Each year our Local Councils appoint a new President. We sat down with our 2022/2023 cohort and chatted to them about their priorities for their year, how they got involved with the council and the benefits to their careers. Here is Cork President Danny O'Connell's interview.
What motivated you to initially get involved with your Local Institute?
I had been a member of the Local Institute for just over 30 years before I decided to join Council in early 2017. Prior to joining I had witnessed from the outside the tremendous work that serving members of Council had carried out on behalf of the Local Institute and I felt the time was right for me to play my own part and give something back.
In addition, I had decided in the months leading up to joining Council that I wanted to pursue further academic qualifications applicable to the insurance industry and I cannot overstate how helpful the Local Institute were (ably supported by The Insurance Institute) in guiding me in the right direction. Indeed, during my time on Council I had the satisfaction of serving as the Education Officer for Local Institute members for a period of more than three years. Education is an area that I am now very passionate about. I am currently in the final stages of completing the Higher Diploma in Insurance Management (MDI). I would encourage all members of the Local Institute to continue or indeed begin their education journey. Exam achievement is very rewarding.
I have not regretted my decision to join Council for one minute. In fact, the sense of satisfaction in being part of a wonderful group of insurance professionals, all of whom give their time voluntarily, has more than surpassed my expectations over the last five or more years.
When did you decide to join Council and what appealed to you about it?
As mentioned previously I decided to join Council in early 2017. However, I had contemplated doing so in the years previous but for one reason or another I never committed. During my time working for Royal and Sun Alliance (now RSA) I had developed strong personal friendships and business relationships with many serving members of Council, some of whom had served for many years, and in some ways as time moved on it began to intrigue me what motivated these individuals to give so much of their time and commitment to the Local Institute.
I began to realise more and more that the Local Institute was an invaluable body that only had the very best interests of its members, including me, as its central focus.
I’m sure it’s a great honour to be appointed President of your Institute - what does the role mean to you and what will be your main priorities for the year ahead?
Yes. It is without doubt a great personal honour to be appointed President of The Insurance Institute of Cork, particularly so as Cork is my hometown, and it is where my insurance career began back in January 1986.
In addition, I would have to say being appointed President of The Insurance Institute of Cork means everything to me and I just hope during my term of office, that I will be able to repay the faith that has been entrusted in me by my colleagues on Council.
Co-incidentally, The Insurance Institute of Cork will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023 and this has, without doubt, given added significance to my term of office.
My main priorities for the year will be to focus on continuing to promote the education, cultural and social values which The Insurance Institute of Cork has been renowned for. There is no doubt that The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship has been a tremendous success over the last number of years, and it is vitally important that this continues. As President of The Insurance Institute of Cork I will do everything I can to ensure this happens. Indeed, my own employer, the McCarthy Insurance Group has been a great advocate of the apprenticeship and, along with Council, I will be working to encourage more industry related companies and individuals to join.
Another key focus for me will be to encourage more of the younger generation working in the insurance industry locally to consider joining Council. The younger generation are the future, and, in my view, it is vitally important that they recognise and understand more the significance Council plays in looking after the interests of all its members locally.
Has being involved in your local insurance community benefitted you - if so, how?
This year marks my 36th year working in the insurance industry, and I have spent the vast majority of my career living and working in Cork. This has undoubtedly enabled me to build strong business relationships with a number of industry-related firms locally (Insurers, Brokers, Loss Adjusters and Loss Assessors) and develop very close friendships with many insurance professionals in Cork, a number of whom currently serve on Council.
Starting out in a career in insurance can be daunting; what advice would you give to those just beginning down this path? Do you think involvement with a Local Institute is important at this stage?
If I could single out three important pieces of advice (in no particular order) I would give to anyone starting out in their insurance career it would be the following:
At the earliest opportunity, I would encourage any new entrant to pursue a recognised industry-related Professional Qualification(s) of which there are many.
- Sound Advice
The importance of listening to, accepting, and adhering to sound advice from an experienced insurance industry professional(s) for any new entrant into the insurance industry cannot be overstated.
Whilst exam textbooks are an invaluable source of information and knowledge, in my view it is equally beneficial for a new entrant to call upon the experience gained by a respected insurance professional who has worked in the industry over many years, with regard to dealing with a variety of different scenarios that might arise with a consumer on any given working- day.
- Local Institute
Finally, I would encourage all new entrants to get involved with their Local Institute at the earliest opportunity. It is never too early to begin broadening one’s experience, knowledge, and networking opportunities outside of the normal ‘day to day’ working environment of your employer.
Do you think it’s important for the Local Institutes to give back to the local community? Can you tell me about any plans / activities you have scheduled with this focus in mind?
I firmly believe that it is important for the Local Institutes to contribute to the local community in meaningful ways. One such plan I have in mind during my term of office will be for The Insurance Institute of Cork to deliver a ‘Time to Read’ programme to a worthy school within the affiliated geographic area of the Local Institute. Time to Read is a Business in the Community initiative focused on helping children improve their reading ability.
Are there any aspects of the local insurance community that you think have been lost/changed since you started your career (attitude towards education, networking, social)? Is there an opportunity during your year to reintroduce / re-energise some of these?
One of the most significant changes that has happened in Cork during my insurance career has been the closure of many insurers’ local branch offices.
Insurance is a service industry that relies heavily on human interaction and in my view the closure of local branch offices has made it more difficult for insurers with a centralised Head Office location to provide top quality service to Brokers at a local level, like here in Cork.
In many ways, technology has to a large degree replaced even the most experienced underwriter when it comes to making an underwriting decision on whether a particular risk is acceptable to an insurer or not and if it is, on what terms. In years gone by, there was a lot to be gained by a Broker being able to have a ‘face to face’ conversation with a local Underwriter in an Insurer’s office and this, without doubt, enabled strong working and personal relationships to be developed to the mutual benefit of both organisations.
On a more positive note, I firmly believe that members of the Local Institute have improved their attitude to education in recent years and this is evident from the numbers continuing to enrol for and successfully completing many of the insurance exams of varying levels, included under The Insurance Institute examination programme.
There is no doubt that Covid has had a significant negative impact on members locally from a social and networking perspective. However, now that the position has much improved, I will work to ensure, during my term in office, that more social opportunities for local members to reconnect with each other will be made available, beginning with a scheduled ‘Summer Social Evening’ in a local (Cork) Public House and Restaurant.
How can members get more involved if they want?
Members can get more involved in the Local Institute by reaching out to me as President or to any of one of my colleagues on Council. As I referenced earlier, we are more than happy to welcome new members onto Council particularly the younger generation who are, without doubt, the future of our Local Institute. It is really important for me as President, to make sure all of our members, both young and not so young, take pride in and feel part of their Local Institute.