Board Member Spotlight: Jane Fenton

2019 Unimutual Conference – presentations
September 18, 2019
Broker Business Issue #4, 2019
September 26, 2019

Board Member Spotlight: Jane Fenton

In these Spotlight discussions, we speak to the individuals that make up the Unimutual community, to share the experiences of the parts that make up the whole.

My name is Jane Fenton. I’m an independent director of Unimutual, and I’ve been on the board for almost two years.

What makes Unimutual unique?

The whole of my professional life, I have worked with organisations who have a social purpose. There are three things for me that make Unimutual really special. The first thing is, it is owned by the sector for the benefit of the sector. It has unique sector experience. It only provides risk protection in the higher education and research sectors. There is nothing it doesn’t know about the sector.

The second reason it’s really special is because it exists for its members. The way it handles claims is absolutely in the interest of its members. It has been really exciting for me to see the effort and energy that has gone into trying to process claims quickly, trying to look at things from a member’s point of view.

The third reason I think it’s a really special organisation is the focus that it puts on risk management. The more it can do to help its members prevent risk, the less they’re going to be in a situation that they don’t want to be in. I mean, nobody wants to be in a situation where they need to claim on their insurance.

How does Unimutual affect the sustainability of the sector?

The higher education and research sector is absolutely critical to the future of Australia. They cannot operate if they do not have protection for the risk that they have to take in the course of their businesses.

How has your understanding of Unimutual’s vision and values changed since joining?

My understanding hasn’t changed, but I think Unimutual has gotten much better at expressing what it is that it does that makes it a special organisation. I think it was hiding its light under a bushel when I joined the board, and I now think it’s got much better at explaining to its members why it is different and why it is special and why the mutual model, the membership model, is actually in their benefit.

What do you see as the sector’s biggest risks?

I say this in the context of the Unimutual conference, where there has been a great deal of discussion about risk, that the members at all times have come back to financial risk being the most important one. Yet from my perspective, financial risk is actually the result of a series of other risks. It’s not the starting risk, it’s the end point of risks.

I think one of the things that Unimutual does really well, and I think it is because it’s part of the sector and it listens to what the sector has got to say, is identify those emerging risks. So Unimutual was, I think, really very early an adopter of cybersecurity as being a real risk and went out there to obtain cover for its members at a stage where none of us really knew or understood what this risk looked like or how it might play out.

What are the sector’s opportunities?

This is a sector that is hugely important to our economy, to our society, but I think the most important thing is that it’s a strong, resilient, capable sector, and it will manage change and there inevitably will be change.

From my perspective, Unimutual goes above and beyond with every member. That’s what makes it the special organisation that it is.

What is changing for the sector’s risk management?

I think the risk of risk being seen as a compliance issue is a huge one. Whereas, risk should actually be seen as part of the strategic driver of a university.

Which Unimutual initiative are you most proud of?

I think it’s always done a really fantastic job, but I think it’s really picked up the communication with members. I think the claims handling system, the access to information, web-based access to information, these are all things that make life easier for our members, and I think Unimutual is on a process of continual journey of improvement, looking for ways to better service their members.

What do you think that Members value most?

I think they value the fact that because Unimutual is of the sector, it creates opportunities for the sector to share experiences. So the conference is one of those. It’s really that sector knowledge, that sector engagement, that recognition that what Unimutual is seeing in one university or research, that it might be relevant to what’s happening in another sector. So, I think it’s really that adding value.

What is your vision of the next ten years?

We have the opportunity to take on board members. I would like to see us grow, because I think it’s in the interests of the members and those individual organisations that Unimutual is their provider of risk protection.

We previously spoke to Member, Tracey Coates – read her responses here.