After more than two decades in the insurance industry, Leigh Ebzery still loves his work.

As General Manager, Underwritten and Distribution Workers Compensation, at Allianz Australia, Leigh Ebzery’s helping organisations tackle some of their biggest challenges including informing ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) goals, now a critical business imperative with 87% of ASX 200 companies now reporting on their progress against ESG benchmarks.[1]

Leigh has been continually building his skills and knowledge with the help of AGSM @ UNSW Business School’s Short Courses and certificates.

“Insurance is a real enabler,” he explains. “It plays a key role in society, helping look after people. I really enjoy working with large businesses to understand their pain points and help them overcome their challenges, so they can focus on growing the business.”

According to PwC, these businesses face a mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm about ESG reporting. They’re trying to identify associated risks and work out how to manage them without any common standards in place. And they’re looking for new opportunities to create value and solve big problems.[2]

“ESG is a big focus for Allianz globally. For our customers and partners, the businesses we insure and the community at large, there is no doubt insurers play a key role when it comes to supporting environmental and sustainability goals,” Leigh suggests. “There's a lot of focus on what 2030 and 2050 looks like, so we need to make sure we’re there to help, but also play our part as a responsible, global corporate citizen.”

Using data to manage employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing has become a key priority for all businesses , as most modern leaders understand its impact on organisational performance. Research shows that ignoring mental health issues at work costs Australian businesses around $10.9 billion a year in lost productivity.[3]

In Australia, one in four people in the workplace experience a mental health condition, and one in five have taken time off work in the past year because of stress, anxiety, depression or mental illness.

“There’s a continued rise of mental health issues within the workplace,” Leigh says. “The organisations we work with are focusing on their psychosocial responsibility for employees, ensuring they provide psychologically and physically safe environments. The big challenge for us as an industry is to help solve and lean into these problems.”

Leigh says the insurance industry has a responsibility to draw insights from what they see daily from a workers compensation lens – and use them to provide businesses with better ways to manage employee wellbeing.

“We need to use our data and insights for good and raise awareness around mental health and what employees can do about it – making sure they look after their teams, they're well connected and they’re providing environments that are free from psychosocial hazards.”

He offers Allianz’s The Workplace Wave research as an example. The global insurer analysed its data to bring together an extensive report that aims to prepare Australian organisations for the next wave of changes coming to the workforce.

“Insurance’s role is changing from purely providing cover to offering insights and guidance around how to better protect people – and help organisations create a safe, transparent and empowering culture, backed by robust training and policies,” he shares.

Powering the insurance workforce of the future

To be able to continue to support organisations through critical transformations, Leigh is building what he calls a “workforce of underwriters of the future”. Because, he says, in the era of AI and automation, the real value underwriters can bring to businesses goes well beyond pricing – it’s about helping businesses grow and thrive.

And there are three core elements to doing this well.

1) Education

Underwriting has traditionally been a purely technical role, but underwriters need to focus on building their soft skills to succeed in the future. This is true for roles across most industries, where interpersonal skills become increasingly important as machines take over manual and repetitive tasks.[4]

“There needs to be a blend of technical and soft skills, balancing relationship management with technical ability, as we move more into risk-based conversations as opposed to punching out numbers,” Leigh says.

“How we enable our teams and our people to have different conversations is also an important point of differentiation.”

Continuous education is clearly important to Leigh, who has completed nine AGSM courses since 2012, including Developing Data Strategy, Leading an Organisation Through Dynamic Environments, and Shaping Strategy to Create Value.

2) Drawing insight from data

Understanding and analysing data will be critical for underwriters of the future, according to Leigh.

“Insurers have been good at using data to inform pricing models. But they also need to understand and draw valuable insights out of that data, including what the business’s problems or issues are and where there may be opportunities,” he explains.

This starts with access to data.

In his previous role as Head of Workers Compensation, Underwriting at QBE, Leigh led a data democratisation project to make sure all relevant team members had access to the data they needed to inform important conversations with clients.

“AGSM’s Developing Data Strategy course really helped me form the approach for this project,” Leigh shares.

“It helped me understand how we can democratise data, what we need to consider, how building good stories, creating a vision, bringing people along for the journey and having quick wins are the things that help deliver data transformation within an organisation.

It gave me the confidence and knowledge to have more technical conversations and offer more valuable insights.”

3) Developing a deep understanding of business needs and goals

Being able to walk in a customer’s shoes is invaluable. And it’s something Leigh says helps his 200-strong team every day.

“Whether it's a large corporate client or an SME, we need to understand their pain points and business drivers and be able to build solutions that meet their needs.”

Leigh uses the Value Proposition Canvas tool he learned during AGSM’s Developing Data Strategy course to build empathy for customers. These tools help him and his team understand the pain points and focus areas customers deal with on a daily basis – and develop ways to help them solve their issues.

“I have the tool with me every day, so I can refer to it and use it as a reminder when I’m talking to customers.”

Differentiation through learning

Cultivating a continuous learning mindset is critical for Leigh as it allows him to stretch his skills and mindset – and build his career. That’s why he has completed over nine AGSM Short Courses and two Graduate Certificate programs to date:


He believes they played a significant part in obtaining his current General Manager role with Allianz.

“AGSM has been my go-to. The courses are contemporary, high quality and very practical. I would credit the things I've achieved largely to the knowledge and skills that I've gained from AGSM. They have been one of the key enablers for me to develop my experience and be confident to get out there and have a go, test and learn and apply that in a real-world context.”


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[1] PwC, ESG reporting in Australia - the full story, or just the good story?, 2021

[2] PwC, Are you ready for the ESG revolution?, Peter Gassmann, Casey Herman, and Colm Kelly

[3] Heads Up

[4] McKinsey Quarterly, Soft skills for a hard world