These talks are a valuable opportunity to highlight the strengths of our mutual, discuss coverage concerns and promote how our members are mitigating risk.
For Brett Stonestreet, Statewide Board Member and Griffith City Council General Manager, 2022 marked his first trip. Here’s a recap of what was discussed – and the takeaways Brett brought home.
Exchanging ideas and exploring issues
“These trips are an opportunity to discuss council concerns and help the underwriters learn about the intricacies of Australian government,” says Brett.
In May 2022, Brett made his first trip with the Statewide board to meet our underwriters at Lloyd’s of London.
During these meetings, the board reinforces the strengths of the Mutual, discusses identified exposure areas – and outlines the actions our members are taking to minimise incidents and claims.
While Statewide brokers remain in touch with our underwriters throughout the year, these trips allow the board to exchange ideas and explore strategic opportunities at the governance level.
“We’re there to ensure the underwriters know the challenges our members face – and develop a fair, tailored agreement that meets their needs,” says Brett.
Getting down to business – and looking forward
What topics were on the agenda this year?
Brett recalls how the underwriters were particularly interested in how members were addressing cybercrime.
“Lloyd’s sees the prevalence of hackers as an escalating risk. When we reported that all 114 members had developed a cyber risk mitigation maturity assessment, they were buoyed to learn how we addressed that area head-on.”
The underwriters also sought a clearer picture of the jurisdictional differences among Australia’s levels of government – particularly around emergency and disaster management.
“They thought local councils oversaw emergency management. So they were surprised to learn how the state government largely oversees emergency and disaster response in NSW, with councils providing a support role.”
Other issues discussed included:
- The impact of recent floods and fires on Australian communities
- How chemicals, like fire retardants, can leave a lasting impact on the environment
- The local government elections that were held in December 2021
- How grant money has shaped the local government sector over the last five years
The Board also reaffirmed how the Mutual is committed to helping members mitigate risk wherever possible – and avoid the need for claims altogether.
“It’s not just about the cost of the claim to the underwriter or the reputational risk to the council. We also don’t want people getting hurt. So it’s in our interest, on multiple fronts, to keep our communities safe,” says Brett.
Looking forward, the board presented several future-focused initiatives. Like establishing the Risk Advisory Board to swiftly address issues from the ground up.
“We also outlined our Pilot Risk Excellence Group,” says Brett, “which is shining a spotlight on best-practice risk management strategies. We can then help other members adopt those initiatives across the Mutual.”
Lessons learned in London
What insights did Brett take away from the experience?
“It was an eye-opener into the very wide world of underwriting. Lloyd’s deals with huge portfolios across a host of global risks like the shipping and aviation industries. And local government is but one of those sectors.”
Brett also thought the underwriters might be removed from the concerns of the Mutual and local councils. But he found the oppositive to be true.
“As a collective representing over a hundred NSW councils, it was clear that our business was very significant to them. They were eager to learn more about our approach to risk and build a richer profile of our approach and strategies.”
The experience also reinforced the benefits of the Mutual’s collective structure.
“If I took my council to Lloyd’s on my own, I wouldn’t get in the front door. But when we take 114 councils, combining our strengths and concerns, we’re viewed as a larger player on level footing.”
Staying stronger together
Throughout the talks, the board and underwriters discussed the challenging market conditions and the increase in global premiums. (In some cases, by 15-20% annually.)
“Our pitch in London was to say: Look at what we’re offering in terms of risk maturity. We’re on top of our game, we’re engaged with our members and we have an experienced management team. We employ six full-time risk managers to constantly review protocols and procedures across NSW.
“Yes, we’re in the middle of a challenging international market. But when you’re setting premiums, look at our relative risk and the mitigation practices our members have integrated.”
A key outcome the board was building toward was securing a new three-year agreement with Lloyd’s. Detailed negotiations are still in progress – but the team was able to lay the foundation in London.
As members know, next year’s premiums will rise by more than what our rate-picking income level is through general rates.
Yet Brett remains more committed than ever to the Mutual’s mission and member offering.
“As a General Manager myself, I understand how this rise may be a challenge for those who administer budgets. But remember, the Mutual isn’t driven by profit.
“We’re a collective. We’re driven to support our members through stability, strength and integrity.”