What has your career progression been to date – how did you get to where you are now?
I spent almost 25 years at Accenture working for large global organisations such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens, and BHP Billiton. The last big assignment that I undertook was for QBE in Australia, when they retained Accenture to support a major global transformation strategy. I was the lead partner at Accenture and delivered a global operating model and efficiency project for QBE over a two-year period. QBE then hired me as global Head of Strategy and Transformation, and later I became global Head of Operations. During this time, I developed very strong executive expertise in transforming business units and global operations.
I initially joined Cover-More in 2018 as interim Global CEO of the World Travel Protection division, and then was appointed Group Chief Operating Officer later that year.
When Covid-19 brought global travel to a standstill in 2020, it was clear that Cover-More needed to undergo a major strategic shift if we were to survive the pandemic and emerge stronger on the other side. In mid-2020, Zurich asked me to step in and lead the global group through this transformation as interim Group Chief Executive Officer, which was then made permanent in November of the same year.
How have your previous roles helped you in your role as Group CEO of Cover-More?
Cover-More Group is a global company with operations in 15 countries including the US, Latin America, the UK and Europe. So, in part, it’s my international experience in business transformation that has been especially relevant for this role – and particularly given the challenge of a once-in-a-century pandemic.
I also think that my background in global consulting with Accenture is a major advantage because, even though I have worked in insurance before, my industry experience is much, much broader. And like in any industry, when you bring in individuals from outside, they challenge the way things are done.
For example, one of the things I asked when I started working with Cover-More was why policyholders were unable to adjust their coverage once their trips had commenced – and that’s something we are about to change via a new digital brand wholly owned by Cover-More.
You took on the Group CEO role in June 2020, which was probably the most challenging year the travel and travel insurance industry has ever seen. What motivated you to take on the role?
I have always believed that overcoming challenges makes life more meaningful. So it was a no-brainer for me to take on the Group CEO role, even if it was in the middle of a global pandemic. And yes, 2020 wasn’t a great year for travel, but it forced us to innovate much faster than we imagined we could. We knew we had to be ready when global travel resumed, and we knew that the pandemic would essentially turn travel insurance on its head. People will be looking for much more from their insurance in the future, and we’ll be there to deliver that transformed customer experience and elevated expectation.
How has Cover-More been adapting its policies to offer customers what they are expecting with regards to coverage for Covid illness, repatriation or cancellation?
We have launched specific Covid-19 cover into our policies across all regions in the last 12 months. Though I do want to stress that many of our policies, especially in Australia and New Zealand, had always provided cover for medical expenses if a customer contracted Covid-19 (or any epidemic, pandemic or infectious disease) and was hospitalised. That medical assistance offer has always been at the heart of the Cover-More brand.
In the US, we have re-introduced our Cancel For Any Reason policy
The types of additional Covid-19 benefits we introduced in the last 12 months include cover for cancellation if you contract Covid-19 and are placed into quarantine and you cannot start your trip – or if you contract Covid-19 while travelling and are hospitalised or placed into quarantine. In the US, we have re-introduced our Cancel For Any Reason policy, with cancellation cover for 50 per cent of trip costs with a ceiling of US$10,000.
Are there any other innovations in the pipeline for Cover-More that you would like to share?
We have already launched a new travel assistance app, Travel On, for leisure travellers in North America with our Travelex Insurance Services brand. This is the first version of our app, and the first step in a significant new customer proposition in leisure travel. Our message to our customers is clear: welcome to safer travel. Key features are:
- Travel advice, risk rating and security alerts for traveller destinations 24/7
- Real-time safety notifications based on traveller location while travelling, including Covid-19 restrictions, transportation disruptions and terrorist incidents
- Click-to-call emergency assistance from anywhere in the world
We plan to roll out this app in Asia Pacific later this year. However, before that, we are trialling our new app-based customer proposition, Freely, in the Australian market. This is the culmination of almost two years of hard work, imagination and creativity and has been built from the ground up to meet the needs of today’s travellers.
Underpinning all apps is the investment we have made in World Travel Protection (WTP), Cover-More’s travel risk management and assistance business. WTP’s Command Centre in Australia will offer travellers next-level proactive care as global travel resumes, especially around Covid-19 clusters and outbreaks. And this will add another layer of protection together with vaccinations, vaccination passports, and testing and hygiene protocols.
It might seem odd, but as well as presenting a whole load of challenges for the travel insurance sector, Covid has also presented opportunities. Do you think that the industry has, as a whole, taken advantage of the chances it is being given to enhance cover or services?
I agree that Covid-19 has presented opportunities to our industry, though I don’t see widespread evidence that the sector as a whole has really ‘seized the day’. Not yet anyway. Cover-More is very focused on digital transformation and travel risk management across all our distribution channels.
Are prices of policies increasing commensurate with the increases in cover that are occurring? Or has the competitiveness of the market got in the way of increasing prices?
We are naturally taking a cautious approach with pricing as people start to consider and book travel again. And we have added Covid-19 benefits that were previously not available in many markets, and in Australia, for example, we have kept premiums to within 10 per cent of what they were pre-Covid-19.
Has Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) travel insurance gained traction in the Australian market?
Cover-More is very proud of our CFAR product, which we pioneered in Australia and New Zealand since the April 2018 launch. And while we temporarily suspended sales of CFAR in Australia and New Zealand in March 2020 due to Covid, we are focused on building it into an ongoing feature of our travel insurance offer in the Australian, NZ and global travel markets.
What do you enjoy most about your job, and what inspires you to keep pushing Cover-More, and the wider industry, to always do better?
It’s about the people and the potential of what we are continuing to build. We have great talent in our business, and I am keen to get more people from outside insurance into insurance. Doing so will help in driving innovation within our group, and the sector.
It’s also incredible for us to be part of Zurich Group and their vision for exceptional customer experiences and engagement – their support is fantastic and provides Cover-More with access to global investments while allowing us operational autonomy.