It was just yesterday that Lloyd’s of London released its blueprint outlining the future of the world’s oldest insurance market. The marketplace wants to progress and become reflective of the modern world that appeared to have left it behind – with plans outlined for a heightened focus on digital, data and technologies.
However, while Lloyd’s intentions may only just have made headline news the insurance industry has, in truth, been grappling with the WTF question for a decade or more – that’s “what’s the future?” for those of you wondering.
Whether it was the explosion of comparison websites, the switch to direct insurance that cuts out the agent and the broker, or the onset of AI and robo advice, insurance has been wrapped in a constant whirlwind of change. However, amid the storms – figuratively and literally if last year’s massive catastrophe losses are anything to go by – one thing has remained the same for the sector: the emphasis needs to be on its people.
“The best way to predict the future is to help to change it,” said Peter Cheese, CEO and president of the CIPD speaking at a Dive-In Festival event in London last week. “We all have agency and we have to hold on to those ideas very profoundly. There is a saying that there’s a changing nature of jobs – young people don’t just have a job for life they have a life of jobs. Our ability to think differently and open our minds by putting people first is crucial – maybe Gen Z should be mentoring us.”
Cheese explained that “if the only thing you are focused on is shareholder value then that’s wrong” – profits for shareholders are simply the outcome of everything else being right within your organisation. Instead, he suggested, it’s about “putting the human back into the heart of the business” as that will drive creation and innovation.
“From voice to empowerment to compassion – showing humanity at work is so important,” he said.
“The reality is that having a ton of rules is not the way to manage professionals. Instead you need to ask: ‘what is it that makes people trust?’ The most important ingredient in a business’s culture is trust.”
Cheese explained that employees will not speak up if they do not trust their employers – if they fear the consequences of offering a contrasting opinion. That, in turn, supresses their abilities and ultimately leads to them looking for employment elsewhere. It extends to their health and wellbeing too – people shouldn’t fear taking a day off work if they’re sick, instead wellbeing should be seen as an outcome of a successful business.
When it comes to the influx of artificial intelligence and automation, meanwhile, Cheese believes that it’s vital to put the idea of what makes “good work” at the forefront. He explains that automation, rather than being feared, has the potential to take away some of the mundane tasks that often weigh professionals in the insurance industry down. The task now is for companies to design jobs that are good for people around these other functions – ensuring everyone has a meaningful role. And that means asking people what really matters to them.
“If I care about the things they care about, they will care about the things I care about,” he said. “You cannot build a business without seeing these aspects as being absolutely critical to your strategy.”