Humans of NZI

Jason Phang has been with IAG New Zealand for almost 14 years. He started in the firm’s marketing and reputation team in 2009, looking after NZI. Fast forward to 2023, Jason is now NZI’s manager for portfolio, pricing and analytics in the major customers’ team overseeing close to 35 sizeable customers.

Jason lives in Drury, South Auckland, but was born and bred in Singapore, and fondly remembers his island home country as a busy and bustling place as a child– and later in life - a metropolis of commerce and opportunity. 

Jason grew up with his aunt and enjoyed the company of his older cousins. He recalls running wild in the deep monsoon drains and exploring the building sites around the family home without any regard for health and safety.

After finishing university, where Jason completed a bachelor’s degree in marketing, he decided he wanted an overseas experience, which he explains is not the norm for a young Singaporean. However, in 2004 at the age of 28, Jason decided he wanted to spread his wings, meet some new people, and potentially find employment in another country. 

Jason was working in cargo for Singapore Airlines at this time, and while he enjoyed his job, his zest for travel and a new challenge was calling. He wanted to go somewhere out of his comfort zone, and briefly considered China or India. 

Encounters in Vietnam

While Jason figured out his next move, he set off on a short holiday to Hoi An, Vietnam, a vibrant and colourful one-time trading port from the 15th to the 19th century. Not long after landing in this well-preserved Southeast Asian hideaway, Jason chanced upon four Kiwi tourists who would change his life-course and career quite dramatically. 

“After a few weeks exploring Hoi An’s easy going Old Town and countryside villages, I visited a tailor’s shop to get a couple of suits made. It was there that I met this group of New Zealanders who were also getting some suits made,” Jason explains. 

Jason says they were next visiting Singapore on their way back to New Zealand – and the timing aligned with his return. Once back in his home country Jason took them on a tiki tour around Singapore, and it was then that they suggested he visit Aotearoa New Zealand.

Even better, they offered him a job in sales at their coffee shop in Royal Oak, Auckland. He says New Zealand was not on his radar at all, but fondly recalls thinking that life can throw you opportunities, and he wanted to explore this “far-away land of the Long White Cloud.”

Jason told his family he was off on another adventure and this time he wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Jason worked in the New Zealanders’ espresso bar using his marketing skills to expand their corporate sales across
the city. 

Navigating the world of insurance

Jason had transitioned from cargo to coffee and within the blink of an eye he had found an office job at IAG in Auckland city. Although insurance was a completely different industry to Jason’s prior roles, it was his love of people that helped him navigate this vastly different environment. 

“I started in the marketing team doing research, customer and broker surveys and analytics to support marketing initiatives,” he says of his first insurance job. 

Jason brought a treasure trove of skills and experiences from his previous careers and after five years working across some of IAG’s brands, he joined NZI in 2014 as a Business Performance Analyst. It was here he quickly realised pricing wasn’t just about numbers and data; it was about understanding the unique needs and expectations of customers and brokers. 

His manager at the time, Carl Elliot, manager of business operations at NZI, cherished Jason’s ability to merge data analysis with a deep understanding of what brokers required, and he was seen as an immediate asset to the team. 

“My job revolved around numbers and analytics and colourful presentations. Data is only one part of the equation, however, because behind these numbers are our customers and brokers,” Jason says. 

Jason goes on to explain that data alone can be extremely inadequate, and he spent a lot of time talking to front-line teams and colleagues across the business to get a good commercial understanding of where NZI was at. 

“If you take data and combine that with your on-the-ground knowledge it helps you form a more holistic view of an organisation.”

New beginnings 

In March this year Mick Miller, executive manager for major customers, asked Jason to join his team. Jason had met Mick a few years ago when they were both working on a project for the claims team – and he enjoyed their working relationship straight away. 

“Mick has always been a mentor to me - he knows my strengths and weaknesses - and has always helped me improve and reach my career goals.”

Jason says NZI’s major customers’ team strives to work in partnership with their brokers to do the right thing by their mutual customers.

“We’re not just an insurance company; we want to help look after the environment, be good corporate citizens, and most importantly provide the right support and knowledge for our brokers and customers.” 

Jason says customers appreciate honesty and openness. He says a well-informed team is an asset, and they believe that a good customer experience is not just about the service NZI provides but being able to listen to its customers’ concerns while showing empathy. 

“Insurance is a fundamental part of our lives, and NZI continues to provide its customers with peace of mind for their business in an ever-changing world,” he says. 

A love of photography

Photography has always been a haven for preserving Jason’s mental health through his love of shooting scenes and people and looking at life through a lens. 

“As a kid I hated having my photo taken because my Mum would always stage me, and I’d have to stand a certain way, smile when she said “smile” and it was so hot and humid in Singapore, and so frustrating!

“My father passed away when I was six months old, and Mum had told me he worked for a photography company, so I picked it up later in life as a way of connecting with him and his passion. When I’m behind my lens, I’m in my own zone and I love photographing people and capturing Aotearoa’s breathtaking beauty. 

“I like playing with Auckland city’s shadow and light in the early morning, and interestingly, for a city boy, I now adore the countryside. I have some great photos of the farms around Drury and the Hunua Ranges that I visit regularly.”

Jason uses a Fuji film camera which is very retro, and he prints his own photos which are proudly displayed in his study. “I like to look at my progress and different reminders and experiences. Our land, our people, they make me happy; taking photos is a wonderful hobby.

Like the landscapes Jason shoots, the insurance industry is evolving and changing, especially with the effects of climate change. 

“The insurance industry has changed quite dramatically over the past two years, and it’s crucial that I can explain the data and statistics to my team, so they can explain the rationale behind some of our decisions to our customers. 

“At the end of the day, it’s our customers who matter – and we want to ensure we look after them as we all navigate this new era in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

December 2023

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