NIBA’s Phil Kewin is moving on, but he’s full of praise for Australia’s broking sector

Outgoing National Insurance Brokers Association Chief Executive Phil Kewin says he envisaged a longer stint in charge – but he is proud of what’s been achieved in a relatively short time.

The former Association of Financial Advisers chief started with the broker body in August 2021, working in tandem with the long-serving Dallas Booth until Mr Booth’s retirement in October of that year.

Now, Mr Kewin is leaving for London to be with his partner and will be replaced by Richard Klipin, another former adviser association head.

He says he has enjoyed the “extremely rewarding” role. “When I met with the board, I could see what a professional and supporting board it was, but I could also see the opportunity for me to use my experiences from previous roles and add some value,” he tells Insurance News.

“I’ve probably not been here as long as I expected, but I do think it has paid off in some of the things we’ve been able to achieve.”

Mr Kewin credits “a collective effort” for those achievements, citing the support of his predecessor, board, committees and team.

And he sees the completion and implementation of the 2022 Insurance Brokers Code of Practice as the biggest step forward.

When Mr Kewin arrived, the National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) had been heavily criticised for taking too long to move on from the 2014 code. A first draft of the new code had also been slammed by consumer groups and the code compliance committee.

Wholesale improvements were made, and Mr Kewin says he is proud of the way the membership has embraced a code that “introduces professional standards that go beyond the basics of what the law expects”.

Terms of engagement that “specify up front to the client what services you are going to provide, and how you get paid for those” are key to the new document, as are efforts to erase conflicts.

Preferential remuneration and volume-related bonuses are banned, and detailed remuneration disclosure requirements outlined for retail clients.

“By law, the Financial Services Guide has to talk about the remuneration, but it’s always been sort of a generic reference, and does the client really read it?

“This is bringing the issue forward into a discussion with the client. So they’re quite clear what they’re paying for. That wasn’t prescribed in the previous code.

“I think that’s gone a long way to set a standard and introduce conversations that brokers are having with clients that they absolutely haven’t had before.”

As Insurance News has reported, an earlier version of the 2022 code also required that brokers disclose remuneration to small business clients, but this was removed after some members questioned the practicality of classifying clients in this way.

Consumer representatives were disappointed this obligation was wound back and have pledged to revisit the issue in the next code review, which should start early next year.

Mr Kewin believes the revised code provides a “starting point” that could be achieved within tight time frames. He also notes that consumer expectations are evolving “so fast”.

“I’m sure [remuneration disclosure] will be a continuing discussion. But what we wanted to achieve, I believe we did – and that is a code that was able to be implemented, and all brokers were on board and are on the journey.”

From left: NIBA President Gary Okely with Lex McKeown Award winner Gary Seymour and Phil Kewin at last year’s NIBA Convention

Mr Kewin flags last October’s revitalised NIBA Convention on the Gold Coast – after an extended covid-induced break – and the Insure Your Future recruitment initiative as other key achievements. He says sceptics questioned the need for another convention “in a such a crowded space” but they were proven wrong.

This year’s event will be in Adelaide from October 20-22.

“What they realised is this is the only convention where you’re going to have representatives from the major internationals, through to the different cluster groups and small brokerages,” Mr Kewin says.

“So it’s the only one where it really is independent, in terms of any allegiances, other than just to bring brokers together to learn, and have some fun.”

The Insure Your Future website went live in February in a bid to promote insurance broking as a profession and career, and the NIBA membership has responded positively.

“We have still got a long way to go. But we’ve started with our aspiration of building the reputation of brokers, helping people understand what brokers do, the role they perform in the community.

“Talking to my colleagues in other associations throughout the world, it’s the same challenge. How do we bring new talent in? How do we get that message out that it’s such a rewarding and varied career?”

“If you talk to the good brokers, one of their art forms is … focusing on what their area of expertise is.”

Mr Kewin flags broker education as a continuing challenge for his successor, along with a renewed focus on specialisation. Broking needs to be considered a profession, not an industry, he says.

“We’re really trying to encourage brokers to go down the Qualified Practising Insurance Broker route, and achieve educational standards above the minimum required.

“And I think that’s probably an area that’s going to be of greater focus in the future – what the minimum standards of education are, and how brokers set themselves above the average broker.”

Brokers straying outside their area of specialisation can be problematic, Mr Kewin says, and while there isn’t necessarily a shortage of specialists, it can be hard for clients to find them.

“The client expects that the broker knows what they’re talking about. Sometimes the broker, in trying to do the right thing, might try to deal in an area that is not necessarily their area of specialisation.

“If you talk to the good brokers, one of their art forms is staying in their lane and focusing on what their area of expertise is.

“I think there’s an opportunity to educate industry associations and different organisations that it is important that you deal with a specialist.

“That’s one of the regrets – not being able to flesh out Need a Broker [NIBA’s broker search service] more so that clients can more easily see a broker’s area of specialty.”

But any regrets are outweighed by pride and satisfaction from his time at the heart of a “collegial” sector that he sees as critical to protecting Australian businesses and communities.

“I’d like to think I left NIBA in a better state than when I joined, building on those before me, and brokers are well positioned to help their clients in an ever-changing world.”

Joining at a pivotal time

Richard Klipin will start as NIBA chief executive on May 27, having resigned from the Financial Services Council of New Zealand, which he led since 2016.

Before that he was chief distribution officer at Auckland life insurer Sovereign. His last Australian role was as chief executive of Millennium 3 adviser group, and from 2006 to 2013 he led the Association of Financial Advisers.

“I am delighted to be joining NIBA at this pivotal time,” he said. “The NIBA community is a powerful one that guides and advises Australians to better manage and understand their risks. I look forward to working with the board, the members and key stakeholders as we build on our platform of representation, professionalism and community.”

Next in the hot seat: Richard Klipin