AIA legal team (from left to right): Fiona Wong, Rebecca Fletcher, Julie Wheeler, Jeremy Jones, Sarah Clark, Jackie Waddams, Annemarie Waugh, Kristina Kilner, Sam Bell, Kristy Redfern, Gabriella Garcia, Amy Cunningham, Hector Camacho. Absent: Rebecca Samuel and Jen Hanton.

Can you give us an overview of the Legal and Regulatory Affairs team at AIA and how you support the work of the organisation?

The AIA New Zealand Legal and Regulatory Affairs team headed by Kristy Redfern, General Counsel and Company Secretary, incorporates three key functions: Legal led by Jackie Waddams, Regulatory Affairs, led by Kristina Kilner, and Conduct and Culture led by Amy Cunningham. The team supports all areas of the business by managing legal risk, supporting key strategic projects, advising and supporting on regulatory change, and engaging with our Regulators. We champion all things conduct and culture related, aligned with AIA’s Operating Philosophy of Doing the Right Thing in the Right Way, and provide company secretarial and governance advice and support to our New Zealand Board. 

What do you do to enhance the influence of the Legal and Regulatory Affairs team across AIA?

We prioritise our work to align with AIA’s key strategic initiatives and purpose to help Kiwis live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives. We are closely connected to all areas of our business at all levels, starting at the top with a seat at the Executive and Boardroom tables. We currently have legal team members seconded to various projects across the business, leading specific workstreams to ensure successful delivery (e.g., developing innovative product offerings and leading our COVID-19 response). Through our work on the acquisition and integration of the ex-Sovereign business we have also developed strong relationships with our colleagues in our AIA Group Office in Hong Kong, raising the profile of the New Zealand team. As New Zealand’s largest life insurer we strive to influence and provide thought leadership at an industry level, through the Financial Services Council and our regulatory engagement with the Reserve Bank and Financial Markets Authority.

Can you tell us what skills and attributes you look for when recruiting new lawyers?

The main attributes we look for are a can-do attitude, adaptability and pragmatism. AIA is a dynamic, fast-paced organisation so we look for lawyers who are up for a challenge and enjoy variety. Our team come from different backgrounds both personally and professionally, but all thrive on working together to help AIA achieve its dream of helping make New Zealand one of the healthiest and best protected nations in the world. 

We’re also a team who enjoys a competitive challenge, as demonstrated by the recent Trans-Tasman Staff Step Challenge where we blitzed the competition (including our closest rivals and colleagues - the AIA Australia legal team!) to clock up the greatest number of steps taken over a 4-week period. It was just another way our team leads by example, championing AIA’s purpose to help Kiwis live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives.

What do you see as the key challenges facing the team and how do you plan to address these?

As we head into 2022, our team will be balancing the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our employees, customers, advisers and partners, as well as taking the opportunity to help reshape the financial services industry through the upcoming pipeline of regulatory change. As always there will be significant demand for our team’s expertise, which we will manage through a mix of recruitment and external support, including Juno. Currently we have Jen Hanton from Juno working in our legal team while one our Senior Legal Counsel is on parental leave. 

With a relatively flat team structure we continually seek out new opportunities to support our team’s personal development goals, including internal and external training and leadership programmes, as well as secondments to project teams or other areas of the business.