Team Talks: Simon Lightbody

Simon shares his personal thoughts on the importance of purpose, lessons learnt and the most pressing issues facing the insurance sector.

What's your role at Rhodian?

I am one of three founders of Rhodian, and CEO of the network. My role is to lead a business that stays true to our vision of collective endeavor. I work to bring in the strongest talent and ensure that the pathways and frameworks are in place to help each individual succeed and thrive as they build their businesses.

What inspires you?

For the last 20 years of my career, I have been involved in growing businesses from relatively early stages through to a developed strong presence in the market. This journey of start-up challenge really motivates me. The feeling of building a business, creating a brand, bringing in great people and empowering them on their respective professional journeys is extremely rewarding and has bought me a lot of satisfaction over the years. Ultimately, it’s the human aspect that inspires me and keeps me striving to do better each day. .

What was the driving purpose behind founding Rhodian

After I stepped out of my corporate career, I had the opportunity to take a break and a consider what really motivated me in business. Looking at the idea of starting an agency again, I knew that the barriers to market were a lot higher than when I started Miramar in 2005 (?). The industry has seen significant developments in terms of increased regulatory obligations, increased technological requirements and of course, the tightening of capacity availability. It is this environment that created the conversations around Rhodian.

You really need an identifiable gap in the market to start a successful new business. Incubating niche agencies with 100% in-house business operations wasn’t new. But it was when we landed on the equity play that we knew we had something special. True entrepreneurs need to have skin in the game and our model delivers that from day one. Our culture is shared success and the way we work is collaborative... shaping the innovation needed in the industry alongside the technology required to deliver it. It’s fast paced, not hamstrung by legacy, and we only work with the best people … which is making business fun again.

And the hardest lesson you have learnt along the way?

The hardest part of any startup/new endeavor comes when things don’tt go as you had hoped. When these moments happen, finding the inner strength to believe in the journey is important. Rhodian’s journey so far has reinforced the importance of really understanding our values as a business and sticking to them, even though it has meant opportunities have passed us by. When you are building a business and a brand, often what you don’t do, is as important as what you do do.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing underwriting agencies currently?

Underwriting agencies are facing continued challenges around managing the changing environment of regulation and compliance, understanding the power of strong technology and positioning themselves to access the broker distribution channels. Knowing how to structure your business for today is no longer sufficient, you need to be able to structure a business that is resilient to continual change and has the systems and frameworks to flex and absorb this change. We really need to be collaborating and working smarter as an industry to foresee what is coming next and how we can continually innovate to stay ahead of the curve. Reactive innovation just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Part of what we are doing at Rhodian is really considering how to build agile systems. Our agency leaders need to be 100% focused on underwriting and delivering to their broker and insurer partners. Behind the scenes our shared services units are the engine room that can spend time working with our broader global team to make sure we remain agile and part of the conversation when it comes to the future of underwriting. We aren’t content to just deliver today, we are committed to building a network that will help the agencies we partner with become the backbone of the Australian market.

Bringing (and keeping) great talent into the insurance industry has always been challenging, do you think that’s changing?

Making the insurance industry attractive to young talent has always been a challenge. The industry itself has not done a great job of promoting itself over the years. This is despite the testimony of those in the business always speaking highly of the job opportunities and career pathways.

So I think it is up to the individual companies to show that they have strong , caring cultures where collaboration is encouraged, where innovation is embraced.

If a company can live these values, then talent will join and will stay. It is up to the companies to constantly put these values front and center of everything they do.

What excites you about the future of our industry?

I think there is a lot to be excited about in our industry. On a macro level we are seeing risk appetite from Insurers increasing whilst maintaining pricing discipline. Regarding the MGA space, we are continuing to see both domestic and global insurers see value in partnering with agencies in order to access broker distribution. The chance to collaborate more with global partners, global data sets and people across multiple sectors is exciting to me. There is such a lot of opportunity to really grab hold of some big issues and start to focus project groups on them... this is something I am really looking forward to as we all look to respond to our broader environment and the role our industry should play within it.

What’s your goal for 2023

My main goal for 2023 is to put all my positive energy into Rhodian, to make it, and the agencies we partner with, as successful as possible.