A veteran in the insurance claims process, Chubb executive Steve Parry is taking over a new role this year. After serving as claims director for UK and Ireland from 2012 to 2016, he is now stepping up to the position of director of claims in Europe and Eurasia & Africa.
“It is an honour and a privilege to lead our claims operation across our two business regions,” Parry told Insurance Business. “Further building a claims operation that makes good on our brand promise to deliver superior service to customers is my key goal for the year.”
As he takes on a much bigger job, the newly promoted executive reflects on his career to date. It has been three decades since Parry got into insurance, which he said did not happen by accident. He narrates that after finishing school, he immediately applied for jobs in several sectors. But insurance, particularly, stood out for him right away.
“I found the human element that insurance has, the difference it can make to people’s lives and the direct contact with customers fascinating,” he said. “I started out in claims and I am still here 30 years after, still excited about what the industry has to offer. You can say it’s not just career but rather a life-long passion.”
In this interview, Parry shares his most notable experiences in the industry, his insights on the future of claims, and some life lessons and advice to new insurance professionals.
In your 30 years in the industry, what are the key changes that you’ve seen in the claims process?
Insurance is a service industry. Above everything else, we provide service to our customers. The fact that the industry is realising that, that customers have become much more central to the claims process and are demanding a bespoke, efficient and transparent claims experience from insurers is a very important change. Also, for years the industry was not particularly successful in embracing the capabilities that new technologies and big data offer. I am pleased that, as an industry, we are becoming better at using technology to improve the service we offer to our customers. At Chubb, using the power of innovation and big data is one of our key strategic priorities and I am proud of the progress we’ve made.
What personal or career milestone are you most proud of?
Coordinating our response to the cat losses from the Japan tsunami, the New Zealand earthquake and the Thai Floods back in 2011-2012, has certainly been a milestone for me. I had the chance to work on the spot, coordinating local teams and ensuring that, in what was a very challenging time, our customers received the highest standards of service. I am pleased that the feedback we received was very positive.
For the past year, we are in the process of building a new claims team for Chubb in Europe and developing a new service culture and focus. This is a fascinating team challenge and one that, a year after, has given us the chance to evolve as professionals, learn, and affect real change in the business.
What has been your most unusual experience while performing your work?
I once visited a factory where an employee had slipped on a puddle of oil and hurt himself, to examine how the accident happened and what measures could be taken to avoid accidents like this happening in the future. I am sorry to say that I slipped on the same puddle of oil and was also hurt! A true Mr Bean moment.
The future of insurance claims – a Japanese insurer recently made headlines after replacing its claims staff with an AI system. Do you think robots will eventually replace insurance workers?
Digital capabilities and robotics give customers more choice. They also allow us to do less repeated processes and focus on the strategic part of our work and customers’ needs. Thanks to digital, we can now allocate our resources more efficiently and with higher effectiveness. However, I do not think that advances in technology will ever replace the very strong human element in insurance and particularly in claims.
If there’s one change you’d like the industry regulators to make that would positively affect insurers, what would it be?
Develop uniform service delivery metrics, collect the results from insurers and then give the chance to consumers to decide, at the point of sale, whether they want to spend extra on a higher-cost, higher service-standard insurance provider or not. This would help further embed a culture of service and transparency across the industry and give consumers real choice.
Who is your role model/hero and why?
I would have to name two. Richard Branson for his extraordinary ability to be authentic, a very successful businessman, create his own personal brand that is recognisable around the world, and doing things for the wider good of humanity and the advance of science that go beyond his narrow business interests. And Serena Williams for her sheer determination, tenacity, and her willingness to go against stereotypes and obsession with image.
What’s the best life lesson you’ve learnt?
Be yourself always. Be authentic.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Working in a service industry, this is particularly true.
What do you do outside the industry?
Ι have a young, sports-mad family. Taking my kids from one sports event to the next takes up quite a lot of my time!
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in insurance, I would be…
Building my own house. I come from a family of builders, so I guess that building, the joy of creating something with your own hands is in my DNA.
If you were Prime Minister for one day, what would you do?
I am not sure you can achieve too much in one day. However, I would try to establish a simply, fully transparent and hopefully fair tax system that could fit in a page.
What advice can you give to newbie insurance professionals?
Never forget that this is a service industry. Never forget the strong human factor in everything we do. Insurance is at the very heart of our economic system, our way of life. It allows companies to grow and invest, people to travel safely, comfortably retire and be healthy. It’s diverse and exciting. Be proud of working in insurance.