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8 March 2024

Carl O'Shea

New Zealand’s changing SME business landscape

Gallagher CEO, Carl O’Shea, began his career in insurance in Wellington in 1984 as a broker.

He joined Gallagher (formerly Crombie Lockwood) in 1987 as one of its founders and has been CEO since 2007. Having direct contact with such a large number of Kiwi SMEs from a wide range of industries allows Carl to remain close to the pulse of New Zealand’s businesses.

We asked Carl about his views on the changing nature of the New Zealand SME business landscape.

What are some of the challenges that face SMEs in today’s market?

Between pandemics, major weather events and high inflation levels, the past few years have shown business owners that they need to be prepared for volatility, disruption and change.

Automation has changed the way businesses can operate and the introduction of AI and machine learning are bringing both opportunities and challenges. Businesses must pay particular consideration to security, data management and ethical use of technology. Vigilance around cybersecurity is not new, but there’s no opportunity to be complacent, as cyber-attacks happen to businesses of any size in any industry.

SMEs also need to stay abreast of health and safety issues, employment laws and other compliance issues, which can prove challenging when you have a business to run every day.

How can Gallagher help with some of these challenges?

Fortunately, insurance is one critical piece of the puzzle that we can help with, allowing our clients to focus on other aspects of growing their business. We get to know our client’s business as the first priority so we can ensure the cover we arrange reflects their specific needs and we keep them informed about changing factors that may affect their cover.

Importantly, at claims time, with the help of our claims experts, we work to resolve a claim quickly and with the best outcome for our clients. For most large or complex claims, we also negotiate directly with insurers for the client’s benefit.

The recent dramatic weather events in New Zealand (Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle) are a good example of why having a broker can make the claims process easier. Our Gallagher claims teams played a crucial role in helping businesses and homeowners recover from these destructive events, implementing a range of measures to expedite claims payments and support clients.

Can you explain more about cybersecurity risks for businesses?

Technology is at the heart of most businesses and as a result, data protection and network security are leading risks for all organisations. Hackers don’t discriminate, and anyone with a website, computer, email address, phone or EFTPOS terminal is a potential target for a cyber-attack.

There are some key ways you can safeguard your business from cyber-attacks. These include keeping your cybersecurity up to date and implementing an ongoing staff training programme. It is also important to regularly review business risks and cyber cover options with your broker to ensure ongoing protection from increasingly sophisticated and active cyber criminals.

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