Group boss says QBE "a much more joined-up organisation now"

Group boss says QBE "a much more joined-up organisation now" | Insurance Business New Zealand

Group boss says QBE "a much more joined-up organisation now"

Six months after launching QBE Insurance Group’s strategic priorities in February, group chief executive Andrew Horton (pictured) believes the international insurer is already reaping the benefits.

The Sydney-headquartered group, when it issued the company’s half-year report, noted having gained “early momentum” across the following priorities: portfolio optimisation, sustainable growth, bringing the enterprise together, modernising the business, as well as QBE’s people and culture.

For instance, on bringing the enterprise together – a strategic priority led by Horton himself – the CEO highlighted: “We’ve made a lot of progress with new leadership networks and better communication across the organisation about what’s going on. We do pulse surveys, and a pulse survey of our staff shows that they feel better about the organisation than they did six months ago, which is a positive sign, but it can still be improved.

“We’re getting many more cross-business groups talking to each other, and therefore we are starting to leverage the expertise across the group… Bringing everybody together is going well, and it’s different from what we had before. There’s more sharing going on between the divisions than there was before. So, Todd, Sue, and Jason, who run the three divisions, they’re definitely talking to each other more.”

Read more: “We need to live it,” says group CEO on QBE’s new purpose

Horton was referring to North America chief executive Todd Jones, Australia Pacific CEO Sue Houghton, and international chief Jason Harris. QBE has a local presence in 27 countries.

“[The company] is seeing a much more joined-up organisation now,” Horton told Insurance Business during a one-on-one following the release of the firm’s first-half financial results. “So, people appreciate, ‘No, we’re not going to try and do the same thing three times in three different divisions’. And people do follow what leaders are doing. So, I see that as a positive thing… There is this coordination, and that’s filtering down through leadership into the rest of the organisation, which is great.”

Worthy of note is the fact that the three division bosses are part of an evenly split (excluding Horton) leadership team in terms of gender representation.

“I was fortunate to inherit an executive group that has me, five women, and five men,” declared Horton, whose camp is said to be the first insurer to sign up to the 40:40 Vision – an initiative led by Industry Super Fund HESTA that is aimed towards gender balance in executive leadership positions at ASX 200 listed companies. “So, it’s as balanced as it can be.”

In Horton’s view, “it’s a very positive boost to women in the organisation” to see more senior positions being filled by female executives as it incentivises them to envision that they can progress as well. Part of the “our people” strategic priority is to empower a sustainable and diverse pipeline of leaders at QBE. 

Read more: New QBE group chief Andrew Horton on his plans and focus

Moving forward, Horton is keen to turn the company’s strategic priorities into how QBE naturally operates.

“I want to stick with these priorities for a number of years,” said the group CEO when he sat down with Insurance Business, “because I think it’ll take us a while to get them to deliver as much as they can, and then they become business as usual. People will be used to them.

“So, they’ll be used to looking at how we optimise our portfolio and grow and so on. It’ll just become business as usual at some point, and at that point in time we retire one [strategic priority] and we create a new one.”

In the near term, however, Horton is also excited to see how the strategy will feed into QBE’s planning for 2023. He stated: “I think the excitement is, with all of the things we’ve done – on people, culture, modernising the organisation, and so on – how does that reflect in the ‘23 plan, and the delivery of the ‘23 plan?”

Horton, meanwhile, stressed that it’s all a team undertaking.

“We’ve allocated two executive members to each of the strategic priorities, and it is making a difference,” he said. “But it’s not just the executive membership or leadership; it’s the interest the rest of the organisation has in contributing to them and how we’re making progress.

“I’ve had a number of town halls when people ask me, ‘How do you know how well you’re going to do on the strategic priorities, Andrew?’ And I keep saying, ‘It’s not me, it’s all of you’.”