personal touch 3

The personal touch

When a national disaster strikes, communities are forced to cope and react to situations for which there are no rule books. These can often be transformative experiences, as was the case for Jo Mason, who was the Acting Executive  General Manager of NZI when the Canterbury earthquake struck on 4 September 2010. It would become  the single biggest insurance event in New Zealand history.

With NZI’s back office and personal lines teams centralised in Christchurch, Jo travelled from  Auckland to be on hand for her staff and her customers. “I relied on my intuition to do what was right,” she says. “The learning for me was how to lead  teams through a catastrophic event with authenticity and empathy. Seeing our teams in action and meeting many satisfied customers were by far the  greatest triumphs.”

BEING  CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

That customer connection has been a constant in Jo’s 30-plus years in insurance. It is still front  of mind as she settles in to her new role as CEO of New Zealand’s largest broking group, NZbrokers.  Jo says she’s thrilled to be taking over the stewardship of the company she’d had a long-standing  admiration for – not least for the fact that it represents locally owned and run businesses.

“NZbrokers has undergone transformational change in the last two years. The next steps involve  ensuring we adapt to the changing customer needs and delivering efficient mechanisms for conducting business without losing the  personal touch,” says Jo, who believes a collective effort is the key. “Our culture is all about  partnership. We are there solely to add value to our members through collaboration.”

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

Jo’s team spirit and work ethic were established early in life, growing up the second youngest of six kids in Masterton, a rural town in the lower North Island of New Zealand. “We didn’t have a lot of money and times were often tough, but my parents always supported us,” she  reflects.

“I found early success in cross-country running and learned that if you work hard at anything,  success usually follows.

I never thought about what couldn’t be achieved – only what could.” Taking on a role in insurance at NZI, Jo had the dedication and leadership skills that would see her promoted from a rep to branch manager, then on to a series of general manager roles. “I was always prepared to move around and make sacrifices to 
move upwards – or sideways if I thought I could learn something from the experience,” says Jo, whose willingness to move would twice see her cross the Tasman for roles with  Allianz Australia. She was State Manager in South Australia in 2006 and National Manager  Underwriting Agencies and Cluster Groups in 2015.

“It was a very different experience working for one of the largest insurance companies in the  world, versus the largest Australasian insurance company. Both have very different strategies and  cultures,” she says, while admitting that she struggled in Sydney without her ‘tribe’ of family and  friends around her.

“Allianz was very accommodating and we both tried to make it work – but it wasn’t to be. Sometimes  you have to admit when something’s not working and move on.”

FAMILY FIRST

A mother to two adult children who still live at home, family has always been a primary  consideration in Jo’s professional choices. “I’m very fortunate to have a husband who was prepared to stay at home and be the primary  caregiver, but there’s more to it than that,” she says. “When I was offered roles that meant making life-changing decisions, I would always talk about it with my family and we would make the decision  together.”

Acknowledging the sacrifices her family has made to support her – including moving seven times – Jo  says, “I work hard to repay the faith my family has in me. I also want to be a role model for my  children so they can see that hard work gets rewards. I must have sold the message well because my son has now followed me into the industry!”

And it’s an industry Jo couldn’t speak more highly of. “What our industry does that others don’t is provide peace of mind. I love  being able to make a difference in people’s lives. I have made many, many friends in this industry  and I wouldn’t leave it for anything.”



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