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Helia board rings changes  

Helia Group says non-executive director Gerd Schenkel has left the board after more than two years of service.

Duncan West, who has been on the board for six years, was re-elected at the Helia annual meeting last Thursday, and Brady Weissel replaced Prue Milne as general counsel and company secretary.

Mr Schenkel joined the board at Australia’s largest provider of lenders’ mortgage insurance in December 2021. He is a senior adviser at management consultancy Kearney and was formerly executive director at Telstra Digital and founded UBank.

Outgoing chair Ian MacDonald, who is handing the reins to Leona Murphy after 12 years on the board, told the meeting last year was “difficult” as households faced inflation and rising interest rates. 

“These factors persist and combined with house price appreciation make the dream of home ownership for many first-time buyers as challenging as it has ever been,” he said.

Helia, which was added to the S&P/ASX 200 in December, has more than 871,000 policies in-force covered by $249 billion of insurance. It supported more than 9000 hardship requests last year through loan deferrals and restructures, and issued more than 42,000 new policies.

Gross written premium dropped 42% to $185 million last year on weaker uptake of high loan to value ratio lending, which requires lenders’ mortgage insurance, and as the federal home guarantee scheme expanded to 50,000 places.

Mr MacDonald says the scheme has “undoubtedly” affected new business volumes across the lenders’ mortgage insurance industry. 

“We believe that LMI and the government schemes will have the biggest impact when they are complementary in the people they help,” he said.

Helia CEO and MD Pauline Blight-Johnston says the business saw similar trends in the first quarter, with a “continuing benign claims experience leading to strong profitability, and ongoing weakness in written premium”.

“We continue to expect claims to increase towards long-term levels and stand ready to support our customers as that occurs,” she said.