Choice and Background For this weeks DQ I have decided to address the 4 questions pertaining to my organization. I work at Nationwide Insurance in middle market underwriting. I lead a team of underwriters who review commercial businesses for acceptability and pricing. This is very much like home and auto insurance but for businesses. In some of the responses I will note the difference between personal insurance and commercial insurance. Who is your primary customer? In this question I think middle market insurance (larger commercial clients) differs from personal insurance and small commercial insurance. If I worked in our personal lines department I would likely answer the customer is the end user. However, in middle market insurance I would identify our main customer as our distribution partners, the insurance agent. Independent agencies may represent several insurance carriers. When they are selling insurance to a customer most of the time they chose one carrier to present to solicit or retain the customer. This is personal preference of each producer as some lay out several carriers to show a comparison. If the price for insurance is similar for several carriers the agent will often recommend a company they prefer to do business with. As a company we need to focus on our agency partners to determine how to best attract and present ourselves to them. By doing this we would be able to separate ourselves from the competition. What critical performance variables are you tracking? This question is very pertinent to me at this time as my team is currently completing year end reviews. In the reviews there are 3 sections with several sets of performance evaluations for each section. One of the sections is around financial results. There are several metrics with multiple scores in each metric. For example, one measure is around loss ratio, or profitability. Within the loss ratio there is a section for regional loss ratio as well as state loss ratio. The value for these is then averaged. It makes completing this difficult and does not give a clear defined strategic plan. I would like this to be simplified and shortened considerably. I would like to see 3 or 4 performance measures. I also think the goals should be more granular. I would incorporate state loss ratio, and drop the regional component. What strategic boundaries have you set? I like this performance measure because it affects underwriting in the terms of appetite. When I discuss appetite it refers to what we will write and what we will not write. I have used the example of a dynamite factory in the past. This is a high risk business and something standard insurance companies would not entertain. A retail clothing store is more on the lower hazard end of the spectrum and something most insurance companies would consider. When visiting with our agency partners the question regularly comes up, “What do you write?” Agents want to know when they are soliciting new clients what will fit in our appetite. I think my company has approached appetite in the past around what we will not write. The typical high hazard business we would not write but there were a lot of businesses in a gray area. An example of this gray area is local trucking companies such as sand and gravel haulers. They were not specifically on the list of not writing so we would often entertain some businesses we probably shouldn’t. I think our VP of underwriting who has been in the role for around 2 years has moved to the thought of defining what we will write and avoiding the rest. This gives us a clear defined appetite we can articulate to agencies when visiting them. It also enables us to cater toward these customers and customize loss control services, underwriting, and claims. The feedback has been positive around these boundaries. How committed are employees to helping each other? This is an interesting question because I think this is hit or miss depending on the unit or specific team. I think for the most part employees are proud of the organization and enjoy going to work. This is true in underwriting. My team seems to be committed and is very engaged. I was lucky to be assigned an engaged team. The people on my team are very tenured ranging from 10 years to 35 years with the company. I wish I could pat myself on the back and say this is because of me but I just took over for this team in April. One area I have focused on is building trust within my team. As pointed out in the article this is critical in innovation and improving efficiencies. I think my team has gained trust in me and the company which keeps their commitment to each other high. I also think a clear strategy for the state we underwrite will help commit employees.
DQ option number two selected. In terms of the order of operation the answer to this question should be a no-brainer. In the grand scheme in context of things our customers should come first. Stakeholder interests should come last leaving employees right in the middle of the equation. Common sense and experience has taught me otherwise. Without a doubt there are tremendous opportunities to be realized and milestones which are achievable by simply changing order of operation. In layman’s terms, take care the people that take care the people. Employees of the first and last line of the fence. They are the backbone of the operation. Select the right employees, train them, empower them, inspire them; then get out the way. The momentum of a persons commitment to your organization’s success carries more weight than a speeding locomotive. Interestingly, in the real world, a.k.a. my organization. Stakeholders come first, employees that last; leave and our customers someplace stuck in the middle. I need not say that it is a recipe for disaster. The mere ability to identify the necessity for strategic change and successfully champion such cultural organizational changes would dramatically increase our performance profitability and employee retention rate. As an organization we could potentially solve so many problems it almost leaves me speechless. Overall, our decision to turn things around or not is all predicated upon the same variable “Choice.” I thank you all for listening to me babble all semester long. I learned that in the midst of my complaining I have one of two choices actively assert myself and be the voice and reason of change or get out the way. Time to put my almost acquired EMBA to work. I couldn’t be more excited to demonstrate my newly acquired technical ability to orchestrate and lead strategic organizational change initiatives.
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