Training Tomorrow’s Leaders in an Evolving Insurance Industry


Claudia Salem, Regional CEO Property & Casualty, Allianz Asia Pacific, shares her thoughts on how insurance businesses can meet the challenge of a transforming insurance sector and ensure a prepared workforce.  The article can be read on page 20 of the Asia Insurance Review’s SIRC 2019 supplement, here

An evolving industry

The insurance industry is evolving at an incredibly fast pace due to a combination of technology and data driven decision making, emerging risk management solutions, and changing customer needs and expectations. How we think about tomorrow’s leaders and training them to succeed is shaped by those same trends and their impact on the future of the industry.

Companies are increasingly digitalizing the insurance value chain and building platforms that enable omni-channel and seamless customer interactions. Artificial intelligence and underlying machine learning is driving further automation of decision making. Advanced data analytics are supporting dynamic pricing algorithms and ‘segment of one’ capabilities. 

This digital ecosystem extends to existing and new distribution partners. Platform economies and adjacent technologies such as Internet of Things and Telematics are changing consumer awareness of their protection needs and enabling better risk management. This creates a shift from insurance products to insurance solutions and services largely customized to customer needs.

Our customers want to be able to fulfill their protection needs and access insurance products in a matter of minutes, rather than days. They expect transactions and interactions to be quick, easy, and convenient. Furthermore, customers expect personalized experiences, where insurance can be purchased alongside adjacent services, all from a single customer journey.


Tomorrow’s leaders

The new normal for the insurance industry is a state of constant disruption with new players introducing product and service innovations and platform industries changing distribution experiences. In that context, future leaders must develop the ability to lead their organizations through continuous cycles of change.  To accomplish that they will need to lead with purpose, up-skill and re-tool their teams regularly, and create a sustainable success culture.

Leading with purpose means having a vision that inspires colleagues to take ownership of the collective strategy and to take pride in seeing it through.  This requires leaders to win the hearts and minds around the why, what, and how of the organization. The nature of our industry is all about securing people’s future and is organically an enabler for higher purpose.  Most people, including millennials, want to work for an organization that has clear purpose and looks to make a positive impact on society as one of its key drivers.  This is best captured in Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations, which have real impact on the world around us, and touch the insurance industry in risk selection, operational practices, and broader community impact.

Up-skilling and re-tooling employees for future success has already started through the redefinition of jobs in the industry.  Future roles will involve combinations and permutations of existing roles and skills.  For example, today’s underwriters and claims adjudicators will have to add data analytics and technology to their repertoire to effectively do their jobs.  The Institute of Banking and Finance in Singapore has done extensive work at defining Future Skills, supported by new role definitions and a holistic online training program.  This is a great place to start the journey for all insurance companies and their employees.

Creating a sustainable culture for ongoing improvement and innovation will be anchored in new ways of thinking and new ways of working.  This journey starts with enabling organizational learning through the adoption of design thinking, agile methodologies, and flexible work arrangements. However, activating change is a joint responsibility for leaders and employees.  Effective business leaders must therefore create an environment of encouragement to address their teams’ needs and future-proof their jobs.

One example that illustrates the points above is from August this year at the Business Roundtable – a group of chief executive officers from 200 major US organizations – who offered a new definition of the purpose of a corporation. They summarized how businesses must prioritize investment in employees, delivering value to customers, and dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting outside communities as a measure of future success.  Simply maximizing profits and delivering  value to shareholders is not enough anymore - a doctrine which held firm and drove boardrooms for decades.  Now, more and more people not only want corporations to have a social conscience, but expect it. 


Our efforts at Allianz

According to the recent Allianz Global Insurance Report 2019, Asia will deliver increasingly high output over the next decade and contribute 60 per cent of global premium growth.  The rapid development of digital platforms will allow insurers more opportunities to reach a wider customer base, particularly in this region where insurance penetration is low.  As a company and as an industry we must remain  conscious of the important role that we will play in peoples’ lives as awareness increases.

Allianz supports leadership development in a number of ways, including online resources, formal leadership training and coaching, and on-the-job experience based learning.

For instance, our Work Well initiatives, of which I am a strong advocate, cultivate the wellbeing of our employees.  These programs encourage employees to live and work healthily and reduce work-related stress - with the global business goal of having satisfied and motivated employees as key stakeholders. As part of this, we implemented a set of minimum standards to help managers and employees reduce stress at work across four key areas: corporate culture, work relationships, work organisation, and private factors.  We have also put in place flexible working arrangements which allow employees the opportunity to work more frequently outside the office.  Incremental improvements such as these are positive ways to improve the workplace and our relationship with it, and we are pleased that our employees are responding positively.

On the learning front, Allianz has a goal to support all employees with a digital learning platform to build skills, capabilities and foster employability in an era of constant change in the industry.  With this in mind, our LinkedIn Learning program allows employees the opportunity to upskill on the move, broaden their knowledge, and grow their insight – a win-win for the individual and the company.  It’s one of the new digital learning platforms offered by our learning portal AllianzU, which includes more than 10,000 up-to-date courses across topics such as digital basics, agile methodologies, big data & analytics, design thinking, collaboration & co-creation, and creativity & entrepreneurship.  LinkedIn Learning constitutes a further step on the way to achieving the AllianzU mission of “Learning for All” and our commitment to lifelong learning.  Already we are seeing uptake, with more than 40,000 employees in 2018 watching almost two million videos on the platform.

We are taking further action at Allianz to improve efficiency and team work across our operations.  By adopting Agile methodologies, we are working to ensure value is optimized throughout the development process, supporting the delivery of products which reflect the desired needs of a client. An agile way of working assists teams from start to finish, creates autonomy and hones in on rapid delivery.  With short term targets and collaboration encouraged, the progress of each project has continuous visibility and less time is lost to unnecessary process.  The benefits are far reaching, and include employee job satisfaction, improved efficiency and collaboration across teams, and speed of delivery into the market.


The future

As an organization, we are asking ourselves how to  prepare our leaders and employees to meet these future challenges. More than coming up with the answer itself, we should aim to build a resilient organization that can quickly adapt and adjust to the changing landscape.

As an industry, we have to continuing working to better understand the use-cases in this modern era of connectivity. We can then assess infrastructure readiness and regulatory support required in the new environment.

As a community, we must step out of our daily routine to consider broader topics impacting our society and economy. Examples include topics such as a widening protection gap, the green economy and climate change, the technological revolution, and globalization that works for all.  I view these themes as opportunities for economic, social and personal development for the leaders of tomorrow.

Claudia Salem