Skills recognized as priorities for training in insurance industry

SkillingIndia on July 18, 2012 Comments
Sandip Mallik, Director – HR, Aviva India


Must have skills in insurance sector – Financial Planning & Advisory and Risk Management

“We need to continuously invest in the skill development of every employee” – says Sandip Mallik

In an interview I read in the Harvard Business Review with Ranjay Gulati where he talked about how “Most companies with an inside-out perspective become attached to what they produce and sell and to their own organizations. In contrast, the outside-in perspective starts with the marketplace and delves deeply into the problems and questions customers are facing in their lives. It then looks for creative ways to combine its own capabilities with those of its suppliers and partners to address some of those problems. The goal is to bring value to customers in ways that are beneficial for them while also creating additional value for the company itself.” This is the starting point of where insurers need to invest in skill/capability development.

At Aviva this is called as outside-in approach and it is based on the Yellow Thread, which are the company’s global operating principles. The company knows it’s doing the right things when its customers say…

  1. You are reassuringly human: I feel like I am important to you. You treat me in a reassuringly human way by listening to me and treating me as an individual, not just a routine.
  2. You respect me:  You don’t waste my time and I feel that you recognize and appreciate that I have chosen to do business with you.
  3. You act in my best interests: You are on my side, you are flexible in how you deal with me and you are able to make exceptions when it is the right thing to do. It is not easy, but a pleasure to do business with you.
  4. You make complex simple: You share your expertise to help me make better choices. You make complex simple.
  5. You fix things brilliantly: If anything goes wrong, you take responsibility and do everything you can to fix it, brilliantly.

For customers to give these great testimonials and recommend Aviva as the best insurer my belief is that the OD function in every company must constantly focus on development of the knowledge, skills, ability and attitude that lead to these Yellow Thread outcomes. So what does it take to get there?

I think there are three skills that every insurer must invest in their employees …viz. financial planning & advisory, values and risk management.

Financial Planning & Advisory: Our goal is to have the best-trained, best-prepared employees and representatives in the industry. This includes basic capability to perform target market research, explore existing networks, and gain exposure to Aviva’s core products and services. This is done by thoroughly exploring our core products and services through briefings by experts in our sales and marketing work streams. New employees are required to demonstrate their understanding of Aviva’s products and services and work their way through in-depth client scenarios to help refine product-suitability, communications, and sales skills. As a company we believe that employees must understand and learn our origination and sales process; develop the skills needed to contact prospects and convert those contacts into business relationships.

At Aviva, we believe one of the best ways to learn is from experienced employees and advisors. Employees get many opportunities to work with leaders as mentors and career coaches who can share best practices and help develop financial planning and advisory skills. Employees must also have opportunities to meet and learn from many of leading experts through seminars, corporate training events and industry conferences.

Values: Just like Aviva, all insurers would want to build a high performance culture. However, to build sustainability of high performance an organization and its workforce must be highly adaptable, vision-guided, and values-driven; they need to care about their customers, and not just the shareholder; and that they are resilient. The big challenge before us as employers in a rapidly changing world is our capacity (both as an organization and as employees) to rapidly adjust to market conditions. Adaptive organizations grow faster than hierarchical, bureaucratic organizations have superior revenue growth. But adaptability is not enough as a capability or skill unless there is an inspiring vision that builds internal cohesion and keeps everyone heading in the same direction. The vision guides long-term decision-making. Thus, in a financial services company values must become the pillar of culture.

At Aviva, our values let everyone know what is important and provide guidance in making daily decisions. This is critical in every life stage of an employee and differentiates the best from the average. A high performance culture must be built by hiring and training employees in a shared value system that lives the Yellow Thread on a daily basis.

Risk Management: Aviva believes in embedding a risk culture in our workforce through a comprehensive program that consists of eLearning, classroom training and on-the-job experience gained through multiple rotations that provide an opportunity to work in real-life, real-time business environments. In these “Better Business Decisions” classes employees are taught principles of underwriting, portfolio management, capital deployment, product design and restructuring, risk analytics and regulatory aspects of risk management.

All insurance companies must design programs that extend this domain knowledge and understanding over the breadth and depth of financial risk management to each employee.  In particular, focus must be on techniques and methodologies employed in risk estimation and their strengths and weaknesses, including their relationship to regulation and capital. There must be a perfect balance of theory and practice as most employees would not be risk management professionals, but need to be well versed in taking better business decisions.

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