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Can your underwriters make great leaders?

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Underwriters have a pressing need to change in order to have a seat at the senior table. They need to embrace the value of big data and recognise that underwriting is becoming less of an art and more of a science.

Traditional ways of working may still be valuable, but other disciplines in the modelling, financial and actuarial world are increasingly carrying out elements of the underwriter’s role.

Post-Brexit, underwriter leaders have five key things they need to do differently:

Thinking: in a complex environment, cause and effect relationships may not be evident. Underwriter Leaders need to generate multiple scenarios and recognise that there may not be one right answer. They need to be open to different ways of working and open to personal change

Leading: they need to engage their teams and create a collaborative, inclusive environment. Those who are used to working in a traditional market may feel even more threatened than those who are earlier in their careers

Relationships: they must continue to grow relationships and manage the tension between face to face and digital channels. They may need to put their customers’ needs above their own in the short term and be flexible. International business relationships may be under new pressure and strain, and Underwriter Leaders have to put themselves in the other person’s shoes

Commercial Mindset: Underwriter Leaders need to continue to increase their appetite for new business opportunities and be agile in responding. They need to maintain a keen eye on expenses and costs whilst scanning the environment for niches that others may miss. They should look outside the insurance industry to see how others are behaving

Innovating: whilst the UK and Europe may be preoccupied with Brexit and the ramifications, the rest of the world will continue to move at pace in developing new technologies that are already challenging the Lloyd’s market and are shifting underlying paradigms. Underwriter Leaders who take their eye off the ball may wake up once the Brexit dust has settled to find themselves left behind

What does it mean for HR leaders?

The challenges for HR are significant. It is well known that when uncertainty sets in, budgets are frozen or cut and leadership and development programmes are often seen as dispensable.

Now is the time that HR should act by:

  • Making explicit the crucial role of leadership in times of uncertainty – the political situation helps illustrate this
  • Getting even more closely involved in business issues and being seen as a true business advisor
  • Being ruthless about what kind of leadership is needed and being prepared to say so in order to get the right leaders in place
  • Finally, those HR leaders who are creative in finding ways to do more with less will be those who help their organisations ride out the storm

Kiddy is already working with organisations to help shape their post-Brexit leaders by:

  • Defining the behaviours that are needed to lead through uncertainty and change
  • Recrafting existing development initiatives to refocus on emerging issues and challenges
  • Delivering innovative, high impact programmes to help leaders prepare for specific, business-critical events

A core element of our work continues to be with senior HR populations to help them develop their skills in influencing leaders and partnering with the business.

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