AMI Insurance keen to get amongst the community

01:43, Jan 31 2009
OUT AND ABOUT: AMI Insurance held their monthly board meeting in Timaru yesterday for the first time. AMI chief executive John Balmforth (left) is pictured with South Canterbury area manager Grant Hamel.

AMI Insurance is keen to get amongst the community in more ways than one.

For the first time the company held its board meeting in Timaru and also held a function on Thursday night at the South Canterbury Finance Tennis Centre.

While their head office is in Christchurch chief executive John Balmforth said the company was keen to repay the positive support they had from South Canterbury.

While some insurance companies are reducing their provincial presence the branches in Timaru and Waimate are here to stay, he said.

Mr Balmforth said in 1997 AMI made decision to retain its branch network nationally and reaffirmed that in April.

"It's the major difference between us and others, we now have 72 branches."


The chief executive said it was interesting to also note Timaru was the third largest branch in our network.

"It has had very positive growth and very good support from the community and hopefully we provide very good support through our various activities such as rugby referees and other community activities."

Mr Balmforth said the 'smile' rebranding almost two years ago had been very positive for the company as well as the sponsorship AMI Stadium.

"The assimilation of name and change of name has gone very well and we are very happy.

"It's not only a commercial activity for us as we are a mutual company, owned by our policy holders, so it also another way of putting support back into the community.

Mr Balmforth noted AMI Stadium is wider than just Christchurch.

"It's the base for major sporting events for the people of Mid and South Canterbury as well and also gets us national exposure."

The big two thorns facing insurance companies nationally were third party insurance and the Fire Service levy.

Mr Balmforth said he key issues for third party insurance were how it was to be implemented and who would pay for it.

"At the moment somewhere between 20 to 25 per cent of cars are unregistered and a higher percentage without insurance."

The people who are going to be protected are the uninsured, so the question is who funds that, he said.

"Obviously it will be passed back to insurance companies and it will passed back to those who have insurance."

The fact Fire Service levy was only charged to to those who had insurance was another contentious issue.

Mr Balmforth said a more equitable way of distributing cost was not by levying insurance policies but by attaching to rates or some other mechanism everyone pays.

"Once again those who have insurance pay for those who don't.

"There is also the question of whether government should also make a contribution as a community service."

Mr Balmforth said a home policy relatively cheap but some customers were paying over 50 per cent by way of GST, fire service levy and earthquake commission contributions."

"Unfortunately then people cancel policies because of the cost and that's not in the interest of anybody."


The Timaru Herald