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Insurance execs appointed as part of wider Suncorp overhaul

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Suncorp has reorganised its operations and business structure and announced the departure of CEO Insurance Gary Dransfield as it moves to improve performance and accelerate the group’s digital and data transformation.

Some insurance functions will be shifted to the group level while operational responsibilities in the Australian division will be divided between the new positions of CEO Insurance Product & Portfolio and Chief Operating Officer – Insurance.

CEO Steve Johnston says insurance is a larger proportion of the group following the life business sale and requires a greater focus on transformation of revenue and costs, while COVID-19 has accelerated adoption of digital channels, changed ways of working and provided an impetus for action.

“It has changed our perspective on what is possible,” he told a briefing. “We now need to seize this opportunity to speed up the execution of our priorities so we can continue to deliver for our people and customers, while growing returns and creating better outcomes for our shareholders.”

Insurance and group head office support functions, covering technology, finance, risk, people and legal will be combined to improve decision making and reduce duplication, Mr Johnston says, while CFO Jeremy Robson will have reinsurance and actuarial responsibilities added to his mandate.

“I see reinsurance as another capital management tool rather than exclusively a tactical annual purchase,” he told a briefing. “Hence aligning with our group capital team makes sense.”

Mr Johnston says the program of work in the Australian insurance business is large and complex and to speed up its delivery it is “best tackled” by two executives rather than one.

Current Chief Customer & Digital Officer Lisa Harrison has been appointed Insurance Product and Portfolio CEO, encompassing distribution channels, customer strategy, brand and marketing, product and pricing and innovation.

The role of Chief Operating Officer – Insurance will be taken up by Paul Smeaton who has led the New Zealand business for the past five years and who has been with Suncorp for 26 years.

Mr Smeaton will lead all aspects of claims management and operations and some group functions including real estate management and procurement.

Suncorp New Zealand CFO Jimmy Higgins will lead that business in an acting capacity while the search for a permanent CEO is undertaken.

In other changes, Clive van Horen has been appointed to the vacant CEO Banking & Wealth role, Chief People Experience Officer Amanda Revis will leave in the second half of the year, while the Customer & Digital function will be reallocated to the Insurance and Banking & Wealth areas.

Chief Information Officer Adam Bennett, who joins the group today, will also lead a new Technology and Transformation function.

Mr Dransfield, who will leave on July 17, joined Suncorp in 2009 and held positions including head of Vero New Zealand and Personal Insurance. He has led insurance since October 2017 and was a rival to Mr Johnston for the top job after former head Michael Cameron departed last year.

“In recent years, Mr Dransfield has been instrumental in leading Suncorp’s response to disaster events in New Zealand and Australia including earthquakes, floods, cyclones and bushfires,” Mr Johnston said.

“Gary has made an incredible contribution to Suncorp as well as the insurance industry in both Australia and New Zealand.”

The Suncorp changes mean Mr Dransfield is also stepping down as President of the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), a position he took up in January for an expected two-year term.

ICA says Deputy President Sue Houghton, GM Insurance at BT Financial Group, will serve as the interim President until a board meeting on July 30 to determine appointments.

The reorganisation also means Mr Smeaton will step down from his role as Insurance Council of New Zealand President due to his return to Australia.

IAG’s New Zealand CEO Craig Olsen will take over the ICNZ role.