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A coffee with…

Darrell Panizza of WFI

How did you get into Insurance?

I started out working for Claude Neon in the sign writing business in sales. I then operated my own company for 8 years in Perth specialising in Illuminated signs. An opportunity in Albany then arose to get into Wesfarmers Insurance (now WFI) in January 1999. This was a complete new start at the age of 38!

What did you know about insurance and what have you learnt?

I really knew very little when I first started! I learnt on the job from the retiring agent at the time. Now a typical week involves a minimum 9 hour day with a mountain of travel, my car and mobile phone are my office!  My clients are spread far and wide, from Walpole to Esperance and even on the East Coast. One of my clients is on Flinders Island in Bass Strait. My trusty car does in excess of 100,000km in any normal year!  

I am here to help people. In the insurance industry, 75-80% of our calls are either dealing with a tragedy or something that is broken. Insurance is the guardian of your assets and it isn’t worth anything until something happens. I consider I have had a good day if I move 4 to 7 pieces of paper. I have learnt that you need to be on the front foot - deal with issues immediately and always ring people back! 

I believe you need to “Do what you tell your clients you are going to do and follow through!!”

What has changed in the insurance industry?

Technology! The amount of paperwork is reducing rapidly as most business with WFI is now done electronically. I have had to embrace it or be left behind!

Margins are shrinking with underwriting companies and rate rises over the last few years have been minimal, however more recently due to increased claims insurance costs are increasing generally. 

What tips would you give young people and those thinking of going into business?

Get out of bed and go to work!! There is no fun in life unless you are earning an income. Look after your money and employ a good accountant.  For me the hardest thing to deal with is the paperwork. Embrace technology.

What about your footy life - we hear you have many achievements

I started playing footy when I was about 7. Growing up, most Sunday’s involved a family trip to the footy. 

After moving to Albany in late 1973 I played for Royals and then went to Perth for school (but me and school didn’t get along too well!). I joined Claremont at 18, playing one year of Colts and then League from 1979. I retired from playing in 1995 at 36 after a total of 355 senior games; 274 (a club record that still stands) for Claremont in WAFL, 74 for Woodville in SANFL and 7 state games for WA. I also coached Claremont from 1995 to 1998. I played in 7 grand finals, won 3 and coached Claremont to the flag in 1996. I have been on the Claremont board of directors for the past six years. Since my return to Albany in 1999 I coached Royals for 16 years, including 8 wins from 12 grand finals.

These days, away from the ‘office’, I relax with my wife Kerry and kids, spend a bit of time on my small farm and still love being involved in footy. None of this would be possible without the understanding of Kerry who supports all the travel and time invested in making it work.

What would you do differently if you had your time over again?

I would have started in the insurance industry at 21!!


WFI Insurance

Phone 0427 429 496

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