Network Insurance Group’s Melbourne-based Account Executive Chris Prowse has no regrets after giving up his dream of becoming a dentist in the retail industry.
How did you transition from dentistry to broking?
I started working in the insurance industry backwards. While completing my science degree at university I worked part-time at Marsh. His friend was already working there.
I wanted to be a dentist but it got to the point where I gave up my life, work, playing football, or studying. One of them had to quit if I wanted to continue dentistry, and I was enjoying my football a lot. So I decided to start working in the industry. I spoke to HR and worked as an executive assistant.
I was also interested in [investment group] Vanguard, which was very profitable, then jumped into the insurance game and began operating in Honan. When you work in the industry you realize what it is like. There aren’t many jobs where you have a role in solving problems with an insurance program, customer relations and insurance, and negotiation skills.
These are things that I hope to pursue in my future career, and selling insurance does all three, which is not found in other industries.
Surely there is no sorrow (dropping teeth). I could be driving a Ferrari right now instead of a Honda! But the role I have is the freedom to be on the road and visit customers, and I know how to talk to different industries. There aren’t many roles where you could be talking to a major shipping company in the morning, then an entertainment company client in the afternoon. You have variety that not many other jobs offer me, so I have no regrets.
What is your current role?
I am one of about 15 people in the business community in Honan. I am really enjoying this job. It is the most helpful place I live.
I have one client in Sydney, and I’m going to visit them in the next few weeks. It is the largest sports organization in Australia. It was the previous connection I had and I just won it recently.
One of my favorite parts of the job is getting to know my client’s business. I don’t like sitting in front of a computer and entering numbers into a system to generate a price.
I like to talk to a risk writer and explain why I like risk – and why they should like risk.
That’s my favorite part of the job – where you have a relationship with the client, you understand their business, the ins and outs of their business. And then you have relationships with underwriters that you can then pick up the phone and call them and explain the risk, getting the best for your client in the end.
Two different risks that may look similar on paper should be different in reality, if you know people – that they have responsibility and things like that. That’s the kind of when I look at my point of difference – that I really know the client and can talk to the underwriter, instead of going through the ambassador with numbers on paper that they then go through the system.
There is a real lack of direction for university students in this industry, which is a shame. It’s evident with the lack of talent. I think the underwriting part of things is a little better – I feel like it was held at a higher level maybe.
How are your customers?
You see customers who are doing well, while others are struggling.
I just added a client who works in an apple orchard and is having a hard time with the results he is seeing from the supermarkets. They’re the biggest insurance risk so they’re kind of getting hit on both sides. They have to go back to local skills to reap the benefits, with rising labor costs and fuel prices.
But many of my clients are professional designers and have been successful in this area. The interest rate is increasing. I have long-term, strong relationships with many of their customers and suppliers.
The whole market is not helping. It’s not a fun conversation we’re having – restructuring and salary increases, unfortunately. Multiplying is difficult, although I don’t struggle to find opportunities with my clients, which is a blessing.
With Steadfast, we have very strong relationships with many insurers and are able to get the best coverage possible.
The overall market is very high. I subscribe to the idea that we don’t see the insurance market like this, for the most part, going forward. I feel the insurers and underwriters will write the risks they need to have a profit and I don’t think we will see in previous years when individual insurers were fighting each other and using big discounts to win business.
With the assessment and regulations that will be placed on these insurance companies, they will not have that opportunity. They may target certain sectors but I don’t think the whole insurance market will go that smoothly, I think I’m going for the hills and being consistent.
The focus on writing and profit will remain and whether the risk should be written or not, that will lead to winners and losers I think.
Has covid affected your work life?
It’s a little different now with work from home. You feel like the culture is a little lost. You have lost the love we had before when everyone was in the office and all the chaos and culture was high. So it’s difficult in that regard, but we’re very good at having monthly events, and events that promote that culture.
Our June 30 party was full of events. We had a nice dinner at Supernormal and then karaoke. We also gather in our office conference room, get an update from our GM of the month and then we just catch up – get out the cheeseboard and have a few drinks on Wednesday afternoon and enjoy each other’s company.
We are all in the office Monday through Wednesday. This touch three days a week is great. Being able to turn around and talk to your partner and ask them a question and working with the claims team and being able to walk down and go, ‘How’s that claim going?’ – it is very beneficial, part of the cooperation of things.
Are you still playing football?
Yes, AFL, which is good fun. We won’t be making the final this year, but it’s a great release to get out of the 9-to-5 and hang out with friends. On Saturdays I’m at the footy club. It’s a winning culture down there. I bring a lot of things I learned from playing football into my work life and leadership, communication, culture – things that can be transferred to the workplace.