Interview with Dion Russell, CEO of SCOR Global Life Australia

Dion Russell, CEO of SCOR Global Life Australia and New Zealand, joined SCOR in 2014. He has over 20 years’ experience across insurance and financial services in Australia and the Asia Pacific region, plus the UK and South Africa.  Dion is a qualified actuary, and his previous roles have covered a wide range of specialties within the life insurance sector


A day in the life of Dion Russell  is…….

There is no typical day, all are full and varied which I like! My calendar is usually pretty full. I start early with a coffee to get a head start on what lies ahead. The day can take its own route, but I always ensure quality time is spent talking with customers and internally with our teams. My goal is then to finish the day in time to get home for my daughter’s bedtime.


How and why did you get into a career in Reinsurance  

My career into this area was shaped by a chance encounter with a careers counselor after taking an aptitude test.  They suggested based on my test results that I should become an actuary. It sounded interesting and that’s how my career began. I started first in Life Insurance in South Africa and my career has evolved from there.


The biggest challenge for me as CEO at SCOR Australia is...

The biggest challenge is the sheer breadth of diversity of the challenges. There is always so much going on both within our partners, our industry and the business environment-always something different-which I really enjoy about the role.  As well as the greater social purpose of life insurance and our ability to help our partners achieve this.


What most excites me about reinsurance in the Australian Life insurance…

The role we play in supporting and helping our partners to make a positive impact on the communities we all serve and our collective social purpose of helping people in their time of need. It’s exciting helping our partners deliver on this and being connected to one of the largest life reinsurance markets in the world.  Our industry has a collection of wonderful people who are passionate about what we do.


What excites me the most about SCOR….

I have been with SCOR since 2014 and SCOR has been on an interesting journey in Australia for the last 7 years, building a talented and engaged team of really smart people and being able to deliver great results we are really proud of. Our 3 core values are being agile, committed and ambitious-and our people truly embody this.


Four words to describe the culture at SCOR….

Agile, committed, ambitious and trusted. I added in “trusted” as “trust” is so crucial in our industry. We are a business of personal relationships and trust is so important to everything that we do.


Four words to describe me

Calm, committed, engaged and open-minded.


I’m most passionate about..

Lifting the capabilities and competencies in our industry.  We need to clearly articulate the competencies that are required for both claims and underwriters and get behind this as an industry. A key reason that SCOR chose to be a sponsor partner with ALUCA is to help support the work that is being done with ALUCA’s Life Insurance competency framework for claims, underwriters and rehabilitation professionals.


What most annoys me… .    

Bad drivers….and in the business context people not taking accountability.


A little know fact about me that not many people know… 

I survived a parachute failure. During a solo jump, that I did with my girlfriend (now my wife), my chute got tangled so I had to cut that away to access my emergency chute-and I’m here to tell that tale!


What makes my job interesting…

The amazing diversity of my role-there is always something new and interesting plus the great people that I work with.


 My role’s greatest challenge…  

What makes my role interesting also makes it challenging- the huge variety of topics to be across.


Who has been the biggest influence on my career and why

I have worked with so many great people both leaders and peers who have all collectively added to my career along the way.


My proudest career achievement to date is… .

There isn’t one achievement.  I take great pride in being part of a team delivering on something new or different – and lucky to have had a few of those.


5 years from now, SCOR will be…

SCOR will have celebrated a milestone 10 year mark in Australia and New Zealand with a growing and sustainable long-term franchise that produces great outcomes for our partners, and where we continue to challenge ourselves to be better.


 The most valuable skill an underwriter can possess is…

A key skill is to be a risk manager. As an underwriter you have a unique opportunity to help shape the portfolio and to engage across pricing, product, claims, valuation and other key parts of the business.


The most valuable skill a claims executive can possess is…

It’s a challenging role -balancing your claims expertise with empathy. And aiming to ensure fairness in outcomes for all stakeholders.


My best advice for young underwriters, claims and rehab managers…

Be inquisitive.  The best advice I was given came from a teacher at primary school “Think Big” and ” Be a sponge”. So ask questions, absorb everything and explore outside your role.


If I were Chair of ALUCA, one thing I would improve is…

ALUCA is doing well but I would love to see it continue to focus on competency and training for the claims and underwriting industry. Higher standards are critical to help support trust in our industry – particularly as life  insurance’s social contract continues to be challenged and we aim to meet increasing community standards.


If I could travel anywhere in the world where would it be and why..

The Arctic before it changes too much and would love to witness the northern lights. But there are many other places!


A parting word of advice to ALUCA members…..

We are part of a great industry with amazing people who are passionate about what we do and the strong social purpose of life insurance. Be active, push the industry forward, and have some fun along the way.