After more than 20 years in the industry, Mandy Cooper has chalked up broking and underwriting experience with some of Australia’s most prominent insurance players – now, she’s a director of the family-operated CPR Insurance Services and continues to steer the firm towards future growth.

However, Cooper says some of the most valuable skills she’s picked up didn’t actually come from working in the insurance space – instead, they were developed while volunteering for a charity helpline.

“I was trained as a volunteer counsellor when I worked on the Breastfeeding Association Helpline and those counselling skills transfer across to this job – especially when it comes to helping clients through stressful claims and major losses,” she told Insurance Business.

Recalling an incident in which she was contacted by a client during the Brisbane floods of 2010-2011, Cooper said she immediately leaned on the skills she’d picked up as a volunteer counsellor.

“I had just advised the client she had no flood cover and that there was no cover for the $30,000 repairs to the lift in her building,” explained Cooper. “She broke down on the phone. Her husband was stranded the other side of Brisbane due to the floods and she was alone.

“I remember my thoughts changed and I was no longer her broker and my counselling skills kicked in. I talked her through the next five minutes, asked her if she had someone nearby, and got her calm and able to think about what she could do next.”

While Cooper acknowledges that the link between insurance broking and breastfeeding may not be immediately obvious, she insisted the skills she picked up remain invaluable on a regular basis and encouraged other brokers to strengthen their offering in a similar way.

“They may not all want to volunteer as breastfeeding counsellors and do the night shift when mums are distressed and babies are crying but the basic training of a counsellor was invaluable and also the training on self-care and when to take time out to regroup after a stressful call,” she said.

“The skill of asking the open question and calming others to think things through and not to catastrophize are certainly skills I call on now.”

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