A Q & A with Nicki Mackay FMG’s Head of Claims

From 12 to 16 February Severe Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle devastated parts of the North Island of New Zealand and 11 people lost their lives.

Seven local states of emergency were declared (Northland, Auckland, Tairāwhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Tararua District) and a national state of emergency was declared on 14 February. Only the third time such a declaration has been made, with the previous two being for the Canterbury earthquakes and the Covid-19 pandemic.

We share FMG’s response so far to this disaster with Head of Claims, Nicki Mackay.

Firstly Nicki, what are your messages to clients affected by Cyclone Gabrielle?

“Our thoughts are with all our clients impacted by this devastating Cyclone. My priority has been to ensure our team is ready to support our clients. A number of our team have seen the impact first-hand, but I have seen the empathic and tearful reactions of my teams to the phone calls - it has been hard to watch. The initial focus was getting to our most impacted clients to help them take those first steps on what will be a long journey towards full recovery.”

What are your thoughts on FMG’s response so far?

“It’s been a real team effort to ensure we’ve answered those phone calls as quickly as possible, and to contact our clients, especially those who weren’t able to lodge claims in the immediate aftermath. I am really proud of the team and the way they’ve worked together to respond. It makes me emotional thinking about how we swung into action from the word “go” and have had our clients front of mind all the way. In events such as this there are so many decisions to be made. The trick is to make them as quickly as possible as we scale up to manage the impacts. We don't have the luxury of time because the longer we take the greater the impact on our clients and our people.”

Have you seen anything like this before?

“I moved to the Manawatu three years ago from Canterbury, so whilst it was from a different perspective, I feel I have some real understanding of what our clients are going though. I lived and worked with a young family amidst the Canterbury Earthquakes. This has helped me lead the initial response and now focus on the recovery for the Mutual. This event will be larger than anything we’ve dealt with before, but I’m confident we have the people, partners, technology, and know-how to get through it in the same empathic, structured way, caring for our clients from start to finish.”

What are some of the distinctive factors of this event compared to others?

The complications caused by silt and the unknown nature of it. The long tail flood damage has and the pressure this will put on the insurance sector and all the supporting supply chains necessary to support this massive recovery effort. The share number of severely impacted clients. Two events (Hale and Gabrielle) so close together and the impact on our people. I would also like to thank all those clients out there who have had to wait for us to come back to you with business-as-usual claims as we prioritised those severely impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle. The impact of this event will be felt for years to come”.