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Fresh Faces: Southern Cross Travel Insurance CEO Jo McCauley

JO MCCAULEY, CEO of Southern Cross Travel Insurance for Australia and New Zealand, shares her top travel tip, the thing she's most looking forward to, and what makes travel insurance customers different to other insurance clients.

Where was the last place you travelled - and where would you like to go next?

The last place I travelled to was Orange in New South Wales to visit old friends. We went with friends from Canterbury (New Zealand), so six adults and nine kids. We all met while living in Edinburgh in our early 20s and have kept in touch since. The highlight was visiting Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo - despite the heat! 

We were scheduled to return to the UK last August when I was going to be bridesmaid for a dear friend. The plan was a whistle stop wedding followed by a friends and family tour, then two weeks in Venice. That obviously got postponed, as did the wedding, and my hope is that I’ll be able to get to the wedding this August instead but at the moment that’s looking like a long shot.  


Why did you take up this particular role? 

I’ve had a long career in financial services in the UK and New Zealand and have always enjoyed working in insurance. I’d worked on the travel insurance business at Tesco Bank and loved it so when the opportunity came to work with New Zealand’s leading travel insurer I jumped at the chance.

You might think insurance isn’t the most exciting industry but I find it really interesting. Travel insurance is certainly the most dynamic part of the industry and our customers are usually in a really positive frame of mind when purchasing.  


Tell us one thing that’s coming up at Southern Cross Travel Insurance that’s got you excited

The trans-Tasman bubble! While waiting for overseas travel to resume, we’ve been really busy building new products and launching a new website. 

Our team has remained positive but they’re itching to get going again – selling policies and servicing our customers with their travel insurance needs. 


Tell us something people might not know about SCTI? 

Southern Cross Travel Insurance is New Zealand’s leading travel insurer and is owned by the Southern Cross Health Trust which supports Kiwis in need.  

We’re part of a group of independent health and insurance-related businesses that share a common brand, a not-for profit ethos, and collectively focus on advancing the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.


What’s your most memorable travel experience? 

Corsica - I went in my mid-20s and drove all around the island over three weeks. It was so beautiful and rustic, and the air smelled absolutely amazing.

Corsica has a distinctive fragrance known as the ‘maquis’ which is a mix of plants carried on the wind from the mountains to the coast. As Napoleon said of his homeland, “I would recognise Corsica, blindfolded, by her scent alone.”  


How has COVID impacted travel insurance? 

A pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 is a once in a 100-year event. No sector has been left untouched, but the lockdowns and border closures have had a considerable impact on the travel industry in particular, which we’re a part of. 

From the outset of the pandemic, our priority has been assisting our customers, ensuring they’re protected on their travels with both financial and non-financial assistance. This comes through delivering relevant products and great service. We’ve been reviewing the policies we offer to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose in the future and meet consumer expectations once the borders reopen.

We’re also considering what new products we can offer our customers as their travel needs and priorities change.


"Our customers will have to adapt in terms of where and how they travel, and so do we."


We have already started doing that with the launch of our domestic travel insurance policy, and we are investigating what pandemic cover could look like.

We have also strengthened our commitment to transparency and providing excellent customer service by writing the domestic travel insurance policy in plain language.


What’s your top travel tip?

My first tip is one I’m rubbish at remembering myself – don’t overpack. I intensely dislike packing because it’s all about remembering and planning ahead - amplified by having to oversee the packing for my four sons too. This recent summer break, one announced, as he climbed barefoot out of the car upon arrival at our destination, that his shoes were back in Auckland so clearly, I somewhat failed again. 

And of course, how could I not mention travel insurance – 1) buy it and 2) if you have pre-existing medical conditions and you want to be covered for them, make sure you tell your insurer. It can be incredibly expensive and distressing when things go wrong, especially medical emergencies, and that’s where a travel insurer comes in – not only to manage the costs but provide logistical assistance to get you home safely. 


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Written by: Jo McCauley as told to Traveltalk
Published: 31 January 2021

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