Kieran Forde

After almost completely getting out of advice, ANZ has offloaded its life insurance advice arm to Zurich which will launch Zurich Assure at the start of August.

ANZ Financial Advice closed on 23 February, 2022 after the big four bank reviewed its retail business last year. However, it would continue to work with high-net-worth clients via its private banking service.

Zurich chief distribution officer for life and investments Kieran Forde tells Professional Planner ANZ opened a dialogue with Zurich who they had previously sold OnePath to three years earlier

“ANZ spoke to us about its intentions [exiting the advice business], and given they were the adviser on record for a very large number of our Zurich and OnePath insurance customers, it was an important conversation,” he says. “We were interested in how those customers would be serviced going forward.”

Forde had spent over a decade with ANZ including leading the financial planning business between 2014 to 2016, before he moved to Zurich in November 2018.

Forde said Zurich has been considering the need to add a personal advice capability.

“Often our unadvised customers ask questions and in order to provide helpful responses that are highly relevant to them, it is necessary to provide personal advice, only being able to provide general advice was not helping our customers to the extent they needed.”

Zurich Assure applied for its own Australian financial service licensee with ASIC earlier this year and is waiting for approval.

In the intervening period there will be a short-term arrangement where the firm will become a corporate authorised representative of Bombora Advice which it expects might be in place for two to three months.

Shaping the business

Sandhya Maini has been appointed to lead the business, while Forde will be the accountable executive. She has previously held leadership roles at Insignia, MLC Life Insurance and NAB.

Sandhya Maini

Zurich Assure will have its own board and independent chair.

Forde says Zurich Assure will operate like any boutique-sized licence in Australia.

“It will have its own approved product list and will obviously operate in the best interests of its customers, but its focus will be on its existing customers and deepening relationships with them. We have also spent a lot of time developing a digital experience which will be quite different.”

There will be a staff of roughly 45 which will comprise 15 advisers with the potential to grow past 20 advisers in the near term.

Forde says there isn’t a focus on business growth but rather deepening existing relationships.

“Zurich Assure will be proactively reaching out to our existing customers making sure the cover they have in place is still suitable and ensuring their cover keeps pace with the changes in their life.”

Developing the next gen

Zurich Assure will have a fully-fledged Professional Year program with the goal to be a destination for new entrants to start their career.

“I’m really keen for this to be a pathway for aspirational advisers who are prepared to do the study and exams and become professional advisers,” Forde says. “We’ve got a great environment for young people to learn all about life insurance from product to underwriting to claims, and we can give people really good access to education pathways that allow them to become deep risk experts in the market.”

The company aims to take on roughly five new entrants a year and understands that retaining the talent long term may not always be achievable.

“Then they might choose to go out into the open market and that’s healthy, but we can provide quite a different high touch development for a small number of aspirational advisers,” Forde says. “This is what we need to do; we need to be bringing more professionals in to our market.”

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