We sat down with Mark Fitzgibbon, the CEO of health insurance giant nib, to discuss leading an organisation at a time when health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.



Hi Mark. Can you tell us a little about your journey that brought you to the helm of nib?

My journey began in Cessnock in the Hunter Region, where I grew up spending time in the bush and on the footy field. My first job out of school was with Cessnock Council and over the course of the next 17 years, I worked for seven different councils leading three of them before I shifted careers.  

After nearly two decades, I went looking for new opportunities where I might be able to make a difference. I spent four years leading an industry association for licenced clubs around NSW and Australia, which was very rewarding. Clubs today are a vital part of the community’s social infrastructure and we tackled some real challenges, such as making gaming safer. I was then recruited into the role of CEO at nib in 2002. It’s been a fantastic journey. We’ve built upon its rich history, transforming it into the ASX company it is today. 


During COVID, how have you managed to communicate in a way that successfully cuts through to your customers?

In times of uncertainty, especially extreme cases such as those brought about by the pandemic, communication is just so crucial. You mightn’t have all the answers, but sharing what you do know, including your own scenario analysis, will typically be well-received. That was exactly our experience during COVID-19. 

For example, for the first time, we issued a shareholder update noting most of our shareholders are ordinary folk who received shares as a result of our demutualisation in 2007. We’ve used multiple communication channels throughout the crisis. Basically, once you’ve got your key messages right and sometimes less is more, you can’t do enough. For our members, this has included targeted member campaigns, media announcements and interviews, content articles hosted on our ‘Check Up’ channel, social media, and various advertising. 

Our employee engagement platform, Workplace, was also crucial to keeping our people in the know and helped equip our frontline consultants with the most up-to-date information – however often that may have changed – so we could continue to support our members. 


Did nib employ other methods to overcome its biggest hurdles in the past year or so?

Far and away the biggest priority for us has been the health and safety of our members and employees. We figured it was a time in which people needed the comfort and protection afforded by health insurance. Since the outbreak, we’ve provided over $45 million in support to our members and donated $1.5 million (through the) nib Foundation to support community and clinical initiatives. Our travel insurance business also came under extreme stress, and we’ve pulled out all stops to deal with peoples’ claims. 

We also introduced coverage for certain telehealth services, like physiotherapy and psychology, to help our members access the services they needed from the comfort of home, and while varying state restrictions, although fleeting, didn’t allow our members to attend these services in-person. We now offer this on an ongoing basis. No one celebrates for a microsecond the suffering and misery of COVID-19 for so many; nevertheless, its consequences have forced some needed changes and created opportunity for a better healthcare system. It’s boosted the investment we’re making in important new frontiers like applying data science to get better at predicting disease risk and with that hopefully preventing or better managing the risk. 


Far and away the biggest priority for us has been the health and safety of our members and employees.



What do you think sets nib apart from others in what is a crowded, competitive marketplace? 

Private health insurance in the past has been quite commoditised but we worked very hard to at least give people a choice of cover to better suit their circumstances or life stage. We’ve also built the brand through various means including sponsorship of the Newcastle Knights and Richmond Tigers AFL and AFLW teams. 

The future is about differentiation of a different kind. We strive to be as much a genuine ‘healthcare’ company as a ‘sick care’ company. One that’s concerned with keeping our members healthy and out of hospital as well access to treatment and financial protection.

Our new joint venture company Honeysuckle Health established with global health service company Cigna, is the bedrock for this vision. It’s harnessing the power of data science to help our members better understand their current and future health risks and then actively provide the programs and support they need to help prevent, manage or treat that risk.  


What do you think the key is to be a successful CEO?

Understanding what your role is as CEO and developing a passion for what your business does. CEOs are like coaches: putting the leadership team together; setting the vision and the goals; helping people develop their skills and understanding their role in the bigger picture. Encouraging diversity of all kinds and insisting on innovation and continual improvement.

They’re all so crucial. 


What is your leadership style?

I like to think I set the vision and lead from the front. I’m big on communication and involving our people in decision-making across the nib Group. We have a culture that aligns with my own personal philosophy that the status quo is death, and we must constantly experiment and change in order to adapt to whatever the world serves up.

On a personal level, I also like to think I’ve lived a good life outside of work and I have a hunger for learning and new insight. Most of all, a sense of humour, however ‘Dad-lame’ it may be, and never taking yourself too seriously.  


Are there any causes or charities you, or nib support to which you’d like to provide a shout-out?

I’m especially disturbed about the massive gaps in health outcomes for First peoples in Australia and New Zealand. We are tackling this on a couple of fronts with the best example so far being our partnership with Māori iwi Ngati Whātua Orākei in New Zealand.

Our charitable organisation has also recently committed $1 million over the next four years to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing, made possible through unclaimed dividends from our shareholder base. Since then, we’ve partnered with some fantastic organisations like Awabakal and We Care, who deliver crucial health, education, and community services within our local community which are designed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 




Mark Fitzgibbon is the CEO of nib Health Funds



Cincom presents this article series.

Cincom is a global organisation devoted to building software solutions that help businesses succeed. Through their innovative software and focus on building relationships, they pride themselves on enhancing your brand, allowing you to deliver a better experience to your prospective customers and partners alike.

A key leadership trait is effective communications and Cincom’s Customer Communication Management (CCM) solution, Eloquence, has assisted numerous organisations achieve a better customer experience through better communications.





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