Insurance Leaders, Not Just Industry, Must Evolve
By Jennifer Overhulse
The insurance industry has been aflutter lately talking about the staggering pace of change. To date, and to be realistic, that’s all most of the industry has done, talk about it. However, at the recent ITA LIVE conference held in Ft. Lauderdale, April 20-22, the pace of change took new shape.
A heightened sense of urgency underscored many of the conference’s most heated conversations as insurance company executive attendees looked for ways to internalize transformation stories which might bear replicating back home, and details of use cases for new technologies which might help build a persuasive business case. At ITA LIVE, the pace of change was almost a physical presence, as obvious in the room as any attendee.
“What has been the most significant change you have seen in the last 10 years?” asked Jag Randhawa, vice president and chief information officer of CAMICO Mutual, during his ITA LIVE keynote presentation.
Naturally, attendees cited advancements in mobile and social arenas as the most impactful, and indicated there is considerable focus being placed on how these technologies will be incorporated into modern insurance operations.
“There is no way insurers can bury their heads in the sand and hope this will pass,” said Randhawa. “The advent of the Internet has completely changed the way we live, communicate, buy, and consume products and services. The technology revolution is here to stay and it is going to dominate every aspect of our lives. It is going to change how we underwrite, service, and price our products. More importantly, we are going to see a change in how insurance is packaged and sold.”
Ken Zieden-Weber, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Xchange Benefits LLC, believes “flexibility and adaptation” will be key in the next five years. And in 10 years, he indicates he is planning toward “a likely recast of all existing business procedures,” including “advanced social awareness,” as well as “a unification of new technology and social environments.”
“The biggest challenge all insurance companies face right now is how to engage Millennials,” said Randhawa. “These digital-savvy consumers have different buying habits and expectations from service providers. So, meeting the needs and selling to this growing populous is the immediate challenge. This trend will continue for a while, with the underlying driver, ‘technology,’ creating new opportunities and challenges along the way. The growth and interest in the Internet of Things and other future technologies are going to challenge lots of business models and the perceived value derived from insurance. With the current pace of change, it hard to look 10 years ahead, but if the insurer wants to thrive in the future, they need to keep a close eye on technology trends and drivers.”
Industry aside, the aspect of change Randhawa finds often overlooked is how transformation itself is changing company and industry leaders alike. What new attributes are required to lead in the face of unprecedented change? Is there additional training that may be necessary, or adaptations to style that will help draw in the next generation of insurance executives?
“Success is often the result of so many different things,” said Randhawa. “I have seen some ‘not so good’ leaders rise because they were in the right place at the right time, and I have also seen good leaders fail due to market changes. That said, as a leader, you have to be always looking ahead and keeping an eye out for who or what is going to put you out of business. When things are good, you have to think of diversification, and diversifying product range to hedge against the market trend changes.”
Additionally, Randhawa emphasized that successful leaders have a habit of building up employees, incorporating new ideas, and rewarding accomplishments and contributions. He sees leaders being successful in the future by putting each employee “in charge of something,” focusing on a solution mindset instead of playing the “blame game,” and creating opportunities for employees to achieve personal growth.
“When you make someone in charge of a function, project or system, people start to associate the success and failure of that function as a reflection of their personal abilities,” said Randhawa. “We all have an innate drive to look good, so people naturally work harder to succeed. It becomes a matter of pride, rather than simply a project or task. And, as we all know, people work a lot harder for pride than paycheck.”
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