Attensi US General Manager joins expert panel at Insurance Innovators 2022
Following our award winning work with insurer Hiscox, Huw Newton-Hill, General Manager, Attensi US, joined an expert panel to discuss insurance industry challenges at the Insurance Innovators summit in the US.
During a wide-ranging Q&A, Newton-Hill offered his opinions on Covid-19’s impact on learning and development, ongoing recruitment and retention challenges, and how best to support employees in a hybrid working environment.
Watch the full discussion here: Insurance Innovators USA | Session Four: The future insurance workforce
How has the employee experience changed since the pandemic?
I was in London at the time, and we had very very strict lockdowns. But one thing we’ve seen across the board is this missed opportunity of learning through osmosis.
That’s something we talk about a lot with our clients. It’s those conversations at the water cooler. It’s hearing objection handling from a colleague next to you. It’s that two seconds of feedback at the end of a call, highlighting how you could have pitched slightly differently. We’re losing that now when people are working at home.
What we’ve seen is companies investing heavily in the talent development space in practical, experiential-based learning. That’s been quite exciting. Another area we’re working on is around the support for employees and ensuring that they feel engaged.
How should we support employees in this virtual, hybrid environment?
I think that’s a great question. I think it’s looping back to what I was saying around learning through osmosis. That’s a key area, and one of the stories I’ll tell you about is from our work with Hiscox Insurance.
I’ve never been an underwriter myself so I had to learn a lot about this industry. But I always hear that it is an art and not a science. You need to have gone through these experiences, made these decisions, seen what the results were, and then adjust.
What Hiscox has done to enable their underwriters to develop more quickly is to develop the world’s first underwriting simulator.
It’s a really exciting opportunity for underwriters to practice these decisions like they would be doing with their chief underwriting officer. But they’re doing it in a virtual, safe environment and learning through experience. We’ve seen that giving people this opportunity to practice in a safe environment builds confidence in all areas of the business.
What does the blended human and digital workforce look like at your company?
I’ve got two lenses on this.
Internally, what we’ve done, and this might be new technology to many in the room, or maybe not, is Unity. It’s a game development engine. And what we’ve done is built a layer on top of that – the no code or low code environment. It’s just amazing.
What we’ve done by doing that is unlocked the potential of game designers and game writers to bring fantastic experiences to our clients. I think it is about separating those skill sets. Our coders would be shocking at writing narrative and our game designers would be shocking at coding simulations. When you can separate those and get them into a position where they can use their skill sets, it’s really exciting.
The second thing I would say is digitize the ordinary and humanize the exceptional. I think when automating a lot of processes and simplifying, sometimes the human can feel disenfranchised in that situation. And I think we really need to help the humans in those interactions understand what’s expected of them, and then give them the skill sets and capabilities because oftentimes they get changed.
You used to do this manual process, now we want you to go and be the empathetic person who needs to go through this claim experience. Well, we need to give you the tools to do that as well. So I think there’s a lot of potential, but we also need to be conscious of the risks of automation.
What are the biggest challenges within the human and digital combination?
We assume that automating different processes and taking off the mundane work is what the workforce wants.
People want challenging tasks. They want to have to use their brain. We know that it will be empowering, but we forget that that’s a massive change for them. And we don’t go on that journey with them.
Part of what we do as a component is building those skills, building those capabilities in a safe environment. But there’s so much more that goes into that culture – the communication and the leadership strategies that can help embed that culture. I think that a big risk is alienating your existing workforce.
The new generations coming in have always communicated over virtual channels. They aren’t necessarily as good at relating to some of the broader generations or the broader employee base.
Lastly, investing in your people and nurturing their development will provide them with the motivation to help you achieve any type of business transformation.
What needs to be done to attract more digital and technological talent?
I think it’s a big communication point. There’s a lot of potential in the industry to make massive leaps and bounds and you can be part of that journey.
What we’re seeing is that companies are getting better at taking risk-based judgements. I think that’s been something really beneficial out of Covid – and that there’s not just this blanket ‘no’ to working from home, or having some data on a personal device or something like that.
One thing that’s really struck me being here today is really the purpose of the industry. I think that’s something that isn’t very well communicated. Your interactions with your insurers in your personal capacity can sometimes be quite transactional, and that’s what you see the industry as. Whereas actually, there’s this broader purpose that could be communicated, and I think a lot of people would get behind that.
How do you retain people in the insurance sector?
The coaching that we’re seeing being promoted by many organizations is about trying to understand the individual drivers and not saying here’s your roadmap, this is where you need to get to. It needs to start with what do you want to do? What are your motivations? How can we create a journey for you? And then getting people to take ownership of their own journey.
It’s really hard to do as a manager because you want to sit and you want to problem solve by asking what they are struggling with before explaining how you did it when you joined the industry 40 years ago. And that’s not what this generation wants.
They want to be able to craft their own journey and take on their own purpose. I think coaching is going to be a core skill to retain talent and it’s quite different from management.
A huge thank you to the Bank Customer Experience Summit in Chicago for having us and informing this article. And thank you to Stephen Griffin, Regions Bank; Clinton Cheng, Visa; Jonas Vernon Ng, Laurel Road/KeyBank; and Ashley Ross, Bank of America, for their commentary and discussion.