In the fast-evolving landscape of the insurance industry, addressing the psychological and cultural dimensions of transformation is paramount to staying competitive and relevant.
By altering the way employees think, collaborate, and adapt to change, companies can better navigate the ever-shifting terrain of the insurance market. In addition, this transformation extends seamlessly into fostering diversity and inclusion within the industry.
Diversity and inclusion are not mere buzzwords but essential components of any forward-thinking insurance business. A diverse workforce and an inclusive culture can empower insurance companies to innovate, adapt to new market realities, and serve a wide array of clients more effectively.
This episode's conversation with Alice McGowan – Transformation Consultant and Regional Lead of Inclusion, Diversity, and Belonging Council at Allianz Commercial – highlights the interconnectedness of psychological and cultural aspects in achieving transformation in the insurance sector and how these elements are closely tied to the progress of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Explore the strategies, challenges, and victories in the journey toward comprehensive transformation and discover why it's a pivotal topic for everyone in the insurance industry
In this episode
Transformation efforts across the value chain
Identifying requirements and quick wins
Changing mindsets through collaboration
Cultural acceptance of change
The power of collective effort
Diversity and inclusion initiatives
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Full episode transcript
[00:00:00] TEC: Hi, I'm Tom Chamberlain, VP of Customer Consulting at hyperxponential, and your host, otherwise known as Tech. I'm delighted to welcome you to the latest episode of Tech Talks. In this episode, we're going to be talking to Alice McGowan, who is the Transformation Consultant and Regional Lead of Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging Council at Allianz Global Corporate Specialty.
So let's get straight into it. So, to kick us off, Alice, obviously we've worked together, well, quite a few years ago now on a big pricing and underwriting transformation project, which I'm very happy to say was a big success. Probably mostly thanks to you rather than me. but, but obviously I'm, I'm, I'm curious now because, you've been involved in quite a lot of transformations, across the business.
So I'm just curious, what, what, what other transformations are you seeing? insurers working on at the moment or have been working on, for the last few years.
[00:00:59] Alice McGowan: Okay. yeah, thank you very much for inviting me today. I really appreciate it. It's great to be able to, to catch up again. I think, during our time in, Allianz, we have worked on a multitude of, different projects together. and we started off with the pricing tools. And that's one of the key things that's happening right now as well, is the APTs as we call them, the Allianz Pricing Tool, which was an Excel based tool, but crucially at that time when you were the, the head of pricing, it was really important to have our actuaries involved because they were the ones that did the maths basically.
Okay. and I remember when we did, we started that journey around about 210, 211, we did the pricing tools and then we also did the extension to that, which was the reporting. And at the time it was challenging to, to convince the underwriters the benefits of, of, of APTs because they were used to sort of, you know, back of a cigarette packet and doing their price in that way.
Ironically, you know, you know, you know, move forward like 13, 12, 13 years, and we're now replacing our pricing tools with Radar, and yet our, internal customers are like, no, you know, give me the APTs back, so it takes about a decade to convince people of the benefit. Well, we get there in the end. I think the thing is, well, in terms of digital transformation and data management is absolutely key, right?
Customers demand, continue to evolve and reflect on social change, and increased focus on, ESG concerns, environmental, social, governmental concerns, new engagement channels, shift in the economic landscape. And we've had a huge, shift, both politically and socially over the last. Three to four years in particular.
I mean, back to back, you know, Brexit, leave, leave in the eu, Ukraine, COVID, you know, so massive big seismic shifts in the way that we think, the way that we communicate and, and how do we engage them with our customers, both internally and externally. And as such, insurers, you know, need to focus on identifying the customer needs.
That really ensure that the journey is easily accessible from start to finish. So we often talk about something called our value chain. You know, what is our end to end value chain from the moment the submission comes through the door to how it is handled and managed internally across the teams from underwriting to our operations team to pricing to the moment it is then booked from if we have a front office system.
if not, it's very much manually Excel based and to our back office system and in case of AGCS, we use Genius. Some of our lobs have a front office system. Some of our lobs are still using Excel based manual. So digital transformation focuses on improving our customer journey and affirms agility and responsiveness across the insurance sector.
And as you know, from your experience in AGCS, sometimes those transformations can be painful. It can take time. We are a complex company. We have, And when you consider the ESG concerns and the trends of insurance, that even adds more to the complexity. And the thing is about technology, it is so fast paced.
It is so fast paced. So when you start a transformation with one concept or solution, it might, by the time you've implemented it, already be outdated. So one of the key things that we're doing in AGCS right now is really looking holistically at our whole value chain, end to end, from the front office, mid office to the back office, and how the processes, you know, are intertwined.
Within that technological development. Now we know the tech takes a little bit of time to get implemented and we don't want our internal stakeholders to have to wait two years to see something. So what we are doing in the meantime is continuous improvement and so. For example, where perhaps it might be a while before a line of business gets a front office system, and they're using Excel based, manual intervention in order to capture their submission data, we're replacing that with, Office 365.
So, we are using Office 365, almost like a front office system. So, instead of putting the data into an Excel spreadsheet, you put the data into 365 instead. And it's really key that you have the minimum data requirements in there, because those minimum data requirements are absolutely essential for what needs to go into your back office.
And, you know, the operations minimum data requirements might... vary from what the underwriters view of what minimum data requirements is. So one of my roles is to go in and understand what that gap is, make sure the fields are available in there so that you're meeting both the needs of your underwriters at the front end and your operational support staff at the back end.
[00:06:34] TEC: Just to pick up on one of one of your points around transformation taking a quite a lot of time and its technology is so fast paced that by the time you've implemented it, it's out of date. I mean, how do you get around that? You talked a little bit maybe about this sort of incremental improvements, but if you're doing a transformation project, which is taking sort of 3 to 5 years, as you said, it's literally going to be starting again before you do it.
And how do you manage that?
[00:07:03] Alice McGowan: I mean, that is both the enjoyment and the pain of working in transformation, I think, is trying to, you know, I mean, mindset is a really powerful thing and it's trying to keep people on that journey. And if that journey is a fairly lengthy one, and you have resources changing throughout that time, then you've really got to look at what's happening right now.
But essentially, have, have like, you know, a glass ball, crystal ball that shows you what's going to happen in five years as well. And I think
the idea is to try and offer some value, right? Give somebody something today, okay? And I think when you're looking at you know, pure project management. If you think, you know, I'm going to throw a few things out, you know, being agile and safe. Prince two, you know, there's lots of different, you know, transformation methodologies out there.
And I think some people think, you know, when they think about Prince two, it's like, Right. You've got to have everything up front before you can even start doing any coding or any change, right? And Agile is all about, you know, you do a little bit now and then you go live with something and then you do a little bit and then you go live with something.
it's really tough though, to be Agile in such a complex, technologically challenging company like AGCS in, you know, given all the countries that we serve and the, the size of our business as well. Um. So it is, therefore, you've really got to look at, you know, what are your quick wins, okay? How can you, and I can give you an example, for example, we went in, a couple of years ago, we did something called Simply Smarter Together.
It was like, you know, a nine week project where we went into a particular lob and we looked exactly at how they did their processing today. So what the underwriters did when they really did key in the submission. information and how long it really took and, you know, don't get me wrong, you know, we've got some solid hard workers, okay, but when we actually then added up all the numbers, they were doing 23 hour days, and I remember going back to the regional head saying, you know, don't get me wrong, I know your team works super hard, but that is just not physically possible, that's not happening.
So when they say it takes 450 minutes to do the initial review of the submission. Then you're like no it might take you 450 minutes to do the pricing part, because we know that's more complicated. But, you know, not to do the domicile check, which is to send an email to another country to find out if they've also got the same submission requests from the broker, right?
So we went in, we calculated all of this, and we were able to actually make some really solid time savings, but in a, in a three month period. You know, and that really made a huge difference, and any transformation exercise, you must have the buy in of the, the leadership. It is absolutely crucial. If you do not have that, it will fail.
Okay. And sometimes you get people say, Oh, you want a top down approach or you want a bottom up approach or you want a top and a bottom approach. But at the end of the day, you need everyone who's involved in the process engaged and understanding. And what we did, which was really, really helpful, is we had the people in their teams in a single room, okay, looking at each other and talking to each other about what caused them pain along the value chain.
Because sometimes you can get a little bit blinkered and you just see your day job ahead of you and you're maybe not so aware of what's happening in somebody else's team. And once that level of understanding is then generated, people are then less, defensive and they're more... Progressive in terms of working together.
Collaboration absolutely key to any success. It takes time to change the mindset. They say I think psychologically about six months to convince people to change their new way of working and then about another 10 years to undo that and get them to work in another way. I mean, it's. The psychology of transformation is actually really, really interesting, and probably one of the most enjoyable parts of my job, because when I was working in New York, the Americans have a, you know, slightly different approach to how our German colleagues work, to our Parisian colleagues, to our London colleagues.
[00:11:45] TEC: I guess I this point preempted one of the things I was going to ask around all the sort of main barriers to transformation. But I think you've sort of talked about it a fair bit. You know, it does sound like this that the cultural change and getting everyone bored. That's that's doing that. Obviously, there's there's budget constraints and companies need to be figuring out what is the best part of the transformation.
I mean, there's so many areas, you know, we talked a lot about pricing and underwriting, but Yeah. Yeah. There's lots of areas of the business that can be transformed, and trying to find that right, the right places to do it in the right sequence, I guess, is kind of challenging for a company. you'd like to do everything all at once, but not always possible.
[00:12:24] Alice McGowan: I think, You've got to understand what the trends are and you've got to understand, you know, what you, projection of what's actually coming, you know, like the whole, like, macroeconomic headwinds that, you know, that are heading our way at the moment. We're still feeling the impact of Brexit, we're still shaded by the pandemic and so forth.
So, you know, that feeds into every sort of transformation initiative, that you have. but it can be just as simple as, yeah, you know, having to go in and ask for more money is always a tough conversation. losing key resources, you know, that's really tough as well. I, I mean, you know, I dreaded the day you, you were going to turn around to me during the APT days and say, you know, I've got, I've got a new role because you are my, you are my subject matter expert, you know, if you, to try and have you replace it.
Yeah, that's tough. So. You know, you have to try and, you have to balance your resources as well in terms of the expertise.
[00:13:20] TEC: Yeah, completely. and before we jump onto another topic, any kind of other sort of top tips you'd have for kind of how to really execute on a on a transformation project and make it successful? Because you obviously been part of of many successful projects like this.
[00:13:37] Alice McGowan: Yeah, I mean, I think when I, I first joined AGCS at the time in terms of the London market, it was like, you know, you know, you do two, three years, you go to your next job, you know, you know, and you keep moving. And, and I, I think that the cycle of, you know, your career in London is, is brilliant.
probably much more mobile. I'm coming up for my 15th anniversary in AGCS now and I'm like, gosh, where did that time go? But, I've worked on so many different transformations. I've worked on pricing, I've worked on regulation with solvency. I worked on ArcNet, which was a tool that we built for our risk consulting business.
I've worked on the Americas transformation. I've worked in HR. I've worked, in processing. I've worked, most, you know, most recently trying, trying to, implement, you know, trying to eliminate these, you know, manual Excel hand overshoots and actually get something more automated. So doing the robotics side and, it, you know, every day is a different day.
And I think what's really key is when you're going into any sort of transformation exercise. You know, I think I count myself fortunate now having got quite an extensive network. I know immediately like who I can call upon, who I'm not an expert, you know, in genius, but I know who to go to, to help me understand our mid office system, you know, so that, you know, that really makes a huge difference.
And, You know, we're all human beings at the end of the day, and work is important, it's a big part of our lives, but we also have our personal lives as well, so, you know, going into any sort of transformation exercises, trying to get to know the people you're going to be working with, and what are their needs, and listening, I cannot say it enough, I'm actually partially deaf, so I, you know, I sit there, I really, really do try to listen to people.
People do a lot of talking, and not so much listening. And it sounds really easy and it's not rocket science, and yet it's such a hard thing to do, to stay quiet in a room and just really listen to somebody. but it is a valuable skill to, to have.
[00:15:58] TEC: and then you'll you'll you'll hear the pain points. You'll hear the reasons for for the change, and then you can you can drive the project accordingly. So…
[00:16:08] Alice McGowan: And that's when you get into sort of like negotiation, right? Really listening, particularly if you have two conflicting sides that don't really want to meet in the middle at the moment because they both feel that their pain is more important and greater than the other is You know, hearing them out and then getting them to the point where you can then negotiate with them, you know, come up with a compromise.
[00:16:30] TEC: Absolutely. And as you said, we're, we're all human beings, right? This is, this is part of our lives, but there's also other parts going on. And that's a nice sort of segue into sort of another part of your job, I guess, which is around, I kind of refer to it as diversity, equity and inclusion. I know it's a slightly different sort of, naming, an alliance.
But I don't sense the insurance industry has been slightly slow, than other industries on the uptake of this and sort of raising the importance. But you're, you're, you're much closer to this now. So I'm, I'm curious to how you see this area in insurance, maybe versus other industries, you know, are we, are we doing a lot right?
Are we still doing a lot wrong? What's, what's, what's your thoughts on this?
[00:17:12] Alice McGowan: Well, please feel free to challenge me at any point because that's what this is all about. When we're talking about, you know, diversity and inclusion, we, people come in from different perspectives. OK, so my way of thinking might not be yours, but I did give some thought to this. It's an area that I'm very, very passionate about.
But. when you think about what are the, you know, what are the barriers to, implementing, you know, D& I or as we call it in AGCS, IDB, Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging, it could be, you know, lack of goals and metrics, it could be inadequate training, it could be no buy in from the leadership, you might have budgetary restrictions, you've got cultural resistance, you know, But actually, I was thinking about this from a different perspective.
In order to, eliminate the barriers to, to diversity and inclusion, maybe we need to think about the insurance industry as a whole and how we approach that. You're thinking about the insurance industry, forgive me, but it is predominantly white male, okay? and if you want to make the insurance industry more diverse, Then how, how do we go about that?
So people, people think, you know, let's, let's, some, some companies are doing brilliant. I look at Aviva. I mean, they have their own, you know, DNI team with its own individual budget. Okay. In AGCS, we just work a couple of people permanent, but otherwise it's all voluntary. All voluntary, and it varies, like for example, my council in the UK, we usually have numbers of around about 15 volunteers, so we can spread the load.
But, say APAC, they've got two. You know, so, and then, in the, in the U. S. They have a different approach to France, to Germany, So, again, harmonization is absolutely crucial, okay? But I think when we're thinking about, you know, what are the barriers to D,E&I I think we need to think about the insurance industry itself.
It is a very, very conservative industry, okay? If we were able to... Change our, our view of insurance. If we were able to change the mindset of how people think about insurance, maybe that would have a knock on effect to how we approach diversity and inclusion.
[00:19:51] TEC: Yeah, I, I couldn't agree more. It's, it's, yeah, you said I could disagree with you. I don't. I absolutely think this is, this is the right way of looking at it. I, I personally took, quite a number of months off for share parental leave, which I think at the time was, was sort of viewed as a kind of like, Oh, really?
You're going to take all that time off. It's like, well, yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's important to me. I am, I am who I am because of not just my work, but my personal life and, and, and my family balance. And that goes the same for everyone. And I wouldn't be, I wouldn't be where I am or who I am today without that.
And you need, I think the industry needs to be really careful that it doesn't forget these sort of things and, and embrace like, everyone's, like it even had a flexibility of working. I've been able to do hybrid or, like I drop off my kids at school or pick them up from school as well and I have days where I want to do that.
Allowing people to do that is going to really sort of help it. I definitely don't think we're there yet. I think there's so much more. that we could be doing on this and really pushing that. it's, it's good. It's good. The companies like us do have these sort of councils. I was really impressed to hear that you said Aviva had, a full on sort of full time, function who, who are dedicated to do that.
Right. I I've seen it in other industries as well. when we were looking at the diversity council, we were spending a lot of time with Barclays, who also have that sort of set up and…
[00:21:18] Alice McGowan: The banking, they, they're like leaps and bounds ahead of insurance. They got the money though. Funding makes a huge difference.
[00:21:25] TEC: It does, it does
[00:21:26] Alice McGowan: But I think one of the things I wanted to talk about was, I had a conversation with, happened to be a white male, but a, a a good colleague that I good friends with about six months ago.
and, we were chatting about, what was coming up for 2023. And they were like, Alice, you know, I, I'm not disabled, I'm not gay, thankfully I've got, you know, three healthy children, I've never lost a baby, I just, you know, what value can I offer? You know, I don't, I don't, I've, none of these, these subject matters, you know, touch me personally and I'm like, well, you know, it doesn't, you don't, you don't have to be one legged gay and have had a miscarriage to, to, to be part of forwarding inclusion and diversity.
You can be an ally. I know people who have, children with autism and ADHD, you know, so I go out of my way to try and research that topic because it's really, really crucial. That's such a huge talent area. We are just completely sidestepping. Just because you might be neurodiverse does not mean that you cannot work in the insurance industry.
You know, if you look at the ratios of people in this country that are neurodiverse and they're probably already a good handful of them in your companies, you just don't know about it or they don't know about it. So it's about trying to really generate awareness. Okay, so that people understand, you know, what the subject matter around neurodiversity is, or disability, or, or pride, for example.
So that the more information that is out there and accessible, the greater your understanding, the more approachable you are to the topic, and therefore the more inclusive you feel into the topic. Okay, unlike that chap that I was speaking to who felt like, I don't, I can't offer any value. Yes, you can. You can be an ally.
[00:23:32] TEC: Yeah, it is the inclusion part, right? You,need to have that because people need to feel a part of, of what it is and, and, yeah, not feel that they, as you said, it is addressed once a year. If, if, if that, but is actually just an inclusive part of the business and, as I said, then it could be more celebrated as, potentially the reason why you are so good at what you're doing.
So, yeah, I agree with all, all of those things you're saying, and it, and it very much sounds like the people who are doing it really right, are those ones who are. Not not like really investing in it, like really spending the time, spending the money, having that as a sort of core function that that's that their role is to push and promote all of this.
And then and then really good things will happen. That's actually that's actually quite comforting to hear. I was a bit worried that we would still be talking about. Oh, yeah, it's really hard. It's not really working. You know, people aren't embracing it, but it does sound it doesn't sound like that anymore.
It really does sound like there's there is a shift happening, albeit still slowly.
[00:24:30] Alice McGowan: How did you feel it was in AGCS during your time? I mean, you know, like I said, we've come a little bit late to the table. We've still got a long way to go, but I think, we, we benefit from the fact that we have some really passionate volunteers that really care. You want to make a difference.
[00:24:46] TEC: I think that was, that was the, that was still the feeling again when I, when I was there as well, you know, that there was, there was a number of people who were very passionate about it. And again, I did, I genuinely felt a little bit awkward at the start, probably being a white middle aged man, because I'm literally the problem here, not the problem here.
But, but it felt, it felt kind of strange to be part of that. And I got up and did a number of talks on flexible working, shared parental leave, because that was something that I was really passionate about. And, and one of the, one of the sessions, we did at the, Dive In Festival, which was, which was really awesome.
I think that's, that's still, that's still going on. it, it was about sort of shared parental leave and maternity leave and flexible working. 90 percent of the audience were women and I was sitting there on a panel of, with three other women and absolutely terrified going, I don't really know what I have to add here.
But it was, it was really, it was really amazing because I, again, I talked about sort of like. My sort of like shared parental leave, my parent, my paternity leave as well, but also how it sort of worked in the team and the way we can allow for flexible working and stuff. And as it turns out, actually, a number of quite a lot of people in the audience came up after me said that's that's this is what we need, right?
We need people who are embracing this, as you said, like the word ally wasn't used, but that's kind of the thing, right, who are, again, pushing, promoting this and allowing, or really actively, yeah, making that happen in the business so that people do have that inclusion side. And that was actually a really nice surprise.
So I was actually feel very proud of the fact that we did quite a lot of stuff on that, but I think it was just very much in its infancy. And I think now it sounds like you're taking it to the next level as well, which is really cool.
[00:26:25] Alice McGowan: Well, I think, it's a brave soul that goes first, right? And we need more people like you, Tom, that are going first. it's scary. It's scary to put yourself out there, to share your story. and, and that story's then out there. That information is out there. You know, the whole, you know, it's never contained within you any longer.
And that can be a really scary transition to go. go through. I know somebody who, very, very bravely talked about sexual assault, that she had experienced, 20 years ago, never ever talked to anybody about it, and she came out and spoke about it last December when we, we were talking about domestic violence.
And it's a really scary journey to come out there, but we need people like that, those brave souls, to go out there and do that. The changes that you've seen now in AGCS through, leading through your example, we've extended maternity cover, from 14 weeks to 6 months. We issued a baby loss, policy firstly in the UK, it just, just that little bit easier.
but now that's been, implemented globally. we had a miscarriage awareness session, in May. So, and that's all off the back of those initial baby steps, like people like yourself and our other colleagues in AGCS. So, would I, would I like it to be faster? Absolutely. so when we get a dedicated team with exclusive funding, then I'm sure it will be, but at the moment we rely upon our passionate volunteers,
[00:28:08] TEC: Fair enough. That's, that's, that's amazing to hear. Alice, it sounds like you're doing some tremendous things there. I've got just one more question on a completely different topic, which I just asked to everyone, just around the sort of insurance market and stuff. And, I think maybe you've probably got the answer to this from, from the start of the, the chat.
But, as we, Well, maybe inevitably head towards a soft market, in insurance. What, what, what's, what's the sort of main things you think insurers, or main thing an insurer, an MGA reinsurer should be doing to, to combat that or, or prepare themselves?
[00:28:44] Alice McGowan: you say we're moving towards a soft market, but it does depend on the lob.
[00:28:48] TEC: It does, that's true, that's true.
[00:28:50] Alice McGowan: Okay. So some, some lobs might, you know, still be very much in a hard market and feeling it. And some might be in between and some are already at the soft market side. So I think, I would love to give you a really straightforward answer.
This is your approach, but in the complexity of the market that we operate in, particularly of all the social, economic and political change that we are going through, then you need to, I think, be probably a little bit more wider thinking in terms of your approach. Approach, definitely. and what does that mean?
I again, I go back to like, really got to understand, you know, what is your customer really asking for? and really have a, you know, a relationship with your customer so that you can meet their needs, but that they also understand your needs as well. You know, one of the challenges that the underwriters always say to us is, you know, we can't provide that data to Ops because we can't get it from the brokers.
So, you You know, we're, we're entirely dependent on them to give us that information. so that's absolutely crucial, relationships, listening, understanding where the trends are, appreciating, you know, particularly from the ESG perspective, you know, what's going to be happening over the next 24 months, the housing market, what's the US going to be doing? You know, you know, we've got a US. election coming up. We know we've got UK elections coming. It's going to have all within the next three years, it's going to have a significant impact on, on the way that we operate both in insurance. and across, across other industries that we also insure. So that is something to be very mindful of
[00:30:33] TEC: Makes a lot of sense, yeah. Yeah, absolutely, but...
[00:30:35] Alice McGowan: basically you've gotta come up with 101 different models, depending on which way we're gonna get.
[00:30:43] TEC: I think the, the key word heard again there was, it's like listening and just, just being aware, right? Just like having, like, there were so many things going on and, and having that understanding, pausing, thinking about it, listening to what's going on, listening to the people, that's, and then, and then sort of coming up with some strategy around it, but,
[00:31:00] Alice McGowan: Can I just mention one thing about claims as well? Like, I think one of the things that AGCS why they did so well during, the pandemic and Covid is that we were. We were very proactive, but we were also very reactionary when it came to the claims, you know, and that's what your customers care about.
They want that assurance. They want that reassurance that, you know, they are going to be supported. so, yeah, I think claims is absolutely crucial in getting that
[00:31:27] TEC: Yeah, I mean insurance is effectively the business of paying claims. That's, that's the absolute reason why they're here and helping businesses and individuals get back to where they need to to carry on their lives and their work. So yeah, couldn't agree more as well. Perfect. Well, that's us at time. that was amazing.
Thank you so much for, taking the time to come have a chat. It was really awesome. And, yeah, thank you very much. And it's lovely to catch up again.
[00:31:51] Alice McGowan: Thank you very much, Tom. Take care.
[00:31:55] TEC: That concludes another episode of Tech Talks. If you've enjoyed today's show and want to find out more about the topics discussed, head over to hyperexponential.com to gain access to a range of resources related to this episode. The link is in the description, and of course, wherever you're listening to the podcast, make sure you like, subscribe, and leave us a comment or review.
Thanks so much for joining us, and see you next time. Bye!