Listening to all Voices

10th November 2023

Posted In: In Your Opinion

The world has always been unpredictable and the last few years have proven that both good and challenging times often appear from nowhere. The insurance industry is no different and since beginning my career in this field in 1993, I have seen all aspects of the business and the importance of adapting to change and listening to all voices.

Words: Sinéad Browne, COO, Arachas (part of Ardonagh Group)

I began my career on the insurance company side and have held a variety of roles from underwriting, distribution management, change management, strategy, COO and roles with P&L responsibility.  I have worked in companies from 500 staff to 5,000 staff and have worked in Ireland, Germany and the UK. My experience has thus been cross-functional and cross-country.

In my current role at Arachas, my primary objectives are to support the core Trading objectives of organic growth, acquisition integration and IT transformation.

Change Management 

In my role as Chief Operating Officer I am responsible for leading programme managers into a more cross-functional framework and supporting workflow. At Arachas it has become a key objective to introduce stronger project management of teams.

By fostering initiatives like the Change Function and the Change Committee, which has led to a more formalised prioritisation of change projects and more rigorous assessment as to the need and value creation of initiatives, we are able to function as an organisation.

The important aspect to note here is that optimal internal operating processes are the cornerstone of successful business strategies.

The insurance industry, like most, is subject to change and becoming adaptable means that sector leaders can minimise risk for employees and customers – reducing risk is, after all, at the core of what we do.

IT Transformation 

If the insurance industry actors are serious about meeting customer needs, there needs to be a focus on IT transformation.

It is undeniable that global events like the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated society and businesses towards a more web-based approach to customers but what will be significant in ensuring sustainable practices will involve business leaders turning their attention towards digitisation. Major events like the pandemic have probably seen the insurance industry become digitally adaptive ten years earlier than originally imagined.

The reality of this is streamlining and simplifying products and processes.

When an organisation takes the time to invest and rethink its business models, there is ample opportunity to enhance performance and efficiency, and protect the interests of both customers and employees.

With simplification comes accessibility and that is where an organisation like Arachas establishes itself as a market leader.

For me, I believe that there are some extremely interesting industry trends rooted in the digitisation process. I believe that we are going to see growing interest in the role of data when it comes to risk management. It will be important that we lean into technology and gain a better understanding of networks and tools such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. This will enable the insurance industry to be better prepared for challenges and will play a role in deterring loss events.

It is an absolute truth that data allows organisations to make informed decisions and it is something which is crucial to consider when we are pricing risk for insurance purposes.

As Chief Operating Officer, I am aware of the role of digitisation in building an organisation that is sustainable and my role seeks to ensure the operational capability of the company is robust and also drives transformation and change. The IT strategy at Arachas Ireland is something which I am delighted to be a part of and solidifies our reputation as an organisation that is future-facing.

Female Voices 

My experience in insurance has ingrained in me that listening to and engaging with other voices is the true driver of change and one of the key ways in which we can enact operating processes that are representative of both our internal and external stakeholders. I find this especially true when it comes to the role of the female voice in the sector.

The perceptions and traditions of an “old boys” network may deter many from seeking a career in insurance but there is hope – in my experience over 30 years this has diluted significantly.

While unconscious bias still exists, I believe that there is a genuine opportunity for women to overcome such challenges by being prepared to speak up, lean in and ensure those in your field are aware of your ambitions and abilities.

Most issues which women in business face are not exclusive to the insurance industry, for example, navigating the dual role of mother and businesswoman is something which society has somehow managed to enshroud in guilt. In this instance and many others, you should feel prepared to challenge the world around you to accept your situation and empower yourself through networks which support you.

With new diversity and inclusion structures, there is a growing focus on protecting the work-life balance for all those in the workplace.

It is clear to me that without representative voices, insurance companies cannot deliver a service that meets their consumers’ needs, satisfactory internal operations, effective digital transformation strategies or a sustainable business model that will weather the world.