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Industry needs national framework for claims response: Suncorp

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Suncorp Group CEO and MD Steve Johnston has urged state and federal governments to agree on a national approach for the industry to respond to natural disasters ahead of the looming peak hazard season.

The matter has taken on increased importance in light of ongoing COVID lockdowns and restrictions, with the Insurance Council of Australia making a similar push earlier this month.

At today’s virtual annual general meeting, Mr Johnston also provided an update on Suncorp’s ongoing efforts to “reset” its business, saying the initiatives are yielding the intended results.

He says the earthquake that struck Victoria yesterday is another reminder of the need for National Cabinet - a forum established last year for the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers to meet and work collaboratively - to introduce an agreed framework for all insurance companies to work within to tackle claims across the country.

“We know we have far too many customers with valid insurance claims who we can’t get to given the current restrictions and lockdowns,” Mr Johnston said this afternoon.

“Add to that the claims that emerge from the earthquake. And, as each day passes, we inch closer to the peak natural hazard season.”

He says the industry needs National Cabinet to “turn its mind to this issue and put in place a framework for all insurance companies to safely get on with dealing with these claims”.

“We should not be scrambling after the event,” Mr Johnston said. “We need a national framework.

“Most insurers have national workforces who are quickly moved around the country to where events occur.

“It would be incredibly difficult and slow down the repair process if we have to individually negotiate with State Governments and the Commonwealth after an event.”

Mr Johnston says moves undertaken by Suncorp to “reset” its business such as simplifying its portfolio and shedding non-core assets are paying off as its main insurance and banking operations achieved a 42% rise in after-tax cash earnings to $1.06 billion in the last financial year.

“Our Australian insurance business delivered its best full year revenue growth in almost a decade,” he said.

“Good progress has been made in reinvigorating our brands and improving our customer offerings and marketing.

“We are investing in pricing and risk selection through the rollout of our new pricing engine. And we continue to invest in digital and data and meet our customers increased appetite to interact with us digitally."