Alleviate Risk is a Brisbane-based business insurance broker that does things a little differently. Where other companies in the insurance industry focus on what happens after a claim, Alleviate Risk lives up to its name – advising its clients on how to alleviate risk in the first place. Find out more about Morgan Appleby, the man behind the business that aims to prevent its clients from ever actually making a claim.
Q: Most people equate the word “insurance” with “boring”, but that doesn’t seem to fit with your philosophy at Alleviate Risk. Why not?
Morgan: It’s true the insurance industry can seem boring to a lot of people, but it isn’t. Most businesses see insurance as a necessary evil to use to avoid taking risks or making a loss. At Alleviate Risk, we believe insurance should actually be the last line of defence for a business – part of a much broader strategy to manage risk.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that growing a successful business always includes some measure of risk. Alleviate Risk is about understanding the risks that are unique to each of their clients and working with them so that it does not impede progress, growth or ambition.
The thing you have to remember is every business, and every entrepreneur, needs insurance, but not every insurer is willing to work with every business. Most insurers avoid working with people who are really pushing the envelope, because it is too hard or too much work to understand and insure against unfamiliar risks, but these are the businesses I love working with.
I really enjoy getting to know my clients and their businesses on a personal level and the best part of what I do is watching a client achieve remarkable things, and knowing that I have contributed, in some small way, to their success.
Q: So, what makes Alleviate Risk different to the rest?
Morgan: Most insurance brokers think of their role in terms of protecting a client’s bottom line and insurance policies are how they defend it. They focus on having the best reaction to risk. It’s a mainstream way of understanding how business works and it suits mainstream businesses – there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for my clients, I like to use insurance as a last resort – which it is! Nobody wants things to go wrong. Nobody wants to make a claim.
People often think that when something goes wrong and triggers an insurance claim, it can be traced back to a single cause. That’s not actually the case. Each ‘cause’ is essentially all of their ‘ducks lining up’ in a way that they didn’t want (or plan) them to. When that happens, things go pear-shaped. For me to be the best insurance broker I can be, it means:
- Understanding the risks faced by clients on a day-to-day basis, which includes economic, financial, legislative, environmental, professional and even online risks
- Advising my clients on how to prevent the ‘ducks’ from lining up in a detrimental way
- Ensuring they get the best outcome if this happens.
Understanding risk and probability is often counter-intuitive. Business intuition is great, but it often means an entrepreneur can focus too heavily on the things they already know and can control and not pay enough attention to possible sources of risk. The cognitive reasons for this bias are really interesting and something we can talk about later.
Q: What does it mean for clients who have difficulty transacting with mainstream insurers, when you can get them the right insurance cover?
Morgan: Well as an example, for some of my clients who work in adventure sports or in conflict zones, not being able to get insurance not only puts a cap on their ambitions and growth potential, but it can even prevent them from doing business at all.
When I can get them the cover they need for what they want to do, they’re free to seize more of the opportunities that will allow them to succeed. Their insurance cover stops being a limiting factor and instead becomes an enabling factor: a soft place to land that doesn’t hinder their passion, drive or creativity.
Q: And what about Alleviate Risk – how did it all start? And have you applied this ethos in your own business?
Morgan: I worked as a financial adviser with Suncorp for several years and things were going really well. However, our entire division was downsized when there was a change in CEO in 2003. So, in 2004, a colleague and I founded our own commercial insurance brokerage.
We worked together and had a lot of success over the next 11 years, but eventually we each wanted to achieve different things in business. We parted ways about 3 years ago, after which I founded Alleviate Risk and things have been going from strength to strength ever since.
Was there a risk in starting my own business? Sure. But, as I said earlier, you can’t grow without taking any risks. When I first started Alleviate Risk, I took a lot of financial risks, investing in capable staff, corporate branding, a new premises and a range of professional development activities. But these were all measured risks which provided many opportunities for growth, both in business and personally, over the years.
Since then, we have been through some tough times and some not so tough times, but on balance, every risk has paid off. Some people see risk as something to avoid, but I see risk as opportunity – provided it is managed properly.
Q: You mentioned that you have participated in a range of professional development activities. Has your constant study and self-development been a part of your success?
Morgan: I definitely feel like I have learnt and grown an incredible amount over the past 10 years. After studying a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration at QUT, I went on to complete a Master of Business Administration in 2012, majoring in Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This study gave me with both the knowledge and skills to develop innovative strategies, in order to help businesses survive and thrive in an increasingly complex environment.
Also, I am currently undertaking a Postgraduate Certificate in the Psychology of Risk and Decision Making through ACU, and so far, I am loving it. Yes, it has taken a lot of effort and some people (including my wife) have asked why I would want to do all of that extra work while running a business.
I guess it’s just in my nature: never standing still, always learning new skills and looking for a better way to do things. I’m not the type of person to get into a routine and then be happy just plodding along. Solving the same problem in the same way over and over – that’s boring. That’s why I love the challenge of finding cover for hard-to-place risks and discovering ways to keep those pesky ‘ducks’ apart!
Q: What is it that you love so much about the study you are doing now?
Morgan: Something I have been thinking a lot about recently is cognitive ease, which we touched on earlier a little. It’s the idea that when you ask someone to think about things they are familiar with or things that are easy to understand, then they’ll perceive those things as more true.
However, when you ask them to engage with things that take a lot of thought, or are new and/or obscure, they are predisposed to see those things as less relevant or true. You can see how this relates to insurance, which is all about working with elements that are hard to predict or hard to detect.
The reason this interests me so much is that I always knew ‘cognitive ease’ existed, but I never knew the name for it or the science behind it. I came across it while reading the famous book Thinking, Fast And Slow, which you might also have read.
The most amazing part is that the section of a person’s brain that makes decisions is excessively lazy. It will usually just navigate towards the path of most familiarity and least resistance. It’s the same way that a lot of businesses bring risk into their systems by always choosing a familiar process.
They don’t actually stop to consider what better options there may be. The human function for processing risk is quite fascinating and I firmly believe that if you stay in the same place for too long, the world will simply overtake you and leave you behind.
So my role in helping clients avoid making claims is literally challenging their existing thought processes, biases, assumptions and attitudes, to come up with a better way. That’s what Alleviate Risk stands for, and when you think about insurance this way, it’s not boring at all.