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Catching up with our Head of Health Services, Sally Phillips

Dr Sally Phillips is the Head of Health Services for Zurich Australia and New Zealand and leads the delivery of integrated health services to our customers and members, with a focus on the whole health journey across physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing.

We recently had the chance to catch up with Sally who shared her plans for Health Services, what’s driven her career within the health sector and how she manages her work life balance.

What attracted you to a career within health and how did you find yourself working for an insurance company? 

One of my core values is care, which originally attracted me to medicine. Whilst studying medicine, I became really interested in neurophysiology (the study of the workings of the brain) and did a BSc and BSc (Hons) as a two-year sabbatical from my medicine degree. The ability to connect medicine, data and scientific study became a focus area for me and after working in a GP practice, I had an opportunity to join a major life insurer in South Africa as a medical officer. I subsequently had the unique opportunity to start a brand new life insurance company, Discovery Life with two actuaries, which allowed me to create products that were focussed on a patient experience rather than a pure insurance focus (the beginnings of the Active product!). The ability to focus on mortality and morbidity rather than treatment just made sense to me, together with the ability to care for many people at once rather than just one at a time.

You started the Health Services team at Zurich just over a year ago, what changes have you made during this time?

It’s been a big year! We have established a dedicated internal Health Services department, comprising of medical experts with diverse areas of specialisation such as cardiology, musculoskeletal and mental health. This team collaborates closely across various business areas, especially claims, underwriting and product, providing them with ongoing medical expertise, training, coaching, and opinions. We are excited to now be exploring some pilots where we can support across General Insurance as well.

We have also refined our health proposition, bringing together all the amazing health initiatives at play across Zurich. We are committed to partnering with our customers and members throughout their health journey from staying healthy to feeling healthier. Mental, physical, social and financial health are the key components of our whole health approach. We are focused on building out our health proposition framework that can support our delivery of various health programs and thought leadership that can really drive value beyond cover across both the Life and General Insurance business

You previously held a role in LiveWell, why is it so vital Zurich focuses on an integrated health journey?

There are multiple studies of health which really show that physical, mental, social and financial health are all integrated. We are holistic human beings, so to only focus on medical or clinical aspects would only be part of the solution. Anyone who has been through a period of financial distress would understand the impacts on their mental health as well as physical and social health (and vice versa). LiveWell is an important part of our health proposition and focuses on making health a habit across the foundations of sleep, diet, movement and mind.

Why is it important for Zurich to expand its digital health and wellbeing services? And what opportunities do you see for the broader insurance industry in the health and wellbeing segment? 

Health is at the core of life insurance – if people don’t get ill or die, we don’t have a business. Our job is to put an individual back in the same financial position as if they had never had the medical trigger that caused their claim with us. Using this as a baseline, then holistic health underpins our brand awareness and brand consideration, product development, sales process, onboarding, retention and claims; and services and solutions across all of these areas are vital for a customer experience that makes sense at their point in their health journey. As an industry, we are a key player in the health ecosystem, given we support and fund loss of income or major financial loss related to health conditions – we have a unique, complete view of the customer and we should be more vocal in our need to be part of the broader health conversations (especially mental health) in Australia. Having a digital mindset regarding how we approach integrating into our customers health journey as they interact with us is important.

How do you walk the talk in terms of your own wellbeing?  What do you do to unwind after a long week and keep work life balance?

It’s all about balance. I’ve been vegan for about three years and find that this diet makes me feel better both on a physical and social consciousness level. However, I am also a big fan of chocolate (dark and vegan of course!) at breakfast and a glass of wine at the end of the day. I love spending time with my partner Bob, children Josh and Bex and dogs Rero and Indy as well as working in the garden, swimming in the ocean and listening to music. There is no magic bullet in this space, it is about finding what works for you and knowing that sometimes things slip and that’s okay too.