Floody hell: Gympie, in Queensland, was among many communities devastated by heavy rains this year
It’s been quite a year for the insurance industry. We take a look back at what you made the most looked-at stories of 2022
By Harris Pozderovic
From January 1 to the time of writing insuranceNEWS.com.au has published more than 2600 articles, which have attracted almost 6 million pageviews.
But not every story is equal. Some are read by a few hundred people, while others attract 20,000 views or more.
And there has been plenty to write about. The year 2022 will go into the record books as one of historic weather events and claims, global conflict and rising cost of living pressures – all of which overflowed into the Australian insurance market. Affordability and insurability have become major community issues.
And, sometimes almost unnoticed, consolidation in the industry is continuing.
With insuranceNEWS.com.au appearing each working day through the year (bar national holidays) those 2600 articles range from Breaking News items of major importance to the “softer” personnel changes, company developments, bubbling issues, commentary on all sorts of relevant things, meetings, politics, regulation. And so on.
All these articles and many rather more complex items can be found on the free insuranceNEWS.com.au online archive, which contains around 37,000 articles stretching back to 2001.
Insurance News journalists speak to everyone who’s relevant to help us explain the industry’s events, issues, controversies and interactions. Think of the variety of matters we report and the number of people we talk to in compiling those articles and you’ll appreciate that our contacts list is vast (and tightly held).
But sometimes it’s not just the big stories that get the most readers. Sometimes, in fact, we can’t explain why one article in a bulletin is more popular than another.
For example, our regular reports on the decisions made by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority have proved to be enormously popular. Brokers in particular devour AFCA rulings as fast as we can write them. And senior appointments have always been among our most popular items.
So rather than look at the year as a series of major issues developing, happening and then being reviewed from many different viewpoints, what follows isn’t our assessment of the things you read during the year. It’s simply the articles that attracted the most readers. Most have been edited to fit the magazine space, and some headlines have been altered.
IAG powers up its intermediated business
IAG announced the appointment of former Suncorp senior executive Darren O’Connell as its new EGM Underwriting for its Intermediated Insurance Australia (IIA) division, which includes CGU. That appointment coincided with the permanent promotion of Christa Marjoribanks as IIA’s EGM Product Pricing. Group Executive Jarrod Hill said the division intends to reach insurance profits of $250 million by 2023/24.
Going to the mattresses over claim
Queensland’s Supreme Court backed IAG’s decision to decline a multi-million dollar claim over a fire that destroyed a bedding factory.
The insurer denied the claim and alleged the factory owner intentionally started the blaze himself. The owner denied the allegation, but the judge rejected his version of events.
Zurich for sale? Nein
The business media pushed a story that Zurich’s Australian general insurance operations (excluding travel) were up for sale, and our follow-up stories were hugely popular.
No one in Zurich Australia or anywhere else ever said a word, but the local market was buzzing with rumours. Suncorp, Chubb and Allianz were said to be among the final bidders after QBE and IAG reportedly dropped out.
Then insuranceNEWS.com.au Editor John Deex dug out a comment in a German business paper by Zurich’s Global CEO Mario Greco.
A rapid translation resulted in an insuranceNEWS.com.au Breaking News report that Mr Greco “intends to hold on” to the Australian business. And he did.
$10,000 deductible becomes $1,220,000
The NSW Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Allianz in a claim dispute over whether deductibles should be applied for each individual home after more than 100 properties were damaged by a hailstorm.
Allianz agreed to cover the claims lodged by Rawson Homes for hail damage to 122 partially constructed homes in Kellyville and Rouse Hill in 2017, but said the $10,000 deductible should be applied to the sum insured for each building.
The initial Supreme Court decision backed Rawson Homes’ argument that only one deductible should be paid, but the appeal court determined that each home counted as an individual claim, so the deductible should be applied to each.
$731,000 fraud charge
An ex-employee of a Sydney-based insurance company was charged by NSW police for allegedly obtaining fraudulent payments that exceeded $730,000.
Sydney City Police Area Command detectives claim the 32-year-old man made 239 fraudulent payments amounting to $731,124 between March 2019 and March last year.
He was charged with making a false document to obtain financial advantage, knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime and dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.
Full Court backs insurers on BI appeal
A Full Court decision largely backed the findings of the Federal Court in support of insurers over appeals related to business interruption coverage during the covid pandemic.
Justice Mark Moshinsky said the Full Court “substantially agreed” with the findings of Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot, who heard the Insurance Council of Australia’s second test case last October.
The decision was subsequently appealed to the High Court of Australia – which declined to hear the case.
Flood insured losses of $2 billion predicted
Early reporting from S&P Global on “significant flooding” in NSW and Queensland in February and March estimated it would exceed $2 billion in insured losses, making it one of the worst flood events in Australian history.
It seemed a lot at the time – but certainly not now. The latest figures put losses from the catastrophe at $5.56 billion, making it the worst – and most expensive – Australian natural disaster on record.
Gone in 90 seconds: insurer wins over theft of unlocked car
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) ruled in favour of IAG after it decided to decline cover for a man whose partner briefly left his car unlocked – but long enough for three thieves to steal it.
The vehicle had been parked in the claimant’s driveway for less than two minutes while his partner went to collect their baby. AFCA acknowledged the “unfortunate situation” but said the policy exclusion guidelines were unambiguous.
QBE announces high-level staff changes
QBE “reorganised its Australian operating model” with several executive hires and departures.
The changes saw Elliot Hill named as MD Business and Eleanor Debelle as its new MD Consumer, while Chief Customer Officer Credit Lines and CEO QBE Lenders Mortgage Insurance Phil White left the business.
Tokio Marine says Greensill policies void
Tokio Marine says that Greensill policies written by its Australian subsidiary BCC Trade Credit were invalid after it conducted “extensive investigations” that revealed “fraudulent misrepresentations and fraudulent breaches of an insured’s duty of disclosure”.
IAG, which previously owned 50% of BCC, acknowledged the declaration, and potential litigation by Greensill administrators or other claimants.
QBE to underwrite Kogan Insurance products
QBE entered into a long-term agreement with online retailer Kogan Australia to underwrite its home, motor and compulsory third party insurance products.
“We are confident that partnering with Kogan and its over three million Australian customers will enable us to deliver a best-practice digital sales experience for customers,” QBE Australia Pacific MD Consumer Eleanor Debelle says.
AIG set to withdraw PI offerings to financial planners
More trouble looms for the under-pressure financial planning industry after AIG ceased offering professional indemnity to the profession.
Association of Financial Advisers CEO Phil Anderson warned he was concerned to see the pull-out in an “important part of the market.”
Graham Stevens dies
Leading broker and former National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) president Graham Stevens died aged 68 on May 6 after a battle with cancer.
Tributes to Mr Stevens flowed from across the industry for Mr Stevens, who was director of Edgewise Insurance Brokers. His career included a stint as president of the National Insurance Brokers Association and president of the World Federation of Insurance Intermediaries.
AUB to acquire Lloyd’s wholesale broker Tysers
AUB Group announced an agreement to purchase UK-based Lloyd’s wholesale broker Tysers for $880 million.
Tysers, the sixth-largest wholesale broker in the Lloyd’s Marketplace, writes annual gross premium of $3.6 billion.
Insurers to up pay in ‘once in a career’ skill crisis
Hays says nine out of 10 insurance employers will increase salaries for employees at upcoming reviews as the industry faces a “once-in-a-career” market.
The recruiter’s salary guide ranked insurance seventh for industries facing the most extreme skill shortages, with low unemployment fuelling “an ideal situation” for employees.
Allianz pleads guilty to false statement criminal charges
Allianz Australia and its subsidiary AWP pleaded guilty to six criminal charges of making false or misleading statements regarding travel insurance, following investigations from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
“Between 2016 and 2018, Allianz and AWP misrepresented the characteristics or level of coverage of travel insurance available for consumers,” ASIC said.
RACQ Insurance chief exits to ‘take a break’
RACQ announced that Group Executive Insurance Tracy Green had left the business, with a spokesperson telling insuranceNEWS.com.au Ms Green was leaving the organisation “to take a well-earned break” after a “challenging year across the insurance industry ”.
Claims GM Trent Sayers was appointed to replace her.
Suncorp banks $4.9 billion after sale
Suncorp agreed to sell its banking business to ANZ for $4.9 billion to focus on its insurance operations in Australia and New Zealand.
Morningstar Analyst Nathan Zaia described the agreement as “a reasonably good deal for both parties”.
QBE admits pricing promises ‘not fully delivered’
QBE set aside $US75 million ($110 million) in provisions for a customer remediation program after an internal review found “instances” where pricing promises were not “fully delivered” to policyholders.
The review came after ASIC called on general insurers to examine their pricing systems and controls to prevent consumer harm.
Industry responds after reports focus on ‘side hustle’ policy issues
Following news reports that home and contents policyholders had their policies cancelled or claims denied because they were operating an income-generating side business from the property, insurers looked to clarify their position.
A spokesperson from Suncorp explained that when a business is operated from an insured home, it could represent a “significantly” different risk that requires more intensive reviews compared to a property with no business operations.
Steadfast to acquire Insurance Brands Australia
Steadfast Group agreed to acquire Insurance Brands Australia (IBA) for $301 million.
IBA, which specialises in the SME sector, was one of Australia’s largest privately owned insurance distribution businesses, as the parent company of Melbourne-based brokerage Insurance House as well as agencies ProRisk and Armada Underwriting.
360 Underwriting grabs QBE’s executive as Australia CEO
360 Underwriting Solutions brought aboard Jason Clarke as the new CEO of its Australian business.
Mr Clarke spent 32 years at QBE, where he served in several senior positions and most recently was working with Group CEO Andrew Horton on the establishment of a global distribution function.
360 Underwriting Solutions co-founder Denis Morrissey described Mr Clarke’s appointment as a “watershed moment” for the company.
A friend: Lloyd’s marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a regular visitor to its London HQ
Lloyd’s rings Lutine Bell in memory of Queen Elizabeth II
Lloyd’s rang the Lutine Bell on September 8 following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown commented on Britain’s longest-reigning monarch’s relationship with the marketplace, saying it had been “lucky to call her a friend”.
‘Agreed value’ catching out car owners as inflation spirals
A consumer group issued a warning about agreed value car insurance, as some claimants found values falling short of current market prices.
The Financial Rights Legal Centre flagged a rapid rise in used car prices since the covid pandemic, with policyholders “finding that they are underinsured and short-changed”.
‘Significant weaknesses’: risk governance issues rock insurer
RACQ Insurance was told to improve its risk governance after an Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) review uncovered “significant weaknesses”.
APRA took enforcement action against the insurer after it self-reported a regulatory breach to ASIC relating to premium discounts and inadequate product disclosure statement wording.
It’s over: High Court refuses second BI test case appeal applications
The High Court of Australia declined three appeal applications that stemmed from the Insurance Council of Australia’s second test case over business interruption cover during the covid pandemic.
The decision ended long-winded legal proceedings that considered a range of issues, including the definition of a disease, proximity of an outbreak to a business, and prevention of access.
Previous Full Court judgments, mainly in favour of insurers, remain effective.
Insurer criticised for denying claim ‘after costs increased’
AFCA cut loose on Allianz for its handling of a home claim that saw it accept cover and begin repairs, before denying the claim a year later as costs shot up.
The ruling criticised Allianz’s actions as “unreasonable and arguably a breach of the insurer’s duty of utmost good faith”.
Allianz was required to cash-settle or complete the repairs and also pay the complainant $5400 – the maximum amount – to compensate for non-financial losses.
Conflicted remuneration: review gives commissions a tick
The Quality of Advice Review proposed keeping general insurance commissions exempt from the ban on conflicted remuneration, but did suggest an additional layer of protection for consumers requiring brokers to first obtain written consent from retail clients for commissions.
Consumer groups say they are “extremely disappointed” by the recommendations and called for a prohibition on life, general and consumer credit insurance commissions.
Giant UK broker swoops for Australia’s Envest
The UK’s largest independent broker, Ardonagh Group, has agreed to purchase Australian insurance investment and distribution business Envest for $482 million.
Envest’s portfolio includes broker network Aviso Group and 10 underwriting agencies.
Ardonagh Global Partners CEO Des O’Connor says the deal “provides a proven platform to accelerate our growth ambitions in the region”.