Suncorp Spotlight: Women in Insurance
Women in Insurance is a series highlighting the incredible female talent working in the insurance business at Suncorp. Its purpose is simple; to increase awareness of women’s roles in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and to highlight the expertise and passion these women bring to their roles each and every day.
At Suncorp, we’re immensely proud of the incredibly talented women working in senior leadership roles. Recently Suncorp was awarded Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) for the eighth consecutive year.
The Group is one of just four ASX20 companies to have close to half their managerial positions filled by women.
Women in Insurance is a new series highlighting the formidable female talent working in the insurance business across Suncorp Group, noting insurance has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.
We discover why these executives chose a career in Insurance, what they predict for the industry moving forward and why more young professionals should choose a career path in insurance.
Carolyn Parrella, Head of Niche Distribution at Suncorp
With a career spanning multiple disciplines across the insurance sector, Carolyn Parrella brings unique expertise to her role: an unparalleled drive for innovation and fastidious dedication to customer outcomes.
Carolyn is currently Head of Niche Distribution at Suncorp.
Tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide upon a career in insurance?
I have quite a diverse background in insurance, having worked with and for several entrepreneurial people as they broke ground by introducing new products or services to customers. From data and strata management, marketing management, broker insurance (as well as volunteering with various not-for-profit charities over the years), my career in insurance has taken on many forms!
It was after a friend suggested a job going at Terri Scheer at a time in my life where I was looking to push myself, for something out of my comfort zone, which heralded my entrance to the insurance industry. I began my role as Marketing Manager at Terri Scheer at a tumultuous time in the industry - literally right at the time that the Financial Services Reform Act came into effect. Terri Scheer’s AFSL was the very first license issued, and I found myself once again working with an entrepreneur who loved and believed in the value of insurance.
This role exposed me to so many opportunities. Winning the 2004 South Australian Telstra Small Business of the Year Award gave Terri Scheer an opportunity to speak with the government and lobby for changes that effectively led to the ASIC Class Order 05/1070, allowing an AFS licensee to appoint distributors. It was another opportunity to work with a team that vehemently believed in something and fought for it as hard as they could.
What do you enjoy most about your role as Suncorp’s Head of Niche Distribution?
I lead around 650 people who are committed every day to assist customers in protecting their valuable assets. I sit amongst a call centre and I love hearing the phone conversations. Not only does it make me proud of the team and the service they deliver, but it also helps me to have new ideas for products or service tweaks based on the conversations I can hear.
Insurance is often seen as a grudge purchase by customers as its true value is not realised until something unforeseen happens that causes a loss – and it’s critically important we deliver at that time. I love knowing that we provide products that help people protect the things that matter to them.
What is your experience of diversity in the insurance industry? And how is it changing?
I have been interested in seeing women take up more senior roles in insurance and enjoy the diversity of thought and opinion that they bring to the table. Attending a Women in Insurance Leadership Forum in Sydney a couple of years ago, it was fantastic that almost all of the keynote speakers were women in senior roles from all of the major insurers. It shows just how far the industry has come.
What advice do you have for women looking to enter the industry?
Firstly, know that the industry is rapidly shifting to be more diverse. I don’t just mean gender diversity, but also religion, ability, culture… this means the industry is becoming more like the customers it serves which can only be a good thing. Insurance provides great career opportunities across so many areas. If you have an interest in customer service, business operations, data science, customer behaviour, risk management, finance, actuarial science, claims management, people and culture, insurance provides pathways that can lead to a long, varied and satisfying career.
Where do you see the future of the insurance industry?
Ever the optimist, I see a bright future for insurance in Australia - especially for insurers who are truly customer-centric. As an industry, we have hurt ourselves by focussing on price rather than value. Most insurance ads on TV encourage and entice customers with discounts to switch, rather than rewarding loyalty and selling the value of insurance. Insurance has largely become a commoditised product, so there is little variation between policies. I believe that it’s the service that insurers provide at claims times - particularly the use of data that is available from so many sources to create simpler ways of servicing a policy - that makes a difference.
Insurers need to be at the forefront of climate change discussions. We need to help drive change to avoid the risk of insurance becoming unaffordable due to the increased risk of weather events resulting from climate change; and I think most importantly, insurers need to feel honoured every time a customer chooses that insurer to protect what matters to them. It is a privilege that shouldn’t be underestimated.