Donna Walker talks business, big mergers and what changes brokers can expect to see from a post-Lumley CGU.
by James Chalmers
Insurance & Risk Professional: You’ve been in the role of for about a year now, during a very significant period for IAG. What has the main theme for you been?
Donna Walker: I think for us, and for me personally, it’s been a year of great change. Over the last 12 months, we have brought the CGU and Lumley business together, and that has required us to think quite differently, to think about what it means to bring two very successful businesses together in their own right, and think about how we take that forward to market.
If I think about that, we have done so many things over the last 12 months. We have looked at our products and our terms of trade. We’ve brought our product wordings together. We’ve created new products, taking the best of both the CGU and the Lumley proposition. And we’ve brought together a large amount of people, not just in terms of locations but also in terms of system and culture.
IRP: Can you shed any more light on what will become of the Lumley brand, and what are the timeframes?
DW: In October last year, we announced that in my space, the brand that we would use to go forward was CGU. And 1 July was a big day, when the first of the old Lumley policies renewed onto CGU scripts.
At the time we made the announcement, we’d talked about how we might like to reposition the Lumley brand within our agency business, and we’re still working through what that might look like. The Lumley Warranty Retail brand is still in the market, and again we’ve been quite considered in how we best position that brand. We have adopted a very disciplined and considered approach. We haven’t rushed to do things, because we want to make sure that we look at things from all angles. Even the integration, or the transfer of Lumley policies into CGU, that’s been a year in the making, with a very disciplined and considered focus.
We’re not going to be driven by timeframes to make decisions. We want to actually really get this right, because the brands are valuable in their own right.
IRP: During that transition time, how did you manage the challenge of other insurers looking to pick off clients while CGU is perhaps a little distracted?
DW: It’s full credit to our people that they stayed externally focused. The feedback that I’ve had from brokers is that we have been absolutely on the ball and focused externally, despite some of the changes that were happening internally. Again, it’s our people who are absolutely sensational. It’s our people who actually make that true.
IRP: The acquisition has given you a market-leading position. But you’ve spoken about a desire to be thought-leaders as well. How might that manifest?
DW: If we think about the broader environment, what does it mean to be a market leader? As part of IAG, we have the opportunities to invest heavily in things like data analytics and innovation. We all live in a world that is incredibly fast-moving, where consumer behaviors are changing daily. The world is moving incredibly fast. As a market leader we need to continue to invest in understanding the broader environment in which we work.
It comes down to thinking about global trends, thinking about things that are happening beyond our industry, and then bringing them back into our own data and our own understanding. We need to create insights that we can then take to our brokers as our partners, and help them actually
ensure that their business continues to thrive, and that value of advice continues to be a strong proposition. In a world that is increasingly becoming faster and more reliant on digital technology. As market leader we need to continue to work to be active in that space.
IRP: Do you think the industry as a whole and the products it offers are keeping pace with changes in the world and way people do business?
DW: I think it continues to evolve. It’s interesting the debate happening out there in the broader industry at the moment about Uber and how to insure it. If you think about the fact the largest accommodation company in the world is AirBnB, where does that fit in in traditional insurance products?
I think as an industry we have a responsibility to continue to debate these issues, think about the products and services that we provide.
One of our key focuses at CGU is that it’s not just about insurable products, but it’s actually about understanding risk.
The frame is: How do we understand risk? How do we manage it? Then what are the insurance products that might be needed, as part of one of a series of mitigation strategies to understand that? Can we do more? Can we go faster? Absolutely, we can. I don’t think we’re standing still in that space, I think we are continuing to think about it and drive that forward.
IRP: Speaking of risk, how do you think your actuary background affects your mindset when approaching these issues? Or your claims management background?
DW: I think all your experiences add to your perspective on what you bring to any particular role. I’m very fortunate that I have that actuarial background.
I think what it teaches you is to think about things from different perspectives and take a holistic approach, to not go too narrow or too quickly.
I would also say the same thing from understanding claims. It teaches you about the things that are really important to customers. Insurance at the end of the day is a people business and we help real people.
We support businesses to thrive and be successful, and so being able to think about things from a number of different angles is just so important, to me individually, and I think to us more broadly as an industry.
IRP: A recent report found that, of all the financial services sectors, insurance is the least attractive for young women. Do you have any thoughts on why that might be the case?
DW: I think there’s so much more we can do for an insurance industry more generally. I think whoever you talk to, male or female, they fall into the insurance industry. We have a lot of work to do as an industry to actually ensure that we get the best and the brightest talent into this industry.
That’s a large-scale exercise for us as an industry, and it’s independent of age, race or sexual orientation. What we want is the best and the brightest of talent.
Having said that though, I think you come back to the fact that more than 50% of the successful graduates from universities are women.
If they’re the best and brightest of our next generation of leaders coming through, we should expect to get at least 50% men and women coming through into our industry.
Insurance has traditionally been seen as a male-oriented industry. I think it is changing, and there are some pretty fabulous women out there. We need to continue to push that, and we need to challenge our own biases about what normal looks like. Whether that’s, again, through age, race, gender, sexual orientation, all of those things we need to challenge ourselves about. Not just who we might traditionally see as an insurance person, but who has the right talent. Who, most importantly of all, will bring that diversity of thought to the table. That’s what we need as an industry.
IRP: As someone in your position, how do you challenge those conceptions?
DW: One of the things that I do both in my role as Diversity and Inclusion Action Group chair for IAG and that’s about challenging the status quo. As we went through the recent restructure with the broader IAG group, we thought about who were the right people for roles.
It’s actually about having a question set and asking: “Who is the person who is going to challenge me most? Who is the person who will think outside the square? Who is the person who thinks most like me? Who is the person who thinks quite differently from me? Who is the person who is actually going to make sure that we’ve covered the risks?”
You have to challenge yourself when you look at teams of people, to make sure that you have differences of perspective. It’s all in literature, it’s in all the research: the more diverse opinions we have when it comes to decision-making, the better our decisions will be.
IRP: From your perspective, what are the main changes that you think brokers will be able to notice from CGU over the next 12 months?
DW: Brokers will find it easier to deal with us. They would have seen it over the past few months and that then will continue as we go forward.
They will see better products and services, again as we bed down that model. Our thinking about bringing CGU and Lumley together has not stopped. We are continually thinking about how do we create service propositions that allow brokers to have a choice of how they want to deal with us? We’re going to continue to evolve those service models, with local people, local knowledge, and local expertise. We’re also giving brokers more choice about how they might want to interact with us, whether it’s via phone, face-to-face or online.
We’re going to continue to evolve those service models, and brokers will hear us talking more about that as we go through. They’ll also see us more focused again on that broader risk idea, and actually how do we help them bring those insights and analytics that we’re picking up through understanding our data better. We’ll be bringing those more strongly to the table to actually support the propositions for our brokers.
They’ll also see CGU making very deliberate decisions about where we want to play and we want to support them in their business and in their growth.