Can sports professionals help the insurance industry innovate?

"We're talking about what athletes can offer"

Can sports professionals help the insurance industry innovate?

Insurance News

By Daniel Wood

The Dive In Festival, the insurance industry’s annual worldwide celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is wrapping up. On Thursday, global brokerage WTW is streaming a webinar panel looking at how industry innovation and diversity can be furthered by employing current and former professional athletes.

One of the panellists is Sam Menegola (pictured above), a WTW account executive who recently retired as an Aussie rules football player for the Geelong Cats. Melbourne-based Menegola gave Insurance Business a preview of what to expect during Thursday’s panel discussion.

“We’re talking about what athletes can offer in terms of innovation and high performance in corporate environments settings,” he said.

Another subtopic of interest, said Menegola, is how recruiting more former and current athletes would not only diversify the industry’s talent but could help ease the talent crunch.

Dive In is traditionally associated with promoting inclusive and diverse workplace cultures, including, for example, addressing issues impacting the industry’s LGBT community. IB asked Menegola how he sees this sports-focused panel connecting with Dive In?

“I think one of the Dive In Festival objectives is understanding and learning from the experiences of a variety of people with diverse backgrounds and I think athletes certainly come from diverse backgrounds,” he said.

Aussie rules learnings and insurance brokering

Menegola said elite sport offers the chance to “really develop” skills that can be applied to “whatever you do after your sport.”

However, he said a corporate environment definitely presents new challenges and opportunities together with “a massive set of skills that you have to go and develop.”

“Those characteristics and lessons you learned through elite sport give you a really good platform to attack those challenges and opportunities that you’re going to face in a corporate setting,” said Menegola.

He said professional sport taught him a work ethic, the ability to be uncomfortable and be OK with that, how to cope with failure and how to deal with feedback.

“They’re all themes of a career in elite sport that I think translate well to pursuing a successful career in a corporate environment,” said Menegola.

Performing under pressure

IB asked if the ability to perform under pressure is a key learning from his professional sports career?

“Yes, definitely,” said Menegola. “Operating in high pressure situations is clearly one of the big-ticket items for elite athletes and a lot of what I’ve learned about over the journey is about executing the fundamental aspects of whatever performance is for you, no matter how much pressure is on you.”

He said performing under pressure in a sport and business is not about how good you are in the moment.

“It’s the work that you’ve done to prepare yourself before that moment,” said Menegola. “That’s a great example of the learnings that you go through as an athlete and I think they’re applicable to any situation you might face in a corporate setting.”

He gave an example from his sporting career.

“At the beginning of my time at Geelong, personally and collectively, we had some really big failures in really big games,” Menegola said. “We had some finals where we played really poorly and they’re really tough to go through.”

However, he said lots of work during his eight-year career paid off.

“We put a lot of work in and I think if you look at the journey over my time in the game, individually and collectively, like our performance in finals, we definitely improved,” said Menegola.

For example, towards the beginning of that journey, there was the first qualifying final in 2017.

“We had a really poor game and were really disappointed with the way we played,” he said. “We’d finished in the top four so we had the double chance and with that a real weight of expectation on that game.”

But Geelong lost and went into a semifinal with the prospect of losing that and being out of the finals altogether.

“We had to really realign our team and performance back to where we wanted it in that week between those games,” said Menegola. “We were able to do that and perform really well the next week.”

Are you taking part in the Dive In Festival? What have you enjoyed most?

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