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Jenny Bax | Chief Executive Officer Underwriting Agencies Counc

Shaping the Future: Visionary Leadership of Jenny Bax in the General Insurance Industry

Jenny Bax, Chief Executive Officer at Underwriting Agencies Council Ltd, is a seasoned leader with a rich history spanning three decades in the general insurance industry. With two decades dedicated to Senior Management roles, her extensive experience has shaped her into a proficient and strategic professional.

Jenny’s educational background is marked by a Master of Business Administration and a Graduate Diploma in Insurance, both earned from Deakin University. Her qualifications serve as a testament to her commitment to continuous learning and excellence in her field.

Throughout her career, Jenny has consistently demonstrated her leadership prowess by steering teams towards enhanced business profitability, especially during periods of substantial change. Her proven track record is a reflection of her ability to navigate challenges and drive success in dynamic environments.

Journey in the Insurance Industry

According to Jenny, all she ever aspired to become was a vet, and she had a well-defined plan in place to achieve that dream. Unfortunately, her life took an unexpected turn during her year 10 exams when she was struck by a car, resulting in a near-fatal accident. The incident occurred as she was being picked up from a part-time job to attend a netball grading night, witnessed by her mother, who had the challenging task of notifying her father to meet them at the hospital, as Jenny wasn’t expected to survive the night. Jenny spent the following eight nights in a coma, losing around two years of memory. Months of recovery followed at home, marked by a fractured skull, leg, and back injuries.

Despite attempts to return to school for her senior years, Jenny found herself struggling to remember more than she could forget. Determined not to repeat year 10 and end up in the same class as her younger brother, Jenny faced the challenge head-on. Managing migraines and other issues, she felt lost and uncertain about her future, especially with an average report card for the disrupted year.

Around six months later, Jenny came across a short-term contract with a small insurer in the newspaper. The job involved converting paper insurance records to a new computer system, and despite lacking typing skills, she applied for the position. During the interview, Jenny candidly shared her accident and the challenges she faced. Unbeknownst to her, the State Manager, who had experienced a severe car accident himself, empathized with her situation and offered her the job.

This unexpected opportunity marked the beginning of Jenny’s fascination with the insurance industry. Despite her initial lack of typing skills, she recognized the myriad opportunities available for those with curiosity. Realizing she could study part-time while delving into the insurance world, Jenny seized the chance to continue her education in this captivating field.

Jenny discovered early on that resilience played a crucial role in her journey, enabling her to reset and recover from the setbacks of her accident. Recognizing that change and challenges are constant, she prioritized building resilience reserves. With a strong support network, Jenny has been able to bounce back from adversities and navigate the dynamic landscape of the insurance industry, a journey that continues to evolve.

Wisdom of Embracing Opportunities

Jenny acknowledges the invaluable support of an exceptionally supportive board, comprising individuals deeply passionate about the industry and the success of agencies. All board members, being owners or senior executives in their respective companies, possess a nuanced understanding of associations and recognize the significance of maintaining relevance while building upon a foundation of connecting, influencing, and innovating for the future.

Reflecting on her career journey, Jenny expresses gratitude for the guidance and support provided by sponsors who championed her and played crucial roles during her transitions into larger organizational roles. These sponsors served as sounding boards and advocates, enabling her to showcase her skills, expand her professional network, and overcome occasional experiences of imposter syndrome.

Drawing on personal experiences, Jenny emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and the power of reframing negative thoughts to overcome doubt. A memorable piece of feedback from a peer, urging her to recognize her earned seat at the table, serves as a constant reminder of her capabilities and propels her towards success.

Jenny shares advice, particularly for women, encouraging them to believe in themselves and have confidence in their abilities. She highlights the non-linear nature of career paths, emphasizing the value of embracing opportunities for growth and learning, even if they lead to unexpected turns. Jenny challenges the notion of aiming for roles that perfectly align with existing skills, advocating for seeking positions that push individuals to take on more significant responsibilities.

In the spirit of solidarity, Jenny underscores the importance of supporting fellow women on their professional journeys, fostering an environment where women are allies rather than competitors for seats at the table.

Leading the Underwriting Agencies Council through Strategic Triumphs

As the inaugural CEO of the Underwriting Agencies Council, Jenny has held the position for nine months, experiencing a whirlwind of meetings, discussions, and adaptation. A significant highlight of her tenure has been the successful rollout of a three-year strategic plan. In Jenny’s perspective, this plan is pivotal as it places the organization’s members at the core of all activities, establishing a clear trajectory and steering the association towards a mature, transparent, and viable future.

The primary objective of the strategic plan is to enhance the scale, reach, and reputation of the members, positioning them for success in the market. The feedback received has been overwhelmingly positive, indicating that the plan is well-received and sets a solid foundation for the association’s future endeavors.

From Technology to Sustainability and Diversity

Jenny is of the opinion that the insurance industry is undergoing rapid transformation, with the pace of change remaining swift. She highlights the pivotal role of data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning in streamlining processes to enhance underwriting, increase operational efficiency, improve risk assessment, and elevate the overall customer experience.

Sustainability, along with a focus on climate-related risks and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors, is anticipated to remain a major focal point. Jenny emphasizes that insurers have a responsibility to design and develop products that address these pressing issues. She cites parametric insurance as an example of an innovative product designed to complement traditional insurance programs, offering coverage for natural catastrophe risks.

The evolving regulatory landscape is expected to continue shaping the insurance industry, addressing new and emerging risks. Prioritizing consumer protection and fairness, coupled with the ongoing prudential oversight by entities like APRA, will be crucial elements in this regulatory evolution.

Jenny predicts a thriving future for underwriting agencies in Australia, attributing their success to innovation, agility, consistency, and professionalism. These qualities position them as a logical choice for brokers seeking products tailored to meet clients’ specific needs, aligning them with mainstream insurers.

Additionally, Jenny mentions the significant and continuing role of women in shaping the future of the insurance industry. She emphasizes that women contribute diverse perspectives, foster innovation, and champion positive change, thus playing a pivotal role in driving the industry forward.

Fostering Change

Jenny believes that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a critical element in cultivating a culture of respect that nurtures a sense of value and inclusion. Notably, the board she oversees is characterized by significant diversity, and she has been actively engaged in spearheading a cultural shift toward change and innovative thinking. Recognizing the importance of visibility and transparency, Jenny has played a key role in championing these principles to establish a diverse and inclusive business environment. In her 10-month tenure in her current role, she has emphasized the significance of these values, aiming to build trust, identify areas for improvement, and contribute to a more inclusive organizational culture.

Empowered to Empower

Jenny acknowledges the impact of having strong and supportive leaders throughout her career, individuals who have empowered her to seize opportunities and take charge. In alignment with her passion for giving back to the industry, Jenny has actively participated in various mentoring programs over the years. Witnessing the growth and increased confidence of her mentees during these programs brings her immense joy.

For Jenny, mentoring is not confined to formal programs; she believes it is an ongoing process that extends into more informal settings as needed. Beyond contributing to the development of others, she finds these interactions to be valuable learning experiences for herself. Jenny regards the opportunities to collaborate and work with others as truly priceless moments in her professional journey.

Passion Beyond Recognition

Jenny perceives it as an honor to be recognized in an industry that she is deeply passionate about. However, she emphasizes that her motivation for the work she does does not stem from a desire for acknowledgment or accolades. The insurance industry, in Jenny’s view, is often underrated, yet she believes that it offers limitless career opportunities for individuals with the determination to work hard and a commitment to ongoing learning. Her passion extends to nurturing the next generation within the field, and she has actively engaged in mentoring emerging talents over the years. Jenny finds immense satisfaction in witnessing the progress and flourishing careers of these individuals over time.

Finding Harmony in Work and Play

Jenny places a high value on work-life balance, making a conscious effort to prioritize her health. She is dedicated to maintaining this equilibrium by attending the gym an average of 3-4 days a week, adjusting her schedule based on work-related travel. Jenny finds that these gym sessions not only contribute to her physical well-being but also set a positive tone for success early in the morning.

Fueling her passion for travel and exploration, Jenny always has a couple of flights planned to new destinations. This serves as a motivating factor, providing her with a reason to stay committed to her work. Embracing the mantra of “work hard” to afford the opportunity to “play hard,” Jenny believes in the importance of balancing professional dedication with personal pursuits for a fulfilling and well-rounded life.

Advocating for Industry Recognition and Women Empowerment in Insurance

The Underwriting Agencies Council, as a member-led organization, plays a crucial role in representing its sector in various capacities. One notable initiative involves organizing expos across Australia, spanning both capital cities and regional centers. These events serve as platforms that bring together members and the broking community, providing an opportunity for members to showcase their products, innovation, knowledge, and professionalism. The overarching goal is to position underwriting agencies as the preferred sector for brokers seeking a supportive partner.

Jenny’s specific goals within the Underwriting Agencies Council include promoting the remarkable contributions of underwriting agencies in the Australian Insurance Market. Her focus is on positioning these agencies as the logical choice for brokers seeking qualities such as flexibility, consistency, and excellent service.

Beyond organizational objectives, Jenny is committed to paving the way for women in the insurance industry. She aims to demonstrate the multitude of options and opportunities available for women who are curious and ready to challenge the status quo. Jenny sees insurance as a hidden gem in terms of opportunities for success and is dedicated to showcasing its potential, particularly to attract young, tech-savvy individuals to contribute to driving the industry forward. Her advocacy and promotion of the industry are geared towards fostering a dynamic and diverse future for the field of insurance.