LEADERS SURVEY: IAG boss Nicholas Hawkins on why the weather worries him and the value of gender diversity

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
IAG CEO Nick Hawkins poses for a portrait at the IAG offices, Darling Park, Sydney. February 13, 2023. Photograph by James Alcock / The West Australian
IAG CEO Nick Hawkins poses for a portrait at the IAG offices, Darling Park, Sydney. February 13, 2023. Photograph by James Alcock / The West Australian Credit: James Alcock/James Alcock / The West Australi

The chief executive of Australia’s largest general insurer says there’s one clear challenge clouding the industry’s future.

“The increasing frequency and severity of major weather events, and the devastating impact they have on our customers and communities across Australia and New Zealand is the biggest challenge for our industry,” IAG chief executive Nicholas Hawkins told The Nightly for its exclusive Leaders Survey.

“Unfortunately, as our climate changes the frequency and severity of major weather events, including floods, cyclones and bushfires will only continue to increase.

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“And we want to ensure action is taken before more communities are left devastated and lives are tragically lost.”

Mr Hawkins said IAG has released a series of research papers outlining the options that are available to make communities safer.

This includes levees to protect against flooding and how disaster risk and future climate risk should be incorporated into land planning systems.

“These are important steps that go to addressing the challenges of severe and frequent weather events,” he said.

“Industry research highlights that the proportion of government spend allocated towards recovery and relief significantly outweighs the investment in mitigation.

“In particular, we’d recommend an additional $250 million per annum for land buybacks (or) relocation in high flood risk areas where the risk to people’s lives and properties is too great and there are no viable risk mitigation solutions.”

IAG CEO Nick Hawkins says there’s one clear challenge clouding the industry’s future - major weather events.
IAG CEO Nick Hawkins says there’s one clear challenge clouding the industry’s future - major weather events. Credit: James Alcock/The West Australian

Mr Hawkins also said certain IAG brands, such as NRMA Insurance, are providing pricing benefits to customers who gain a bushfire assessment certification.

With a lot on his plate to deal with in an increasingly testing industry, Mr Hawkins says the best advice he’s ever received is to “always play the long game”.

“There are so many distractions on a day-to-day basis and the temptation to go straight to a tactical solution or divert course is always there – especially in a complex industry like insurance,” he said.

“It’s important to be consistent with your approach and stay focused on your goals.

“This advice has helped me to ensure our business is united under a single long-term strategy which, despite the turbulence of the last few years, is unchanged and is now being delivered on.”

At a leadership level, the Western Australian native says he learned the importance of diversity in steering the direction of a business during his time at KPMG.

“In my early career at KPMG, especially in the Perth office, I was lucky enough to work with many strong female leaders,” he said.

“For me, this was normal – at a time when for many it was not.

“This has helped me to understand and appreciate the power of diversity and the value a diverse leadership team can add.”

Looking forward, Mr Hawkins is bullish about the electric vehicle revolution and the role IAG has to play in it.

“As the largest insurer of motor vehicles in Australia and New Zealand, it’s important we keep up with the changing needs of our customers,” he said.

“The rapid evolution of electric vehicle technology is driving adoption across our customer base. This presents opportunities for us to use our data and claims experience to help customers understand more about electric vehicles.

“We also have a long-standing commitment to drive down emissions for a safer, net zero future (and) as the largest general insurance company in Australia and New Zealand, we want to play a key role in helping customers throughout this transition.”

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