What is your background in the financial service sector and how did you become involved in the international travel insurance and medical assistance industry?
I am an accountant by trade and spent much of my professional career in the London market, working across a range of Group Finance functions in two FTSE 100 insurers – RSA and Aviva.
The move into travel was unexpected but, as we say in Ireland, what’s for you won’t pass you. The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything and allowed my wife and me to really focus on our priorities, so in 2021 we decided to move closer to family in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland.
The opportunity presented itself to join the nib and World Nomads family as Financial Controller and it really was a no-brainer – the chance to bring all my international experience back to my adopted home was too good to turn down.
How did you progress to your current role?
It really was a case of the right place, right time. Our previous General Manager took the decision to retire in January 2022 and our Group Travel CEO, Anna Gladman, spent some time in Ireland helping us with the transition.
I’d hit the ground running in my first six months with the organisation and had managed to become a key part of the UK and European leadership team, so I was the natural choice to support her as the number two as she balanced her responsibilities both here and back home in Australia.
That opportunity gave me the confidence to say I could do the main job. The nib Group agreed with my vision for the UK and European business, and it’s been non-stop since then.
You had an interesting childhood – growing up in Zimbabwe to Irish parents – how has that influenced your role at World Nomads and nib?
My parents emigrated to Zimbabwe in the 1960s, which afforded me and my siblings an incredible up-bringing. We grew up outdoors, on adventures, and learning about the world around us. That combination of our Irish-Zimbabwean background and Zimbabwe being a melting pot for people from all over the world meant that we intuitively embraced multiple cultures.
I feel very fortunate to work with a diverse and passionate team here. And I hope that both my professional and personal experiences inform my approach to management and allow me to be empathetic, driven and supportive in my leadership.
What does your role involve on a day-to-day basis?
No one day is ever the same. My primary responsibility is to make sure that our business can support our UK and European customers with a product that meets their needs and is fit for purpose. That requires the support of several key stakeholders.
Not having the right documentation might leave you out of pocket with your holiday cancelled or delayed
Generally, my day kicks off early so that I can get some face time with my Australian colleagues to update on business performance, work ongoing in group-wide projects, and generally keep aligned on strategy and goals.
I then move on to working with my teams locally in Ireland and the UK, which can encompass sales performance, marketing and PR campaigns, people and engagement with property and casualty (P&C) insurance, operational and customer matters with our Emergency Assistance, Claims and Customer teams, compliance, internal audits, product development and underwriting.
Explain to us a little about the new visa requirements (ETIAS) for UK citizens and many other residents, into EU countries, and when they come into effect? How do they work? Who needs to apply?
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a new electronic system to track visitors to the Schengen Zone. It is designed to gather information, track and update data relating to a specific visitor to determine their suitability for entry in the EU, working to identify any potential threats and decrease security concerns.
It is also expected to facilitate seamless travel to the EU, aiding in reducing procedures and application times and improving the management of EU country borders. Most travellers who could previously enter Europe visa-free will require the ETIAS to enter EU and Schengen member countries – this will impact travellers from 59 countries, but is of particular importance to UK travellers, who will now need to apply for a visa-waiver before they travel at a cost of €7 following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Travellers must apply online and will be required to undergo a detailed security check to determine their status for entry. It’s important to note that you are not applying for a visa – but rather a waiver from the need to have a visa. The introduction of ETIAS was slated for 2023, but this has been pushed back into next year – with no confirmed date at present.
How might these visa requirements affect travel insurance?
In reality there is no change, but not having the right documentation might leave you out of pocket with your holiday cancelled or delayed and these costs may not necessarily be covered by your travel insurance.
As ever, it is strongly recommended that travellers obtain travel insurance before travel and UK Government advice remains to purchase private travel insurance and includes it in the list of things to do prior to travel to the EU.
Industry analysis is also highlighting a consumer trend towards more sustainable and eco-conscious travel
How can insurers help clients understand what they need to do and how they can do it?
Insurers can help clients understand what they need to do and how they can do it by providing clear and concise information about their insurance policies and the steps clients need to take to make a claim or update their policy. There are some specific strategies we use to help our customers along the way.
We try and simplify their policies by using plain language and avoiding technical jargon. This will make it easier for clients to understand what is covered and what is not. In addition to this we provide clear instructions on how to make a claim or update a policy.
This includes step-by-step guides, a comprehensive Help Centre, an FAQ section that we are continuously updating based on customer feedback, as well as video tutorials. We also offer personalised support to clients who need help understanding their policy or making a claim, including phone support. That level of support also extends to requirements such as ETIAS. We are invested in ensuring our customers are informed on various aspects involved in travel with plenty of alerts and articles published on a weekly basis about important need-to-know events.
Now that people are travelling again and being more adventurous, do you feel this is a good time for a travel insurance company like yours to engage with this type of traveller?
Absolutely! Our insights tell us that 2023 is going to a big year for travel with 33 per cent of respondents to a recent brand survey stating they intend to travel two to three times this year and 66 per cent of respondents intending to travel to a new destination this year with Morocco, the Philippines and Japan high on travellers’ bucket lists.
Industry analysis is also highlighting a consumer trend towards more sustainable and eco-conscious travel, and I think World Nomads, along with our charitable foundation Footprints, is perfectly placed to help people go that little bit higher, and that little bit further whilst still being conscious of the impact we have on the environment and locations we visit.
How are you adapting and innovating with new policy customisation options and benefits to meet the new generation of travellers’ needs, whether in terms of medical assistance benefits or adoption of new technology?
We already do a whole heap of things to support the modern traveller – whether that be the 200-plus adventure activities we cover, insuring specified high value items, allowing the purchase of insurance cover while already on-trip, or the extensive range of travel content available through our website. We were also one of the first insurers to market with Covid-19 cover.
But we’re always looking at how we can do things better and are constantly working on improving the features and accessibility of our product wording, FAQs, website content and even payment methods to make sure the process is as easy for our travellers as possible.
Which destinations are next for you, on a personal level?
Tough question. As any parent will tell you, travel with a toddler brings its own challenges and we’ve focused on being closer to home the last few years. That said, the great wide world still calls and an adventure-packed beach holiday in Costa Rica, a coastal and foodie trip around southern Italy, and taking my son to see where I grew up in Zimbabwe are right at the top of the list.