Innovation is a top concern for insurance CEOs. But most are struggling to inspire and institute real, sustainable, growth-led innovation within their organizations. Here are five ideas to help insurance CEOs become innovation catalysts.
There is no doubt that innovation is a top concern for insurance CEOs. They know that their personal success depends on their ability to grow their shareholders’ – and customers’ – interests. In today’s market that means doing things differently than in the past.
It’s not surprising that, in our recent survey of insurance CEOs, around one-in-three said that innovation is a Top 3 agenda item; one-in-seven said it is their very top agenda item.
Yet few seem pleased with their progress to date. In fact, less than a quarter of insurance CEOs believe they are being ‘strategic’ about innovation. Two-fifths even admit that their organization’s innovation capabilities are ‘foundational’ or below.
This has led many CEOs to ask what they can personally do to catalyze innovation within their organizations. Most (according to our survey, 87 percent) are worried they may not be able to put enough time towards driving innovation. Few seem to know how to properly capture and respond to the needs of customers and front-line staff. The vast majority are not even sure where to start.
Here is what they do know: They know that driving innovation requires a change in culture. They know that their organizations need to become much more agile. And they know that they need to invest capital and resources if they hope to drive value from their innovation initiatives.
They also know that innovation is more than just smart branding and customer-facing apps. It is not something that can be mandated into the mindset or implemented through technology. Rather, it is unique to each organization (or, at least, it should be) and therefore each CEO needs to find their own unique way to catalyze innovation in their organization.
We often hear that innovation can only be successful when supported by the right tone at the top. But what exactly does that mean? What does it take to inspire innovation in the insurance sector and set the right ‘tone at the top’? What can CEOs personally do to become innovation catalysts?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rosaline Chow Koo, Founder and CEO of CXA Group, a startup benefits broker based in Singapore, to talk about leadership and driving innovation.
Over the past five years, starting with $5 million of savings and another $5 million of loans, Rosaline has created a benefits powerhouse (now valued at over USD$100 million) based on her experience working with traditional benefits organizations and talking to clients. Within a year, her team had built the platform, acquired Singapore's largest homegrown employee benefits broker, won 20 Fortune 500 clients away from the global incumbents and was voted one of the best vendors of the year. Now CXA has received $11 million in VC funding and are preparing to expand to 10 countries across Asia.
“I quickly realized that we weren’t solving our clients’ big pain points. We were selling them insurance, but we weren’t helping them solve their underlying employee and benefits challenges. There was a clear opportunity,” she notes.
Based on my discussion with Rosaline and our work with leading insurance organizations around the world, we identified five things that top CEOs in the sector are doing differently:
As with any transformative change, the direction and vision for innovation must come from the top. And, as the adage goes, actions speak louder than words. Insurance CEOs must therefore start by taking steps to own the innovation agenda. They must encourage and inspire those around them. And they must hold themselves personally responsible for solving their clients’ pain points. They must be visible champions of disruption.
Our work with CEOs across the insurance sector suggests that most recognize the challenge. It’s now time for CEOs to become innovation catalysts.
Read excerpts from our conversation with Rosaline Chow Koo, CEO and Founder of CXA Asia.
This article series provides insights into the exceptions of insurance CEO's for business growth and the challenges they face.