InterRisk managing director Phil Kearns (pictured) wants his industry to appeal to the young

Phil Kearns

SR: After a very successful career as a Wallaby, and then at Centric Wealth, how and why did you get into insurance broking?

PK: I’m really interested in businesses with a really tight relationship with their clients, but also businesses that can evolve and change in a new environment. InterRisk and the insurance industry have both those elements. Our relationships with our clients are critical and that can only be built with transparency and trust.

SR: You’ve been managing director of InterRisk for just over a year. What has surprised you most about the Australian insurance industry in that time?

PK: The lack of technology adoption among brokers has been an eye-opener for me as many, it seems, operate in very ‘old school’ ways, which means a great opportunity for us all.

Secondly, the breadth of product in the industry is fantastic and if you are prepared to really work hard for your client, then coverage is possible.

SR: How can insurance brokers maintain their relevance in a world where disintermediation is increasingly common?

PK: Brokers, if they do their job well, know more about the client than the insurer ever will. There are just too many clients out there for insurance companies to deal with directly to absolutely understand the needs of each client. That is not a criticism of insurers, it’s just a physical impossibility for them to do it.

Brokers maintain their relevance when they can understand the nuances of their clients and what the twists and turns are within their clients’ business and therefore what they really need. Technology is a fantastic enabler for the industry but it can’t solve all our clients’ problems.

SR: What do you see as the biggest concerns on the minds of Australian risk managers today?

PK: Apart from questions around where the general market is heading, I think the key questions are around the best use of technology, the best providers of technology and what to expect from technology.

To move to the human side, we desperately need to make our industry something that young people aspire to be part of. It is in the UK, but in Australia it tends to be something we fall into rather than something we plan to be in.

We should be proud of doing what we do and understand the massive benefit we bring to our clients when they need us. Legitimisation of the industry would be a great outcome, but it will take some generations to get there with the right program in place.

SR: Do you see that changing in the next 12-18 months and if so, how?

PK: Not in 18 months, but we can do things like working more closely with universities, marketing our courses and training more effectively into schools, developing and using technology and being ‘loud and proud’ about what we do. Together this builds a profile that becomes attractive to the young graduate that is not sure what to do next.

SR: What are you most looking forward to at the RIMS conference in August?

PK: Meeting a whole bunch of people I haven’t met before is the key for me. I’ve only been in the industry just over 12 months, so to be in and among the dozens of the industry and learn from those who have been around for a while is always eye-opening. I learn best by listening and talking to people, so for me it’s a great education.


Phil Kearns will be speaking at the RIMS Australasia conference in Melbourne on 22 August at 3:50pm