA President.

Rebecca says insurance fraud has long been considered “somewhat socially acceptable”.

“But the concept of ‘a little bit of fraud is ok’ just doesn’t sit well with me. The Insurance Fraud Bureau of Australia estimates insurance fraud costs the industry more than $700 million a year, a cost the industry simply can’t continue to bear.”

Historically, insurers had been hesitant to prosecute fraud cases, probably in part because of the difficulty in proving fraud, but Rebecca said that was slowly changing.

“We aim to improve the standard of investigations by working closely with external partners and building better briefs of evidence. We’ve found police are willing to take on insurance fraud cases if the evidence is there,” she told Resolve.

“On the flip side, and equally if not more importantly, we can identify genuine claims faster and with less red tape, which means customers get claims paid quicker. It’s a win-win for us and our customers.”

Rebecca manages a portfolio of investigations, which includes reviewing claims; conducting desktop inquiries and searches; developing investigative strategies; liaising with and supporting the claims team; conducting investigations in-house or via external providers; providing recommendations to the claims team based on investigation outcomes; liaising with internal and external dispute resolution; and developing networks with investigators and other service providers.

She and her team have red flags that may alert them to potential issues with claims. For example, an early morning motor vehicle crash may indicate alcohol was involved; a claim lodged the day after a policy was purchased could be problematic.

“Sometimes it’s just a claims officer doing the sniff test and something doesn’t seem quite right,” she said. “Fraud never sleeps, so we’re always busy.”

Rebecca is excited that fraud and investigations are highlighted at the AILA National Conference in Tasmania this year. “In WA, we’re planning to cover more of these types of topics in our own programs.”

Perth hosted the 2018 conference, which meant a huge year for Rebecca and the WA committee. “Planning and executing the National Conference was a lot of work, but an absolute highlight of my career.

“I commend the WA committee and the National Conference Organising Committee for all the work they did to put on a fantastic conference and keep the regular program of seminars and events running smoothly. I am so proud of them,” she told Resolve.

Rebecca’s passionate about insurance because the world can’t operate without it, and she said few people took the time to ponder that. “It reaches so many aspects of life ... it makes the world go round.”

Taking on the WA AILA president role has been challenging. Rebecca says the association is reaching out to new demographics and expanding member engagement. While states and territories were formerly “siloed”, the nationally consistent approach brings great benefits.

The stronger national linkages mean branches across the states and territories can learn more from each other and share a nationally focused approach.

One of Rebecca’s goals is to overcome a misconception AILA is for lawyers alone. “Perhaps it’s the title. Maybe we need the word ‘and’ between insurance and law.

“We’re an organisation for everyone and I’d like to see more involvement from non-lawyers.

She plans to meet insurers and non-lawyer organisations in the industry to demonstrate what AILA has to offer. The WA committee is already expanding partnerships with organisations like NIBA, hosting more joint events and cross-promotions.

“AILA’s role is to educate and we don’t mind how that happens. I’m happy to partner with anyone with the same interests,” she said.

By attending AILA events, Rebecca said she’s developed “a more rounded knowledge through being exposed to areas of insurance I didn’t even know existed”.

She’s also keen to dispel the myth investigations is a job for male ex-coppers. More women, and younger women, are moving into the specialised field of insurance fraud investigations.

Outside work, Rebecca is renovating her Perth home, with family assistance, but she relaxes, too. “Working in the insurance industry is brain intensive, so I spend time trying to switch off,” she told Resolve.

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Resolve is the official publication of the Australian Insurance Law Association and
the New Zealand Insurance Law Association.