The insurance innovation imperative: Agile leadership and cultural transformation

Agile leadership and cultural change

“It’s not about having the best game plan, it’s about having a coach that knows which players to put in the field.” Stephen Hill, Globa Head of Innovation, KPMG in the US.

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Most insurance players recognize that employees represent their greatest potential source of new ideas. While many have tried to transform their culture to encourage innovation, our experience and research suggest this remains a sticky point for the insurance industry to overcome.

With half of our respondents saying that the greatest number of new ideas are currently generated by diverse working groups of cross-functional teams, it seems clear that insurers can drive enhanced innovation by creating a more collaborative culture. Easier said than done. Half of our respondents said their ability to break down internal silos is creating significant challenges to innovation.  

The industry is shifting, as insurance players recognize the value of experimentation, and where new ideas and skills are thoughtfully deployed. Sixty-one percent claim they actively encourage employees to experiment.

Agile leadership is required

“It seems obvious, agile and dedicated leadership can be a defining factor for success”, noted Mary Trussell, Global Insurance Innovation Lead Partner, KPMG in Canada, yet, just 11 percent say they have an executive team member (or group of members) responsible for innovation.  

We believe that innovation should be discussed at every Board meeting, however 47 percent say it is discussed just once a year, and 9 percent of respondents said it isn’t discussed at all.

“Our exerience suggests that innovative cultures tend to emerge when individuals feel a sense of ownership and control over the innovation process.” - Mark Spears, kpmg’s global head of people and change

Actions to consider

  • Identify pockets of innovation and effective models already working within your organization
  • Review your broader talent strategy. Focus on developing a diverse group of talented people in-house – include those with reputations for shaping new ideas, simplifying processes and helping drive change
  • Accept the need to experiment and make it core to your culture
  • Assign responsibility for innovation and support the role with appropriate resources, governance, and a mandate that is supported by the Board
  • Focus innovation efforts on strategically relevant capabilities, such as digitizing major processes
  • Encourage all levels within the organization to participate in innovation challenges and contests.

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