Alumni profile

Mr Tim Plant

Bachelor of Agricultural Science, 1989

CEO General Insurance, Zurich Australia

Tim Plant’s career has taken him on a varied path from a lecturer in agronomy to the insurance sector.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at La Trobe University in 1989, Tim’s career has taken him on a varied path from a lecturer in agronomy, and then into the insurance and reinsurance sectors.

Reflecting on his career to date, Tim believes the key to a long and successful career is finding opportunities that you feel have a real purpose and that you’re passionate about. His advice to grads?

“Your working life is for 40+ years, so find something that has purpose and that you genuinely enjoy!...It never feels like work if you get out of bed every morning to do something you really believe in.”

What influenced you to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science?

I had a strong interest in Agriculture, plus the diversity of the degree meant that I could choose from a range of focus areas across Animal Science, Plant Science and Economics & Statistics.

It was ultimately Economics, Statistics and Marketing that I became most interested in. I particularly enjoyed my fourth year research project which focused on the marketing and commercial opportunities for herbicide resistant cotton varieties.

How would you describe the path you have taken to get you to where you are today?

My career path has been quite varied with many different moves along the way.

My first job out of La Trobe was as a lecturer at the Glenormiston campus of the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture. I was then employed a few years later as an agronomist for Australian Eagle Insurance in Melbourne.

Since then, I have spent over 20 years in various roles in the insurance and reinsurance sectors in Melbourne, Sydney, London, Adelaide and now back in Sydney.

Do you have a personal philosophy that you bring to your work?

I believe in leading by example and working to high standards. I’ve also always looked to find career opportunities that I feel have real purpose and that I’m passionate about. 

It is also important to take all of the highs and lows as learning experiences and opportunities to understand how you respond to different situations and the impact on those working for you and around you.

What has been your greatest career highlight/highlights?

My current role is the most exciting to date as I’m part of a Group Executive team that operates in 35 different countries and have immediate responsibility for a business that employs over 3,500 people across a diverse group of businesses and customers right across Australia and New Zealand, generating more than $5 billion of revenue.

Other highlights include my time spent in London with QBE between 1996 and 1998, where I got to travel and build business relationships across Europe and North America.

The other major career highlight was attending Harvard Business School for a few months to complete the Advanced Management Program – quite an amazing opportunity, personally and professionally.

Do you have any sage advice for those starting out in their careers?

I encourage our graduates and other newcomers to our business to take the time to find something that they really love doing and feel passionate about.

I also think that it is important to build a diversity of experiences and take the opportunity to put yourself outside your comfort zone from time to time. There are so many opportunities in our industry to develop strong professional specialist capabilities as well as generalist leadership experiences.  Take the time to work out what you are best suited to and what you enjoy the most.

The pace of technological change and innovation continues to accelerate along with significant changes to customer needs and expectations.  It is so important that for our company to keep ahead of the changing environment as well as designing new ways of working for the next generation of managers and professionals.  These trends create great new opportunities for talented graduates!

Where do you go from here?

Given I’m less than a year into my current role, my focus is doing a great job and building a strong legacy.  Much of my focus is on improving the experience for our customers across all of our distribution channels and investing in new methods and technologies to provide more tailored, consistent and cost effective products and solutions.

What impact did La Trobe have on your career and life?

My time at La Trobe set a course for my career and I have very positive memories of the four years I spent there.

I have some great friends from that time at La Trobe, all who have chartered very different paths in their professional and personal lives - La Trobe prepared us all for a variety of journeys!

Published May 2016.

Distinguished Science

Last updated: 9th April 2019