2024 International Women’s Day

As part of the broader UAA Group, we’re proud of our continued focus on diversity and inclusion. We’ll post some of our key statistics below, but the numbers only tell part of the story, so we’ve asked a few of our leaders if they would be happy to share some of their experiences. Read on to hear from MECON Chief Operating Officer Peta Ross, UAA National Claims Manager Michelle Morrisey, MECON Legal & Compliance Manager Aysha Hollingdale and UAA Senior Technical Officer Jacinta Fryer.

Peta Ross, MECON Chief Operating Officer 

Now celebrating being part of the insurance industry for close to 35 years, Peta (like almost everyone else) initially fell into insurance in an administration role where she gained an insight into the insurance world from the ground up.

“Moving to a larger corporate insurer, I was fortunate enough to get experience in the various product lines. When a new department was created with positions for BDMs, I was given my first panel of brokers in Queensland and later in NSW. I forged some really strong connections and have made some enduring friendships along the way.

“Glenn and I both identified an opportunity for an agency specialising in construction insurance. With the support of Hollard Insurance MECON was created in 2003. We started with $0 GWP and just the two of us. It was a big step, but we felt it was the right one for us. Our respective skills were complementary, not overlapping, and that has kept us married all these years!

“20 years on, 65 extra employees and 4 branch offices later, transacting business in Aus and NZ we have developed a strong set of values and a culture that we are extremely proud of.”

Challenges and overcoming them

“Management of staff has probably been the greatest challenge. Investing time to understand your own leadership style and how to effectively communicate with your staff helped to deal with the challenges. Realising that we ALL needed to receive similar training – focussing on self-awareness and communication skills. Understanding how you communicate and how others can perceive this, helped  clear up misunderstandings, and clarity when  communicating.”

Inspirations and Role Models

  • Richard Enthoven (Hollard Insurance founder) – not only guidance in running a startup but how a culture can be diverse and collaborative in a corporate environment.
  • Nicole Stafford (Leaderlab) – Amplifying leadership skills which focussed on self-awareness, values and communication. Transformative for management and our staff.
  • Dana Williams (Steadfast COO) – Industry mentor who was a great sounding board and very supportive.

Advice for other women

“What are your personal values? Take time to understand who you are – that will help you to align yourself to an employer that shares similar values and culture. Be courageous – focus on getting it right and not assuming you’re right.”

Vision for the future

“That all workplaces treat and reward staff according to their skills and job performance and not gender. Companies must invest in their staff (especially in training of self-awareness and a structured mentoring program). In addition to this, support your staff with defined career paths. We need to be responsible for finding the potential in our people and encourage them to reach it.”

Michelle Morrisey, UAA National Claims Manager

Michelle Morrisey, now UAA National Claims Manager, started her career in insurance at just 19 years old.

“Thinking that this was only going to be a placeholder role while I explored what I really wanted to do in life, I interviewed for an administration role at UAA. I didn’t get the job, however there was a temporary position available to assist with scanning on a three month contract which I accepted.

“Three months turned into six months and after a role became available within the claims team, I was offered a claims consultant position after my manager noticed my work ethic and fiery European personality.”

Creating a lasting impact

“I devoted myself over a few years to learning the ropes of claims, my goal was to apply my drive and work ethic and prove my capabilities to UAA, knowing I wanted to become an integral part of the business, not just work for it.

“14 years later I had progressed from a temporary contract, through to a state claims manager and settling into UAA’s National Claims Manager for Australia.

“The drive behind my progression within the insurance industry and want to succeed has always been the desire to create a lasting impact on someone’s life. Insurance easily allows for this goal. Whether it be in leadership, through mentoring new Claims Consultants entering the industry, to a client that has just had their world turned upside down. There are many opportunities day to day to progress, influence and change the trajectory of someone’s path.”

Advice for other women

“The advice I would give to anyone aspiring to leadership roles within the industry is to take every opportunity afforded to you. Attend the training session, volunteer for projects, visit the client. No matter how seemingly small and insignificant, each opportunity provides additional skillsets, peaks interest, motivates and provides new pathways for success.”

Aysha Hollingdale, MECON Legal & Compliance Manager

Aysha manages the legal and compliance function for MECON Insurance, and has embraced the opportunity to study both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees whilst balancing both work and family.

“Studying law at a later age and having a wide variety of work and life experience helped me achieve my study goals and maintain motivation throughout some gruelling times.”

Challenges and overcoming them

“I cannot pinpoint challenges linked solely to being female in my roles, perhaps I have been lucky. Earlier in my career, it was challenging balancing work with having a family which is not uncommon.”

Inspirations and Role Models

“My grandfather was my role model for so many things. In law, watching the inclusion of more women in the High Court is inspirational because it supports appointment on merit; you don’t get to the High Court easily!”

Advice for other women

“Work hard, be willing to learn new things and challenge yourself. Be flexible and open to opportunities; not all lawyers work in law firms. I’m fortunate enough to work in a company group that provides a number of options which enhance my career and supports me as a valuable member of the team. Try not to rule out some study later in life, there are loads of positives to it.”

Vision for the future

“A greater focus on diverse teams (not just gender-based), so both individuals and teams can learn from the collective experiences for the industry’s benefit.”

Jacinta Fryer, UAA Senior Technical Officer

Jacinta’s career path has already spanned from Graduate Program (QBE) -> Construction/Engineering UW (QBE) -> Commercial Insurance Technician – Bordereaux (UK) -> Plant and Machinery UW (UAA) -> Senior Technical Officer (UAA). Read on to find out how she’s approached her goals and to what she credits her success so far.

“I reached my current role by reading absolutely anything and everything that would help me learn and develop. Industry magazines, LinkedIn, the news, UW referrals, claims files, policy wordings, etc. If you’re not sure about something, Google it or reach out to someone who may know more. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without the ability to make informed decisions. Also being recognised for my hard work and supported by those around me.”

Challenges and overcoming them

“The challenge for my career when deciding to be in the UK for a fixed period, was weighing up the continuity benefits of staying in underwriting or taking a different type of insurance role overseas. I made the most of my time in the UK to learn as much as possible about the London market, other product lines, the MGA model, and departments outside of UW. After returning to Australia, this has been hugely beneficial in having a broader understanding the insurance industry and how everything is connected within the business.”

Inspirations and Role Models

“I’m lucky to have had some incredible managers who have always encouraged my learning and development. Something I hope to continue to foster in those around me.”

Advice for other women

“Don’t be afraid to respectfully ask questions or voice your opinion. Get involved in projects that are outside of your role or comfort zone. Seek feedback to improve in the future.”

Vision for the future

“Flexibility at work has improved so much in recent years but I think there is more to come in this space such as four-day work weeks, flex time and remote working.
Work life balance is so important and often a major factor for women when considering their career progression. With greater flexibility, hopefully we will see an increased number of deserving women in leadership positions in the future.”

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