This article was produced in partnership with AXA XL
Mia Wallace of Insurance Business sat down with Elie Hanna, chief distribution officer, UK & Lloyd’s market, at AXA XL to discuss what the future holds for insurance talent
If there was ever a doubt that insurance is an inherently people-first business, it has surely been dispelled by the speed and alacrity with which the market has embraced a return to in-person events.
The last two years of COVID have been tough on everybody, despite how well the industry largely responded to the challenges of COVID, noted Elie Hanna (pictured), chief distribution officer, UK & Lloyd’s market at AXA XL. Being able to transition so rapidly to new ways of doing business and working without really disrupting service to the customer was a uniquely impressive stress test on teams, and looking back, he’s proud of how his team at AXA XL responded.
That being said, however, the power of face-to-face networking and relationship building has been undimmed by COVID, and its implications for allowing new talent to enter the profession and established talent to flourish are substantial.
For Hanna’s team as with so many others throughout the world, the focus in recent years has been on finding new dynamics to strengthen the sustainability of their portfolio and ensure the business is fit for the future. Being at the forefront of such changes put pressure on colleagues, he said, but now the business is aimed at the future and onto the exciting part – its ever-expanding growth strategy.
With all business lines in growth mode, people know where they stand and what they achieve both as part of the team and on an individual professional level. People are feeling excited about the future, he said, and are geared up to take advantage of the great opportunities ahead and capitalise on where the market is today and on the great momentum they are seeing.
It’s the right time for the business to grow and further position itself, Hanna said, and critical to that is defining and redefining the culture of AXA XL in the UK and what it is looking to achieve – and zeroing in on that people piece. What AXA XL does especially well, he noted, is it understands the way the market is evolving and what people want from the future of work.
“The talent market has not been easy recently,” he said. “And [when you speak] to brokers, it’s a big focus for many of them right now. I think as an industry, we need to look at the younger generation as we definitely have a gap in making [insurance and risk management] more attractive to the young talent that comes in.
“But in order to do that, we need to find the right tools to attract them, we need to tap into the exciting part of insurance and ensure that it’s well-spoken about. We don’t talk enough about how good insurance is to the economy, how it contributes to our economies and how it changes lives. I think by talking about that and how we play our part in doing that, we will attract more and more talent.”
At its essence, insurance has always been an interesting industry, he said, but in recent times and given the dramatic changes sweeping the risk landscape, it is a profession that offers more variety than ever. Those changes require new talent and new ways of looking at the world, and the rise of insurtechs and innovation entrepreneurs entering the industry reveals what individuals like Hanna have known for a long time – that insurance is something to be excited about.
“Once this talent has joined the industry, it’s the job of industry professionals to make sure they get the support required to grow, learn and innovate,” he said. “And the innovation that characterises [AXA XL]’s market offering and will continue to characterise it in coming years will not necessarily come just from the most senior leaders within the business but also the new joiners bringing a new perspective to the team… So I do think that as an industry, we have a big role in attracting new talent into the profession.”
Looking to the future of insurance, Hanna said he feels that insurance has reached a point where it is highly comparable with its peers elsewhere in financial services. In AXA XL alone, he highlighted that there has been a decided shift in the positioning of insurance as a service which is just there to pay a claim to one that creates a holistic overview of a client’s needs – and establishes the best way to meet these.
“[Our first aim] is looking at a client holistically, then the second is our move from ‘payer to partner’. We’re there to pay the claim because that’s what we do but we want to partner with the client and the broker in order to ensure that we have that service offering and that the client is able to cope with their continuously changing risk landscape.
“I think this is the part that makes insurance even more exciting for the new generation to join. Because they can play any role all the way up to paying the claim.”
The talent pool in insurance is a mixed bag, Hanna noted, in that you need people with expertise and you need new blood, and either way, it’s not always easy to find the right talent. AXA XL is in a great position in that it is a highly attractive place to work, he said, and so tends to attract the right talent but the wider industry needs to understand that an integral part of what makes it a great place to work is its ability to offer professions genuine variety in their working lives.
AXA XL runs a variety of internal events and thought leadership offerings dedicated to bringing together innovative individuals with ideas on how to do things differently. An example of this, he said, was its Broker Academy which launched last year and is aimed at broker partners with a few years under their belt who want to reach a leadership tier and be equipped with the skills to succeed once they get there.
“We created that programme after consulting with our broker partners, and it wasn’t only the brokers but also we had colleagues internally joining the programme as well,” he said. “[It was] all about asking, ‘how do you grow in this industry?’ And when the market comes together, it’s incredible to see what we can create.
“This year, we’re launching it again, as a market programme, beyond only brokers, and expanding it to other partners of ours. And that really tells you how much talent in the industry exists and how far we can all go.”
Elie Hanna has served as AXA XL’s chief distribution officer since July 2020. Previous credits include serving as AXA XL’s global head of broker management, before which he held a variety of senior leadership positions at AIG.