QBE Insurance has restructured its activities over the past few years and at the same time woven the fabric of a global organization with a strong, cohesive culture.
A good corporate culture helps to create good financial results. Therefore, the CEO must spend his or her time painting a picture of how "good" looks with culture and strategy. Everyone then goes the same way, Pat Regan, QBE & # 39; s chief executive officer, confirmed.
"We did a lot of work in the guts of the organization, but it was really important to bring our culture to life, so people felt that we had both heart and head," said Regan.
When he took up the role in January 2018, one of Regan's top priorities was to sit down with his management team and determine the culture "we wanted for the company and how we should bring it to life."
"Whether you're doing business, whether you play a team sport, the team's cultural organization is all, really, of course, our strategies are important, but they're not as important as the structure of the organization's culture. get, "he said in an interview with Carrier Management.
As CEO, Regan wants to shape and perpetuate the QBE culture by being role model no. 1 for the cultural characteristics of the QBE-DNA program that were rolled out earlier this year. "If I do not role model [cultural attributes]we do not have a chance to make it, "he emphasized.
While Regan and his team developed the QBE DNA program, the team came up with the idea to use "modern, contemporary language" with hashtags, which Regan admitted originally opposed. "Of course that was the thing that really started," he laughed.
QBE Group CEO Pat Regan
Pat Regan and his team developed seven cultural attributes, using hashtags, to help QBE's global teams anchor the corporate culture. The characteristics are: 1. We are customer-oriented (#OutsideIn); 2. We are technical experts (#KnowYourStuff); 3. We are diverse (#MixItUp); 4. We are fast (#RampItUp); 5. We are courageous (#DoTheRightThing); 6. We are responsible (#OwnItNow); and 7. We are a team (# Together).
Indeed, Regan said the program was embraced by QBE employees who bring it to life daily by regularly adding one or more of the cultural features to internal communication or to their internal e-mails. "Actually, I did not have to push too much or spend a lot of time encouraging the team because people really like it, I roll the model, my team role models, and it's got through the whole group."
Regan wants to create a business environment where his colleagues are comfortable (courageously) to tell him when he is not involved in modeling the QBE DNA and he is comfortable (courageous) enough to hear it . During the summer he filmed a video in which people were asked to call him when he is not a role in modeling the cultures.
"I can easily tell people when they do not live in culture, do they, but I also need to know when I do not roll them in. And when I'm not, people have to tell me, if I can do that, my team do that, and their teams can do that, then we can make something special, "he emphasized.
"If we get that, we can create a kind esprit d & # 39; corps in QBE. That would be great. That would be ten times more important than anything I could talk about. & # 39;
As a result of all his efforts to build up the corporate culture, Regan admitted spending more time on culture than on the business strategy of the company, which has been developed and which is well endorsed.
QBE started a program to restructure its operations after reporting a loss of $ 254 million for 2013 and subsequently seeing poor results in some of its regions & # 39; s and product lines that lowered overall group profitability. In 2017, the company reported an after-tax loss of $ 1.25 billion on unprecedented natural catastrophe claims.
"We have had too many surprises in our results, we have achieved good results in our results, very good things, but they have been overshadowed by unexpected surprises.We did not have anything unexpected in this year's half year results, so that's where we have to consistently repeat, "he noted.
"We must continue to set realistic expectations and then meet those expectations in a repeatable, high-quality way."
Regan said he wants the company to "deliver a reproducible double-digit return on equity for our shareholders, which is important."
"We have to focus on the areas where we are really excellent and that make it more reproducible and consistent, whether it is in the way we emerge for our customers, how we use our capital, how we take risks or how we making money, "Regan confirmed.
As a result of the re-back and restructuring program, QBE concluded that there are certain parts of the world where the business environment is too difficult or the company does not have enough of a presence on the market to make a profit. "Some of the companies were a bit too small and to grow, you end up trying to write some of the more difficult, often unprofitable things," he continued.
"So we left it and we did it pretty quickly, and when you do that kind of thing, it's important to start and finish pretty quickly," said Regan.
Since January, when Regan became CEO, QBE has sold its operations in Latin America to Zurich Insurance for $ 409 million, sold its underperforming business in Thailand and started to leave North American personal lines. The company also announced in August that it has sold its personal insurance-independent agencies in 47 states to Safeco Insurance, a division of Liberty Mutual. During the first half of the year, QBE also carried out a transfer of the loss portfolio to end its compensation work for construction workers in Hong Kong.
"For all our other activities, we think we are really good at it, or we have a realistic plan to become really good at it," he emphasized.
One of the core strategies of the company is the "Brilliant Basics" program, which was first piloted in 2016 and rolled out throughout the company this year. The program aims to provide the team with all the tools they need to improve acceptance quality, pricing and claims handling for every market in which the company operates and for every product that it endorses.
In order to tackle the deterioration of the insurance technical performance, QBE has also implemented an extensive recovery plan with specific actions for each of its business cells or portfolios. These cell reviews started in the second half of 2016 and continued throughout 2017 and until 2018. Regan described the process of cell review as a routine for performance management that is now fully established in the group, with more than 300 assessments of cells being completed in the four departments involving more than 100 cells worldwide.
"In cell reviews, we'll write it again, which is where we discuss the individual steps to redefine to achieve the target performance, hopefully using the Brilliant Basics techniques," he said.
"We do it personally for each portfolio, and the task of the teams is to steer their strategy, current performance and the actions they will take to drive future performance, which is not particularly revolutionary," he said. (Cell reviews are led by the cell owner and include all aspects of the business, including acceptance, pricing and claims.) During the discussions, Regan is accompanied by members of his senior executive team).
Regan explained that the process helps focus insurers' attention on achieving their goals because when they come back for the next cell review and their goals do not live up to expectations, "we'll talk about why or what actions we need to take. "
"The beauty of the cell review is that the divisions do much more detailed, because they want to make sure they're all over this stuff before I turn up," he said with a grin.
It is during this first process, which is carried out locally by the divisions, when in-depth questions are asked and frequently little corrective actions are taken, Regan continued. "They reprocess where we have to and grow where we can do."
By the time Regan participates in the cell review, he said, the insurers have probably gone through the process twice before, and "the questions from me are actually quite simple, because they have already thought of all the right questions and answers."
It was such a rethinking review, which led to the company having left its unprofitable corporate staff for large construction projects in Hong Kong, Regan said.
The pricing was "wafer-thin" for large construction projects, such as a new runway or an underground, which also required a high level of advanced risk assessment, Regan explained. "The basic pricing of that sector was so far that it was impossible to participate in the company."
By developing strong business and cultural foundations, the company will then be able to move from a bit too internally focused and have more time for product development, to be able to meet the challenges of innovation and disruption, and to be more customer-oriented. centered, he continued.
From CFO to CEO
Regan joined QBE as a CFO group in 2014 and was appointed CEO of Australia and New Zealand in August 2016. Before joining QBE, he was the CFO at Aviva in London (2010-2014), chief operating officer of the group and CFO at Willis Group Holdings (2006-2010), financial controller of the group at Royal & Sun Alliance (2004 -2006), and the Director of Finance and Claims of AXA SA for the British General Insurance activities (2001-2004). He held various positions at General Electric Co. between 1998 and 2001, including controller, global consumer finance (Stamford, Conn.) and U.K. controller, GE Capital Bank.
When asked what he thinks are the most important qualities for a CEO, Regan said his view on that probably changed over time. "It's interesting when you grow up in your career, things that you're naturally good at are becoming less and less important: you're no longer an individual contributor to a team, you've become the team leader, so a different set of skills is required. "
"Whether you have the most perfect strategic plan in the world, it does not really matter that much, it has to be somewhat suitable for the goal, but more important is to create a real team spirit, a clear direction for the team and then everyone in the same direction, "he said. "If you can do that, you can move mountains, and then you will follow up with really good communication about what you do well, what you do not do well, while you keep people next to you and are therefore motivated." It is extremely important. "
He said indeed that attracting, attracting, motivating and retaining the right talent in the team is also extremely important, especially in organizations with offices around the world.
This awareness came to him for the first time when he became a team leader at GE Capital early in his career. "Suddenly I had a team and the fact that I was an individual employee was not important, managing the team was important, as was coaching and providing good development feedback, which I had never done before."
He worked for GE in Stamford, Connecticut, and he realized that 90 percent of his team was spread all over the world, from Dublin to Budapest, from Tokyo to Sydney. And with an aggressive program of mergers and acquisitions, the team continued to expand.
Make an image of how & # 39; well & # 39; looks like
"I realized that I had to sketch a picture for the team of what & # 39; good & # 39; looks like and spent a lot of time getting the right person to lead the financial teams in those places around the world, & # 39, Regan remembered.
In his current role as CEO, Regan finds it much less detailed than his CFO roles. "You have to pull out the details almost visible, it's my job to make a canvas, to give a very broad picture of what we're trying to achieve," he said.
"And then I put people around me who are much better in their individual job than I would be, and I empower them to do their job," Regan confirmed. "We spend a lot of time developing the right framework to make sure we do what we have to do, and then we get really good people to do it, and I make sure everything goes according to plan. & # 39;
When he took on the role of CEO at QBE, he spoke with a few other experienced CEOs who were really successful to get their advice. A CEO advised Regan not only to spend his time on the traditional activities of developing strategy, capital allocations and anticipating future trends, but also on quality one-on-one with the people who are really important to you, such as the board members and your team. "The payback period is disproportionate," the CEO told Regan.
"Sometimes it's hard to do that because they're in different places, and sometimes it feels like if I talk to them, it will not help getting something done today," said Regan. "But it was such a good advice, there is a lot going on, first I get an insight into what you're trying to do and I almost always learn something that I did not think about. & # 39;
Regan said that these conversations are conducted with people throughout the company, not just with the leadership team. He remembered spending a few hours last afternoon with a woman working on the Brilliant Basics agenda. "It was great to listen to her because she knew a hundred times more about it than I. It was just great to hear. & # 39;
Regan said he has a very capable development coach, skilled in the sense that he does not always agree with what Regan says. The coach asked Regan: "Why do you do what you do? Why do you come in? What motivates you to do it?" Regan remarked: "Just thinking about that question is such a good exercise."
So, what answer did Regan encounter? "I think the most important thing for me is to try and make the company as good as possible, in all its facets, so we are successful, so we make money, so our shareholders feel good, but it feels like a good place to work, probably those things. "
Of course, QBE has to take care of its customers, but it's also important to give people the feeling that it's fun to work here, to make them feel like they're part of a winning team, that we're doing something right.
This article appeared for the first time Insurance Diary & # 39;sister publication, Carrier Management.