John Leonard… thoughts in retirement

Many of you may be aware that John Leonard has been planning for his next adventure – retirement.  Fortunately for John (but unfortunately for the industry) the time arrived early March 2017 when John rode off into the sunset (well in fact QLD).

John is an industry stalwart and has contributed 49 years in Life Insurance having started his career with Royal Globe Life in 1969 and then worked with Australian Eagle and MLC before joining ANZ Wealth/ING as Chief Underwriter in 2006.  Over his time, John has witnessed and contributed to significant change in the industry and is renowned for challenging the status quo.

Career summary:

  • The youngest Chief Underwriter at the age of 23 and retires as the oldest Chief Underwriter
  • A foundation member of ALUCA and awarded Lifetime membership in 2013
  • President & Treasurer Senior Underwriters’ Risk Forum (SURF) (previously LUCOS)
  • President Life Assessment Officers’ Discussion Group
  • National committee member ALUCA
  • Financial Services Council (FSC) Life & Risk Board member actively involved in defending ‘the right to underwrite’
  • Financial Services Council (FSC) member of various Working Groups including Chair positions:

    • HIV Working Group, and
    • Mental Health Working Group
  • Introduction of a number of Australian life industry initiatives, including:
    • development & support of formal training programmes for underwriters including:
      • 1st trainee underwriting programme to receive ALUCA accreditation
      • internal study sessions in support of the introduction of Academy of Life Underwriting (ALU) exams in Australia in 1993
      • new business to first authority underwriting training programmes
      • development of the first comprehensive and user friendly Adviser Guide (adapting its use from a limited occupational listing to a true adviser tool)
      • development of the first height/ weight guide for advisers
      • the introduction of Research & Development-style team specialists to support local underwriting teams and sound underwriting quality review processes.

Life outside Life:

John is married to Di and they have 3 sons Brett, Darren and Nathan. The sons have followed their father’s footsteps by forging successful careers in the life insurance industry; Brett, is a Key Account Manager; whilst Darren is the Regional Underwriting Manager for NSW and QLD and Nathan is National Operations Manager.

John & Di are moving to the Sunshine Coast where they have built a new home on the water. Here John intends to enjoy lawn bowls, fishing and golf and the odd drop of good wine and healthy food.

We thank John for his contribution to the industry and wish him & Di a long and happy retirement.

1. What was your first job?

New business clerk at Royal Insurance 1968.

2. How long have you been involved in the life insurance industry and in what roles?

  • 49 years
  • New business team leader
  • Chief Underwriter first at 23 years of age
  • National underwriting and claims manager
  • National Operations Manager
  • Head of Underwriting and claims

What do you see as the main challenges for life insurers and reinsurers in the future?

Winning consumer trust and defending our right to underwrite. We need to be actively engaged in programmes specifically planned to deliver on both these issues.

You are a HUGE ALUCA supporter so here are some ALUCA questions… How many ALUCA Conferences have you attended and can you recall your first conference?

I’ve attended all conferences bar 2; the first of which was the inaugural conference at Terrigal.

What was the best ALUCA conference you ever attended and why?

The best was Terrigal simply because it was the first and it holds special memories, as I was one of the foundation members who kicked ALUCA off. Since then the venues, the relevance of topics and structure of the conferences have improved significantly. I particularly enjoy the breakout sessions that are now a common conference feature that deliver real value to the attendees.

What was the best presentation that you can remember?

Too many to pick from but I always enjoy Dr Davis who I find is able to deliver complex medical topics in an easy to understand way.

What benefits has ALUCA membership brought to your life insurance career? And why should people associated with life claims and underwriting join?

As an active committee, I’ve met and worked with some great people and been exposed to many behind the scenes industry matters which have broadened my insurance knowledge and importantly given me a voice at the table. ALUCA continues to push for the professional development of claims consultants and underwriters but it has proven to be a lengthy and challenging task and not made easier by the continued short supply of these technical roles. My view is that those who are looking for a long career in underwriting or claims management must invest in obtaining the appropriate qualifications.

How is ALUCA performing in your view? Where is ALUCA doing well and where can improvements be made?

Given ALUCA is made up of industry volunteers, other than their CEO, they have done a good job getting where they are today. The push for professionalism is a key agenda item and they need to continue to invest heavily in this. They also need to get face to face access to members to promote their agenda. I’d like to see ALUCA look to where they can improve better underwriting and claims management practices. The endorsement of ANZ Wealth’s UW trainee program was a good example of that. One area I believe they should focus on is underwriting and claims quality assurance programs.

In 5 years’ time, where do you see the Australian Life Insurance industry?

Hopefully in a much better place than we are now. I’d like to see the industry win over consumer trust and to be truly valued for what our products deliver not just at claim time but for the peace of mind they provide through their life cycle. Currently there is a big push to make the application process simpler through the use of big data. My view is that there is a need to tread this path carefully as it is a big move away from the original concept of risk pooling and the further we move towards individual risk pricing, the more unaffordable risk insurance becomes for the not so healthy lives.


linked in group
Comment and discuss this article with other industry professionals in the ALUCA Linked-In group

Leave a Reply