Covid-19 has accelerated the evolution of operating models in the (re)insurance sector and will serve as a springboard for the industry’s digital future, Aon’s Leonora Siccardi and Bob Olson tell The ReInsurer.

Bob Olson and Leonora Siccardi – Aon

Were there challenges in adapting operating models when Covid-19 began, and how were they overcome?

Over the past two years we have invested in designing and implementing the Aon Business Services operating model, with a focus on delivering the best service to our clients by leveraging the scale of our global operational, technology and shared capabilities in a united way.

This model enabled us to make and execute difficult decisions quickly in order to protect our clients and colleagues when faced with the pandemic – for instance, we acted immediately across the Aon Group to limit travel, to activate home working, and to switch to electronic trading.

While the operating model helped to mitigate the challenge, the successful outcome was equally due to our colleagues across the globe showing great resilience in these exceptional circumstances. Across the company, colleagues have put their clients’ needs first and used the Aon global operating infrastructure to achieve remarkable results.

Do you think Covid-19 has a positive impact on companies’ ability to adapt?

For many companies, the answer is yes – the recent experiences have shown that profound, positive change is achievable in a short space of time when companies are forced to act and focus their resources.

In terms of Aon’s experience, the pandemic has accelerated the need for us to solve for changes to the operating model that were perhaps in their infancy, and whilst this period has been challenging, there are long terms benefits to colleagues as well as positive lessons learnt that could have a lasting impact on our organisational culture.

We see the opportunity that change offers and are embracing what we term the ‘new better’ and in a united way.

Which business areas might be enhanced as a result of Covid-19?

There are three core areas that offer the potential for this ‘new better’: flexible working, productivity and innovation, and digital engagement with clients and carriers.

We see the current remote working practices as a springboard for increasingly effective digital engagement across the whole re/ insurance marketplace, but it’s critical that we continue to invest in our own digital trading and collaboration capabilities.

Through platforms like ABConnect Placements in reinsurance, and Aon Carrier Link in insurance, we are aiming to provide digital platforms that are both efficient and effective, as well as seamlessly blending with traditional trading practices to offer our clients the best outcomes.

How do you anticipate this will evolve?

There is no doubt that we need to spearhead the digital e-placing mandate in the market and be courageous in our development of enhanced system capabilities.

We recognise that technology is changing at a rate never seen before in our industry.

A key area of focus for us will be data and analytics platforms to share better insights; productivity enhancement via automation; virtual collaboration to benefit from scale and reach; and digital platforms to improve client experience.

Data and analytics is a fundamental differentiating factor for us and we continue to invest heavily in this area to support our clients with the best in class capabilities.

A terrific example of this is in our catastrophe management space, where we have developed a suite of interconnected products that touch the entire catastrophe management cycle, from data ingestion, to modelling and delivering results to our clients.

What aspects of the ‘lockdown’ operating model are here to stay?

The pandemic has acted as an accelerator for opportunities to be agile in areas that were considered impossible.

The seamless move to Work From Home (WFH) is a great example of that, which allows us to expand sourcing of our talent pool to locations beyond where Aon has offices and to still have, and enhance an inclusive work environment.

Connecting with clients on video conferencing/calling will become a norm going forward, as well as the trend towards digitalisation and optimisation of processing.

We believe the process of making these functions more efficient via digitalisation will free-up time for our colleagues to spend more engaging with clients to add value to our services.

The wellbeing of our colleagues remains a top priority, and no employee has to attend an office where they do not feel comfortable to do so.

Do you feel face-to-face communications still has a value?

There is no doubt face-to-face interaction is a fundamental part of our business. It still has a huge amount of value in building and maintaining personal relationships, whilst also supporting innovation and collaboration.

This is true whether that is broker to underwriter, broker to client or between colleagues.  

We will still see brokers going into Lloyd’s to ‘trade’. However, the process will be supplemented and supported by technology. 

We have known for some time that we need to look at ways to provide and manage our services electronically, resulting in a reduced need for documents to be physically walked around the market collecting ink stamps, for example.

That being said, in-person meetings will always be crucial to our business – we are a firm built on human capital, and an industry built on relationships and trust.