Suncorp’s in-house lawyer 'at home' in Queensland

by Nicole Sosnowski, KT Journalism

After living in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, Suncorp's commercial insurance solicitor Michael Donnan says Queensland is now home.

"After living here for 10 years, I'm here to stay. I like the warmer weather," he told Resolve.

But, when it comes to rugby league, his allegiance lies with NSW, the state in which he was born. "I'm a NSW State of Origin supporter, which has been tough the last few years," he joked.  

Michael, who joined AILA's national board this year, completed a commerce and law degree in Canberra in 2000. During the final two years of his degree, he worked at global accountancy firm KPMG.

Despite his accountancy experience, Michael pursued law because working in a law firm was what he "always had in mind” for himself. He says insurance law has "grown on him". "The more experience I gain in insurance law, the more diverse I find it is. It gives you broad opportunities to look at many different things."

Michael moved to Sydney in 2001 and was a solicitor at Hunt & Hunt Lawyers for two years. He then moved to Queensland in 2003 as a solicitor at Moray & Agnew Lawyers and was promoted to senior associate in 2005.

He joined Suncorp in 2010. His role includes providing advice, training claims staff, and being involved in the internal dispute resolution and review process.

Michael said 2011 was a "big year" at Suncorp because the insurer worked hard to respond to Queensland's 2011 natural disaster claims. "It was an interesting time. I was involved in a the review of many matters in my first year."

Working as an in-house and an external insurance lawyer were "similar" experiences, he said. "The main difference is you get exposed to some of the bigger cases working in-house because you are closer to where it happens."     

Michael joined AILA in Sydney in 2003. "Most lawyers were involved in some form of association and AILA seemed the better one for me to join."

He has enjoyed being part of AILA's "collaborative" Queensland committee since 2011. "I joined the committee because, historically, many lawyers have been involved, so I wanted to increase the insurance industry's involvement in AILA.

"Since joining the committee, I have encouraged a lot of Suncorp colleagues to become members, too."

This year the Queensland committee nominated Michael to represent the state on AILA's national board.

He told Resolve: "Education is certainly an important part of AILA, but it is also a good platform for making contacts, building your network, and learning what other people in the industry do."

Michael and his wife, Chau, have two children – Isobel, 4, and Rhys, 2. Rhys arrived just a Michael was starting began work at Suncorp. "It was a bit of a lifestyle change all at once and very different," he said.

Insurance is a family affair - Chau is QBE's settlement manager, specialising in compulsory third party and public liability. The couple met as co-workers at Hunt & Hunt in Sydney.  They enjoy travelling and in recent years have been to Vietnam, visiting Chau’s extended family, Thailand and are about to head to Hong Kong and Beijing on a holiday – their first break without the kids for several years.

Outside work, Michael enjoys watching rugby league, supporting Wests Tigers in the NRL. Every year he hopes the team can repeat its grand final heroics of 2005, but he’s always disappointed.