Interview with Graham Crozier, the new Chief Executive of COFACE for Australia and New Zealand
Meet Graham Crozier, the new Chief Executive of COFACE for Australia & New Zealand. learn more about how he developed his career in the Trade Credit Insurance industry, that started in the UK & how he ended up in Australia…
COFACE: Graham, congratulations on your appointment as Chief Executive of COFACE for Australia and New Zealand. How do you feel to be back at COFACE?
Yes, I am back! I joined Coface 1 February 2016, which is in effect the second time around considering that I was part of the team which initially established the Coface brand in Australia in 2000 through the Dexta agency.
I have always viewed Coface as a strong business with a lot of positives in terms of the product offering, wordings, on-line systems and of course the people and culture. The opportunity to be part of the business again, 15 years later, was therefore very attractive.
The main attraction for me though was the vision to rebuild the business in Australia and New Zealand back towards the market position we held 5 years or so ago.
In addition, I had the advantage of knowing many of the local team members in Sydney and Melbourne. I had established very good relationships with the team having dealt with them as a broker and I thought it was a great opportunity to be able to work directly with them and to get to know the whole team.
COFACE: How is it to be working 'from the other side' again, not as a broker but as an underwriter?
It’s great to be back again, whether it’s the light side or the dark side – everyone has an opinion! I think it works both ways. I always felt I benefitted as a broker because I had also seen what it was like to be an underwriter and so I could relate very well to the issues faced by insurers and was able to use that in a positive way in my broking activities. In reverse the same is true. I have the advantage of knowing how brokers work, what we need to do to make us an attractive and consistently relevant partner. In a market like ANZ where the brokers represent the vast majority of business placed, that is a big help.
COFACE: What are the challenges you see in the immediate future for COFACE in Australia and New Zealand?
There are many facets to the business as you would expect and I think the key is to make sure that these all function smoothly and consistently as vital components in delivering the value proposition to our business partners. From Risk to Information, Compliance to Finance and New Business to Client Retention, all have a key role to play and, whilst it may be a cliché, it is also true to say that we are only as good as our weakest link. My challenge therefore is to make sure that we understand where we can improve and then deliver a solution. That will be an ongoing process.
COFACE: Tell us a little bit about your international career, where did you start, and why you decided to work in this industry.
In all honesty, like many people, I fell into credit insurance by accident. After University in Manchester, UK, I applied for a job as a travel agent, but missed out. Instead, I was sent for an interview with a Trade Credit Broking firm. I had no idea what Trade Credit Insurance was! It was a small but very successful family business where I learned a lot. They were very professional and very strong on the technical aspects and focussed on customer service... I then moved to London with a major international broking business in a BDM role in their Trade Credit Insurance division. Then, by chance again, I met an Australian underwriter from Melbourne who was working on a 6 month exchange trip. He put me in touch with an opportunity in Melbourne with another international broker and I moved out there in 1989. In 1991 I was transferred to Sydney where I have worked ever since.
COFACE: At some point in time, you decided to start your own Trade Credit broking firm. Why? And why did you decide to sell it?
I had always wanted to have my own business. I remember growing up and drawing pictures of trucks with my name on the side! In 2008 I felt there was a gap in the market for a full service broker with a new vision for how Trade Credit Insurance broking services could be delivered and appeal to a whole new audience. In the end, someone simply saw the value in what we had created, which was both a reward and vindication in itself, but it also provided me the chance to consider new options and opportunities and to reinvent myself yet again!
COFACE: After so many years in the industry, I’m sure you have plenty of stories to share, please tell us a funny or shocking story you experienced as a broker or trade credit underwriter.
Looking back it’s hard to remember funny or shocking events. I did have an interesting experience a few years ago. I met a broker in Melbourne for the first time and we were having a fairly serious (I thought!) conversation about the subject when she suddenly stopped mid-sentence and said “you remind me of that English comedian”! It turned out that it was apparently Michael Crawford - I was just glad it wasn’t Mr Bean! It was the first time I’ve ever had such a comparison, even though this jury is still out and remaining to be convinced!
COFACE: Ok, we would like to know more about you, outside work…
Outside of work, I am fortunate to live in the beautiful Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. My wife is a passionate horse rider and so I started learning to ride 3 years ago in order to be able to share in that experience. I have a beautiful Australian Quarter Horse mare called Rosalie and she has basically taught me how to ride!
I also started road bike racing around the same time and look forward to the weekly races; a great combination of speed, adrenalin, fitness, hard work and the occasional win!
The Hunter Valley red wines are also known to appear on my dinner table occasionally!
COFACE:Something tells me that you could easily spend your time riding horses, bike racing and tasting the different and wonderful wines you have in the Hunter Valley. Why have you chosen to lead COFACE in Australia and New Zealand instead?
It’s dangerous to drink wine and ride at the same time, so leading Coface ANZ seemed a safer option! I believe that the business here has so much potential and I want to be a catalyst in making that a reality and creating a legacy to be proud of.
COFACE:To finish up, please tell us your favourite quote/book/movie
My favourite movie is probably the original version of “An Inspector Calls”. It was my first memory of a film that kept me wondering right until the end, full of intrigue and a real twist in the tail that captured my imagination. I’m not a great book reader but in terms of quotes one of my favourites is John F Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”which I think has typified a lot of my choices, particular in my working career - never one to take the easy option!
COFACE: Thank you Graham. We wish you tremendous success in this new step in your career.
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