Why do we Retreat?
The first AFRM Retreat was held in 2005 at a time when the business expanded out of Newcastle with the opening of a North Sydney office. With a geographical spread of staff the Directors felt the need for all staff to come together once a year in order to share AFRM’s vision, learnings, business processes, experiences and team work to grow a business with the right principles and values.
Over 10 years later and the fundamentals of why we Retreat remain the same, we have just grown.
Life Changing – why the theme?
The Organising Committee chose this for a variety of reasons. The changing Life Insurance industry and regulations; changes we anticipate in the business as a result of growth and opportunity; change in our own personal lives be it marriages, children, grandchildren etc…; and change in the world around us.
We aimed to provide an Agenda that talked to these changes, why we need change (personally and professionally) and how to embrace and thrive in the midst of change. As they say - if you are standing still you are going backwards.
Amongst the theme of “Change” we also took the opportunity to remind everyone what hasn’t changed. And that is our “Why” – our passion for serving our clients at claim time. Whilst it is never a cause for celebration it definitely provides us with a sense of pride and purpose to be able to make a difference when it is needed most.
Sunday - AFRM Volunteer Service Day
Staff feedback was overwhelmingly positive about last year’s volunteer service with the Mai Wel (Hunter Disability Services) – rated the best experience of the 2016 Retreat. Given this feedback we arranged another “Service” day with the charitable organisation Chapter Seven.
Currently in the final stages of fund raising, the charity’s vision is to create bushland accommodation in the Cathedral Range 90 minutes east of Melbourne. Aptly named “The Retreat” – the charity’s mission is to service 90,000 people in 30 years by providing rest and renewal for people recovering from critical incidents, injury or trauma.
Upon arrival at our destination in the beautiful Cathedral Range we split into teams to undertake tasks such as track clearing, cutting, rock path building and preparation of “The Dell” – a relaxation space where our team got to work clearing the site, laying turf, planting tree ferns, and setting the big wooden bench seat that will be a place to sit and reflect. On a 30 degree day it was challenging but the team worked well together and even finishing ahead of schedule.
Reflecting on the issues that “The Retreat” aims to address, just confirms what our thinking has always been in terms of the need for the right types and amounts of insurance. When traumatic events happen one of the most important things personally and for the family can be having the capacity to engage medical and/or rehabilitation services because not everything is ‘covered’ by Medicare and Health Insurance. The aspect of retaining control of your life and decision making without the burden of financial pressure cannot be underestimated in making the right choices at such a critical turning point in life.
Monday morning and the team headed to the offices of AIA on St Kilda Rd for the first of two days of conference sessions.
AFRM – Where have we come from?
Mark Hoskin (Director and GM NSW) took us all on a journey through the 20 years of AFRM and how we have arrived at this point today – from humble beginnings (Nick Hatherly and Phil Young started working from Phil’s spare bedroom in 1997) to a business of 28 staff, operating out of 8 locations up and down the east coast of Australia, that prides itself on having advocated on over $110M of claims and making a real difference.
The Way Forward
Mark’s presentation was built upon by Nick Hatherly (Director/Managing Director) in his update on “The Way Forward” outlining the exciting opportunities and changes ahead with Equity Partner AMP Advice as well as other opportunities to deliver our expert advice and claims management expertise to more Australians.
AMP Advice Update
David Akers (Transformation Director - AMP Advice) provided an update on the current position and future direction of AMP Advice and their Goals Based Advice transformation. He talked of the desire for AMP Advice to provide superior levels of client engagement and technology to match global leaders in their different industries. The examples he used were; the consistency of client experience at Audi; as well as the premium service and consumer experience of Nespresso – to name a few. He acknowledged the part that AFRM have to play in the specialist area of Risk Insurance Advice and the importance of the relationship moving forward.
Before lunch we listened to four emotional claims experiences our advisers have had over the past 12 months.
GM NSW – Mark Hoskin delivered an emotional case study of a claimant who suffered a debilitating stroke at a young age. He touched on the difficulties in that the claimant was single, no dependents, (no power of attorney for claims paperwork signatures) however he was able to manage the situation in conjunction with the insurer to get the right claim outcome. The result of the successful claim was that there was sufficient funding to enable a deposit on a care facility so that the financial and care burdens could be transferred from her elderly mother.
GM Victoria - Rob Vitnell discussed a terminal illness claim whereby he successfully negotiated an early payout for the claimant despite not yet qualifying under the insurance contract. What this meant to the claimant and her husband, was that they could have one last holiday together and she had some peace of mind knowing that there were funds (a legacy) left behind after her passing.
Judging from the emotions on display these experiences just reinforced why we turn up to work for each and every day. Everyone from the front desk, administration staff, technical support, IT and advisers all play a part in leading to the outcomes that really make a difference to people’s lives.
Superannuation and Administration Sessions
After lunch the group split into Technical and Administration teams to work on Superannuation legislation changes and administration processes respectively.
AMP’s Chris Kirby (Senior Technical Specialist) outlined changes to Superannuation legislation from 1 July 2017 which will see some impacts to the way in which people can contribute to Superannuation and caps on the amount of Superannuation balance that can used to commence an Allocated Pension.
We aim to get a technical update out to clients and referral partners in advance of the 1 July changes.
Monday night – German Theme night
To be honest, our team love to dress-up. Last year’s French theme night in Dungog was a fantastic night out, so this year we decided to jump the border into Bavaria with a German Theme night at the Munich Brahaus on South Wharf.
We were witness to plenty of lederhosen, Bavarian beer maidens, a creative German shepherd (Angela Merkel in a shepherd’s costume), Hansel & Gretel including a witch, German flag face paint, a Boris Becker/Steffi Graf mixed doubles team, a member of the Gestapo and members of the 2014 German World Cup squad.
We enjoyed German food, beers and some excellent entertainment from the Oom pah pah band who brought several of the AFRM team up on stage to participate in bell ringing, traditional dancing and yodeling. The band played a few more non-German tunes later in the night with the highlight being AFRM Adviser Mike Donaldson joining the band for an alternate version of Singing in the Rain, complete with crowd participation.
Tuesday – Paul Taylor – Beyond Resilience
On our final day we were hosted in the AMP office training rooms and were enthralled by our Keynote Presenter – Paul Taylor.
Paul’s background is in the military serving as a Royal Navy Marine for over 15 years. Since leaving the military Paul has kept busy with studies in the field of health, nutrition, fitness, neuroscience and is currently completing a PhD in Medical studies.
Paul’s sessions were a fantastic presentation touching on the highly complex science behind our evolution as well as body and brain function, relating it back to the key themes of Change / Resilience / Body & Brain Performance. Paul then used stories and personal accounts from his own experiences, to ultimately providing some simple key ‘take aways’ for the team to incorporate into their own lives, whether it is personal or professional.
Paul provided us with some simple and easy strategies to adapt to change, build resilience and take home tools to use in everyday life to improve our “Environmental Choices” so that we can not only survive change but thrive on change and build a resilient self.
Some of the strategies included:
- The Catastrophe Scale – brilliant for dealing with stressful situations – “how stressful is it really?”
- Routine and Ritualize – focusing on the process not the goal
- The benefits of gratitude
- Goal-Setting - Self-Talk - Mental Rehearsal - Arousal Control
- Mindfulness and meditation through breathing techniques – the art of box breathing
- Frogs – a simple “do anywhere” exercise to keep active throughout the day.
In wrapping up his talk Paul the most compelling line of the day which resonates so well with what we do:
“Emotional connection to purpose can make people do extraordinary things.”
It provides a perfect segue into reflecting on AFRM’s emotional connection to purpose – which is advocating for people at claim time and putting strategies in place with our advice to facilitate successful claims. In turn this inspires us to do extraordinary things. This is AFRM defined in a single line.