Read a roundup of activities around the AILA and NZILA branches
New South Wales
by Nicholas Zambetti
Just as we were about to embark on a well-deserved break over the Christmas period, we had to deal with a raft of new restrictions and border closures that dampened our ability to start planning for 2021.
The event calendar is therefore still in planning however it seems we are entering a new phase of normality. The NSW main and sub-committees have resumed seminar preparations for 2021 on the assumption we can transition from virtual to in-person seminars.
Planning for resuming the established and successful Twilight Seminar Series is in progress and, subject to confirming dates and venues, the plan is for the series to revert to its traditional in-person format. Likewise for the Annual General Insurance Law Review and other events, such as the Ron Shorter award, which we plan to re-boot this year.
Preparations for the AILA National Conference in Sydney on 20-22 October 2021 are going well and a draft program has been posted to the National Conference section of the AILA website. Many thanks to the National Conference sub-committee for continuing to work on preparations last year. A special thanks to Robin Bowley, of UTS, for taking ownership of and doing much of the background work on the program, which is in an advanced stage.
Approaches to sponsors are resuming as we push full steam ahead in our preparations.
The 2020 recipient of the Shona Wilde AILA NSW Volunteer of the Year Award is Angus Kench. We put nominations to an anonymous vote and he was the clear winner. Congratulations to Angus who deserves the award as a very active and passionate contributor to running AILA NSW (plus his involvement on the AILA national board).
Angus was instrumental in helping AILA NSW last year, in particular adapting and delivering on the new webinar model due to the exigencies of Covid-19. The award was launched in 2019 to honour volunteer contributions by the late Shona Wilde to AILA NSW and is generously sponsored by Hunt & Hunt. The award is $1,000 towards the recipient’s expenses to attend the AILA National Conference, plus a glass plaque.
by Andrea Petrocco
AILA Victoria started 2021 without its annual dinner and AGM at the RACV Club. Due to ongoing challenges of Covid-19, the AGM was held via zoom.
The committee plans to deliver to its membership base, and the wider AILA community, an inspiring calendar of events for 2021, including a face-to-face networking event in the first half of the year. We will continue to hold seminars via webinar, but will also revert back to hosting events in person, something that has been missed by many.
Please visit AILA’s homepage to keep up to date on events scheduled.
Thank you to outgoing committee members, Richard Adamczyk and Alexis Tartaglia, for their dedication and commitment.
A warm welcome to Victoria’s 2021 committee members: David Abell, Charlotte Adol, David Arribas, Phillip Carr, David Chew, Dora Cosentino, Bruce Crosthwaite, Hayley Daniel, Shannen de la Motte, Matthew Ellis, Darren Ferrari, Peter Hopkins, George Karalis, Benjamin Karalus, Anthea Karvounaris, Celandine Letcher, Jehan Mata, Jackson Pannam, John Simpson and Sarah Fountain.
Get to know your AILA Vic committee
You may have seen them moderating or presenting webinars and wondered who they are.
So, over the next few issues, you can get to know the committee, what they do in their day jobs, and more importantly their answer to ‘Why do you love being on the committee?’
David Arribas is a partner at HWL Ebsworth Lawyers. He has more than 10 years’ experience acting for, and on instructions from, Australia’s largest and most well-known life and general insurers in a broad range of claims and legal proceedings in Victoria and other states.
David has particular expertise in advising on and defending total and permanent disablement, income protection, trauma and death benefit claims. He has represented many individuals and companies in a wide variety of commercial litigation in all Victorian courts and tribunals.
Why David loves being on the committee: “It is a great way to give back to, and facilitate the development of, the life insurance industry by offering education and networking opportunities. It also helps me stay on top of industry news and trends, and provides me with interaction with like-minded colleagues from a variety of insurance backgrounds.”
Celandine Letcher is Senior Manager in the legal team at IAG specialising in insurance law, insurance and financial services regulation, and litigation. She has broad experience in product development, distribution arrangements, alternative dispute resolution and litigation (particularly for complex and sensitive matters), breach management and remediation, transfer of insurance businesses and portfolios, regulation, compliance and risk management. Before moving in-house, Celandine was in private practice in insurance litigation and advisory work.
Why Celandine loves being on the committee: “I am a proud insurance geek. I love the opportunity to connect with such a broad range of people and discuss industry and wider issues. AILA facilitates these interactions so well and brings a great group of people together. The committee has maintained its social and educational purpose and focus on industry issues throughout the challenges of 2020 and I am lucky to be involved with such a dedicated group.”
Shannen de la Motte is a Junior Legal Counsel at AIG Australia Ltd. She has an interest in insurance and corporate law. She joined the AILA Vic committee and the national board in 2020.
Why Shannen loves being on the committee: “It provides a forum to connect with likeminded people within the insurance industry. I would like to see insurance as an industry of choice, especially for young people.”
By Scott Duell
While the new year seems a long time ago now, the start of 2021 brings the promise of a return to face-to-face educational and social events, to complement the webinar series that had been rolled out successfully by branch committees around the country.
After a tumultuous 2020, with lockdowns and restrictions constantly changing, we hope this year will be more stable.
In SA, the new year has given us the opportunity to take stock and focus on what we want to deliver as an organisation going forward. The SA committee has been working hard to get some new, exciting events in progress, and brainstorming other ideas and formats.
On a personal note, congratulations to committee member Eveline Rygorowicz and her family on the safe arrival of a baby boy.
We look forward to getting back out there again soon and seeing everyone in the flesh.
by Kate Stockford
Happy New Year to all AILA members.
The Tasmanian committee is excited for an educational and fun 2021 with a successful planning day held in December 2020 generating many new ideas.
We are enthusiastic to be re-launching face-to-face seminars (and seeing everyone again) with a combination of webinars throughout the year, depending on the audience.
A webinar on the validity of telehealth assessments was pushed out to the start of February 2021 and had a great attendance from all over Australia. The speakers raised many talking points and the conversation generated will be helpful for both the legal and medical communities.
Tasmania’s next educational offering was a webinar on legislative reform and alternatives to litigation for historical abuse claims.
Planning has begun for Tasmania’s signature event – the Workers’ Compensation Masterclass. Alison Clues, Chief Commissioner of the Workers’ Rehabilitation and Compensation Tribunal, has agreed to present. The half-day event has been held since 2016 with great success and traditionally high attendances from across the state.
Following our only face-to-face networking event in November 2020, the committee hopes to hold more social events for the industry to see each other again, and meet other professionals whom they might not otherwise come across, in a social setting.
On a sadder note for the Tasmanian committee, long-time committee member, former AILA Tasmania secretariat and well-loved member of the insurance industry, Brian Aherne, passed away in late December 2020.
Brian contributed significantly to AILA in Tasmania and the insurance industry as a whole. The Tasmanian committee sends its condolences to his family members and recognises and thanks Brian for his significant support of AILA throughout many years.
by Justine Siavelis
The WA AILA committee welcomes new committee members Jonathan Seth, from the Local Government Insurance Service, and Carolyn Riley, from Kott Gunning.
We look forward to working with you both this year.
Thank you to retiring members – Jade Macukat, Rosena de Frietas, Elizabeth le Breton, Ellie McGrory and Donna Marsh – for all their hard work and contributions to the committee.
The WA committee kicked off its seminar series at the Melbourne Hotel with barrister Joel Sheldrick presenting All Aboard the contractual indemnity rollercoaster on 17 February.
The committee is working on the educational and social program for 2021, to be announced soon.
The committee is pleased to announce the generous sponsorship of the WA seminar series by Business Events Perth (BEP), which has been committed to helping organisations like AILA host events in Perth and regional WA in circumstances where interstate and international travel has been severely curtailed. Thank you BEP.
by Jack Fairweather
AILA Qld has a new committee for 2021:
We welcome Monique Moloney, Somrith Prak and Nathan Mangeldorf as new committee members and welcome back Anna Stewart after maternity leave. The committee congratulates Anna and Olga Sashko on the new additions to their families.
by Dan Robinson - National Chair, YP Committee
Covid-19’s arrival in Australia in 2020 brought abrupt upheaval to the day-to-day working arrangements of much of the Australian insurance industry.
A broader follow-on effect of the upheaval, and one that appears likely to outlast the pandemic, is the permanent adoption of more flexible working policies for employees. While there is much to unpack in that proposition itself, an issue that often arises is the effect, if any, such policies might have on young professionals (YPs). This article provides insight into the experience of some YPs and comments on the opportunities and challenges that working remotely presents for people who will be the future of the insurance industry.
Permanent flexible working
There have been high-profile examples of businesses adopting permanent flexible working arrangements following the impacts of Covid-19. Unsurprisingly, leaders are typically technology companies that had existing systems, procedures, equipment and culture pre-Covid-19 that permitted a relatively seamless transition to remote working.1
The change is not limited to tech and there have been many notable examples in the insurance industry. A 2020 survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson indicated 20% to 25% of insurers had taken steps to redeploy workers to support another function or shift when and where work was done (and more than half have been considering these steps).2
Axa XL has implemented globally its “smart working strategy” which allows employees, voluntarily, to work remotely for two days a week.3 Law firm Wotton + Kearney has launched its ‘Flex’ model, which aims to support employees’ work and personnel commitments.
For insurance YPs, the momentum appears to favour a ‘new normal’ with office attendance.
Asked whether he would likely continue flexible working if supported by his employer, Sal Achrafi, of MDD Forensic Accountants, said he would, and doing so would enable him “to tackle a few non-working commitments in a timely manner without stressing about my day-to-day working schedule”.
A young female insurance lawyer had a similar view: “Flexible working arrangements are extremely important to me as a young solicitor who is looking to stay in the industry and progress to partnership, while balancing the commitments of family life.”
That sentiment is shared by many who have found an increased sense of freedom and organisation in being able to conduct ‘life admin’ or other personal and family commitments more efficiently in a flexible working environment. MetLife Australia’s Employee Benefits Trends Study 2020 found ‘flexible work arrangements’ and ‘work from home policy’ were both in the top five programs employees would like from their employer to help ease stress and improve their wellbeing.
While the momentum may favour flexible working arrangements, the reduced face-to-face contact in the office with colleagues presents challenges to young employees.
Amanda Jones, a senior lecturer in human resources management at King’s College, London, said: “When you’ve been working at an organisation for a long time and then you’re forced to work from home, you have the benefit of those long-term relationships. People know you. People know what you are capable of.”4
That can be contrasted with more junior employees who have not had the opportunity to build those relationships to assist them in their career and their daily performance. It is unsurprising then that ‘staying connected’ has become an issue for YPs working remotely.
One junior insurance lawyer said it was “difficult to connect with colleagues, in both a personal and professional sense, given the feeling a video chat is a greater imposition on someone else’s time than a knock on the door or even a quick chat in the corridor”.
That sentiment was shared by Thomas Nguyen, at Lander & Rogers, who said: “Relationships in the workplace and in the industry are built around face to face and, to a lesser extent, social interactions. When working flexibly, you may be concerned about whether you are interrupting a colleague's downtime, and often communications are left to email.”
A common theme for young employees is the inability to meaningfully connect with their colleagues and build the internal relationships that more experienced professionals have.
Training and development
Another key issue is whether working remotely affords YPs the same extent and quality of training and development.
James Howard, Judicial Registrar, NSW District Court, told the Law Society Journal in June 2018: “As a junior there are certain things you can do to take initiative and train yourself. Go down to court and watch what is going on. Take hints. Ask questions from seniors at your firm and try to get their help.”5
Naturally, working permanently (or mainly) from home may not guarantee the same opportunity to learn by observation or informal discussion.
One young insurance lawyer said, particularly for graduates, “learning on the job is difficult enough normally, let alone when doing it at home without colleagues”. Another said one thing needed to address working from home challenges was “more virtual learning and development sessions”.
Many businesses continued to hire during Covid-19 and onboard YPs while working remotely permanently.
Alex Haslam, a Principal at Gilchrist Connell, said when onboarding junior lawyers in such an environment, “a key challenge is to ensure the new starters have the opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues in a way that makes them feel welcomed and a valued part of the team. It takes a lot more organised effort in a remote environment than it does when people start in the office, and it is something all employees need to buy into to make it work”.
A junior lawyer who started a new role during Covid-19 and worked permanently from home for some time said: “I really benefited from organised virtual catch ups with my team and one on ones with my peers. I would have preferred to be in the office and have had the opportunity to meet them face to face however, having some social interactions over [video conferencing], helped me feel welcome and got me going in the role.”
A common theme for those who started new roles in Covid-19 when working remotely permanently was that they were delighted to be able to come back into the office, even part time, when their employers permitted a return. One said: “It was excellent to be able to meet my colleagues face to face. I am enjoying work a lot more and am more productive being able to work from the office part time.”
Now that flexible working arrangements are here, it appears likely they will stay in some form and become part of the ‘new normal’ for most professionals. YPs in insurance, for the most part, are delighted with the development. Greater flexibility has given them better work-life balance and the potential to be more productive with their time.
Despite that, having ‘face time’ in the office to form meaningful relationships with colleagues, learn on the job, and have training and onboarding is still important for YPs. Working remotely permanently has significant drawbacks.
Securing an appropriate balance will be a difficult and iterative process. It is certain that future leaders of the insurance industry will pursue their careers in working environments that are unprecedentedly flexible. Getting the balance right is critically important for individual businesses and the industry as a whole.
1 R Lerman and J Greene, Big tech was first to send workings home. Now it’s in no rush to bring them back, Washington Post, 18 May 2020
2 T Toury et al, Insurance industry: The future of work is now’, blog post WillisTowersWatson, 2 October 2020
3 Axa XL press release, 19 January 2021
4 S Blum, Can young people thrive in a remote-work world? BBC Worklife, 28 October 2020
4 Kate Allman, Bloody terrifying: The modern law graduate experience (Issue 46, July 2018) Law Society Journal 35.
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