AXA XL on supporting the insurance sector through a period of transition

"How do we achieve this balance of technical skills, soft skills and ESG skills?" asks leader

AXA XL on supporting the insurance sector through a period of transition

Risk Management News


This article was provided by AXA XL.

The insurance industry is in a period of transition as it adapts to today’s geopolitical and socio-economic climate, new ways of working, new risks faced by our clients – and much more. Sandrine Girszyn (pictured), chief human resources officer for APAC & Europe, discusses the role risk experts play in helping AXA XL to adapt, and how agile learning and development programmes can help them to develop the skills needed to address the transition.

The world has gone through some big changes in the past few years; a pandemic, an ongoing war; economic turbulence and the urgent need to address the challenges of climate change. The world of work has changed too, with an increased emphasis on agile working and a real recognition of the need for work-life balance.

And our own industry of risk and insurance is changing too as we seek to address the changing needs of our clients, our own company’s evolution, and the ways in which our people want to work – and work best.

There are three main blocks of skills that our colleagues need to have, and to constantly be developing to be able to adapt to this changing environment. And we recognise the need to develop those skills through training, mentoring, and other learning and development activities.

The first category is technical skills. To continue to service our clients in the best way and to be true partners to them, AXA XL must remain a company based on expertise and technical skill. Our clients need us to understand their business and risks, underwrite them appropriately and, where valid, pay their claims.

To ensure that we can continue to maintain the very high levels of technical skills our colleagues already possess, and to continue to develop those skills, we have set up academies – for underwriting and claims, among other skillsets.

For example, a key skill for cyber underwriters is the ability to stay on top of the latest cyber-attacks, understanding vulnerabilities and the tactics used by hackers.

Cyber underwriters also need to be thought leaders and need to be taking part in industry conferences and events while also regularly leading client and broker meetings to help drive an understanding of cyber risk. Not only that, they also need to be able to demonstrate their technical knowledge in internal roundtable discussions about risk assessment as well as provide mentorship and leadership to peers. That’s why we invest in continuous training for our cyber underwriters and are in the process of establishing an internal cyber academy.

But we know that technical skills alone are not enough in an industry where relationships play such a vital role. ‘Softer’ skills are incredibly important to help our colleagues adapt to situations, to adjust their own behaviours and understand the behaviours of others where necessary. We need to help our colleagues develop these soft skills, to be flexible and resilient in the face of the different situations and able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, clients and colleagues alike.

Thirdly, there is an increased focus from all stakeholders on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) cultures. Our colleagues want to work for a company that has a strong ESG ethos at its heart, our clients want to deal with a company that walks the walk on ESG, and our shareholders require it too. This is one of the reasons that AXA set up the AXA Climate Academy; to raise awareness of climate issues, to build a common language, and to help us to innovate. By 2023, all AXA employees will receive climate-change training.

Striking a balance

So how do we achieve this balance of technical skills, soft skills and ESG skills – and how do we keep our colleagues, at every level, on a track of continuous development in these three areas?

There are two types of colleagues we need to back our skills training, and to role model and embody the skills that we want all colleagues to possess; those are senior leaders and immediate line managers.  To this end, we have various training programmes for our senior leadership and for managers – intended both to help them face today’s challenges and to equip them to support their teams on this journey too.

Embracing the change

There’s always some resistance to change, that’s human nature. To help our colleagues to understand why some of the changes we are going through are necessary, we need to clearly articulate what the change is for. What do we want to achieve? Where do we want our company to go? What are the benefits– both for our clients but also for them.

To put it simply, if we can employ technical skills, soft skills and ESG skills in our underwriting and claims activities, we achieve better outcomes for our clients – and that, ultimately means better outcomes for all of us.

Naturally, when we recruit new colleagues, we look to see what combination of these three skillsets they possess and exhibit. We look at both what they can do and how they do it. But beyond that, we also turn this lens to how we assess colleagues on an ongoing basis. We are all learning and adapting - all the time.

This need for continual developments means that we – as an HR function and as AXA XL – cannot stand still. A programme that feels relevant for today, might not be tomorrow. We cannot simply decide how we think things should be done and then sit back. We are constantly testing and adapting. We use a test-small approach to enable us to be agile too and we are flexible in the way we use and adapt those learnings.

To ensure we are delivering training that meets everyone’s needs we take a tool kit approach and seek feedback.  

Looking to the future, as a company we must be courageous; we have the opportunity to grow our business and our skill sets. Every colleague has a part to play, and by valuing a combination of technical and more ‘human’ skills we know we can achieve our ambitions together.

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