Client Case Studies

Q&A with Adam Dalton, Managing Director of Mainstay Underwriting

March 04 ,2024
Adam Dalton, Managing Director of Mainstay Underwriting, ASW Global client

With a distinguished career in the Australian and UK insurance landscape, Adam Dalton has seen it all. His insights are invaluable, and in this exclusive interview with ASW Head of Growth Daniel Breese, he shares Mainstay Underwriting’s journey with ASW’s international staff solutions and how it’s empowered them to achieve remarkable growth. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Dan: Adam, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. To start, tell us a bit about Mainstay.

Adam: We initially launched it back in 2017 as a dealership provider. We became Lloyd’s coverholders and we expanded out to motor trades. The business has been growing ever since so year-on-year, we’ve been doing quite well. We’re now into parametric. We do hail insurance for dealerships. We’re definitely a growing organisation that we’ve been working through it.

Dan: How many have you got in the team?

Adam: We have 3 people in Brisbane, 5 people on the Gold Coast, 2 people in Manila, and shortly, we’re going to grow that even more.

Dan: Prior to having your international team, what were the challenges that you identified locally?

Adam: Finding good staff. It was taking us 2 or 3 months to find somebody. During that time, we might get 2 or 3 CVs and the quality that was coming through was poor to say the least. We started to look at finding juniors and train them up, but we didn’t have the bandwidth to be able to sit down and work them through. The reason we opened the Brisbane office — because we’re a Gold Coast-based organisation — was to make it easier to get staff. It didn’t make it any easier. We really struggled with that sort of things.

Dan: It was a major motivation for you to find good talent. What did that result?

Adam: We started doing some tenders, looking at different organisations. We just thought, why re-create the wheel. We found this group AS White that happens to be very well-connected in the insurance area. Steadfast used them and numerous underwriting agencies used them. We just thought this seems to be the right fit. Let’s follow through with that and see where it goes.

Dan: What kind of task is your international team helping you with?

Adam: My view was we need to improve our guys locally. We’re trying to make sure that the guys here in Australia were doing more underwriting and less of the administrative type of stuff. We sat down with the senior guys of the team and talked through their different processes, what do we want to be in the next couple of years, how do we want to grow. We want to be more talking to the brokers on a daily basis and actually speaking to them, underwriting, and doing that high-end piece which is what underwriting is all about rather than the manual keying in of data.

We spent a good chunk of time reviewing and documenting our processes, looked at the areas that could be split, and moved the administrative area through to the guys at Manila. And it is incredible. The team loves it. We’re doing probably double of what we did last year. The guys in Australia are spending more time on the phone, trying to speak to brokers. Our turnaround times have halved. It’s been a real plus. And to be honest, we’re going to continue down this line.

Adam Dalton, Managing Director of Mainstay Underwriting, ASW Global client

Dan: You’ve got offices in Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Manila. How does Mainstay build their team culture?

Adam: On an annual basis at our Christmas party in December, we get the guys over to join us on the Gold Coast. They spend a week with us over here. Once a year, we send a couple of guys over to Manila just to sit down with the team in their environment. It’s not a very expensive exercise. It’s only a few hours away, and it really builds our team. The guys in Manila are wearing Mainstay shirts. We have weekly calls, weekly operations underwriting meetings. They feel like part of a team. They’re really amazing staff. Our guys love them. It’s one big happy family, that’s for sure.

Dan: Which I was going to ask you, how have you found the performance delivery of your team?

Adam: Absolutely incredible. When we first kicked this off, I went over there personally. I sat down with our first staff member to sort of see how it would work. I walked through the process of putting an underwriting submission through the system. I think I was on to my second one when I had a phone call from a broker. As I’m on the phone call, Stacy is just doing it. And I literally thought, “Well, the training’s done!” She already knows how to do it! Seriously, in an hour, she had it down pat. We brought on a second person, Michelle, and she’s just as good. And they’ve never worked in an Australian organisation before, so they picked up super-quick. Really good aptitude.

Dan: That performance, that level of talent, what does it now mean for Mainstay moving forward?

Adam: We now have an avenue for growing our team easily. We see that the Australian team needs to be that underwriting team. Significantly, we’re growing. We will continue to use the Manila team to offset that. As we grow, we’ll be putting on more and more staff to assist us.

Dan: For those who have never had any experience in international teams, what advice would you give to those businesses who are considering it, exploring it, or perhaps have had bad feedback?

Adam: First of all, make sure you have documented processes. When you’ve got that, you can then separate what would my local staff do and what would my Manila staff do. Once you’ve got that in place, then everybody knows who’s doing what. Documenting your processes is the number one key thing. The second one is just dip your toe in the water. Start with one staff member and see how it goes. And it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.

Dan: What do you think are the barriers that perhaps businesses are fearful of? What holds them back?

Adam: It’s the unknown. It’s the fear of change. You just need to grab the bull by the horns and give it a go. These guys, when they’re working through our submissions, I’d say they’re doing double of what we normally do over here. They’re easy to talk to. They talk really good English. They’re a lot of fun to deal with. Imagine if we had another office in Sydney, that’s all it is from our perspective. It’s just a bunch of guys in another office. We use what we call RDS, all our data, our systems, our computer environment…it’s all in Australia. It’s secure.

Dan: What was it about the ASW model that appealed to Mainstay when you were looking at the providers out there?

Adam: All the other insurance underwriting agencies, insurance brokers, they were using AS White. We couldn’t find anybody using anything else. The other thing I really liked is the culture. Everyone is happy to deal with us, everyone is happy to have a chat. We go over there once a year, we sit down, the IT guys will hook us up with some computers. And to be honest, some of the other groups we were looking at previously…you’re just a number (to them). You’ll do your thing, and we’ll do our thing. Whereas, if we’ve got a problem with one of our staff members, it’s just easy to get on the phone and have a conversation.

Dan: Anything you’d like to impart before we finish up?

Adam: Just do it. Seriously, it’s the best thing that we did. If anybody wants to have a conversation with me, I’m more than happy. It’s not a competitive advantage. It’s just everybody looking for staff members. Give me a buzz. More than happy to have a chat.

Dan: Thank you, Adam. You’re a good man!