COVID Chronicles: Adapting to a New Normal with Steven Jones, GC Genesis Client Services Lead, Guy Carpenter

Digital Transformation, Insurance Industry News & Views - June 24 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on every facet of our lives – and it’s likely that we will be dealing with the aftereffects of COVID-19 for some time to come. With some countries and US states taking their first steps toward opening up their economies, we wanted to know how the insurance industry is rising to the challenges of COVID-19. In this episode of our COVID Chronicles interview series, we caught up with Steven Jones, GC Genesis Client Services Lead for Guy Carpenter. Steven discusses how the pandemic has affected him personally and professionally and weighs in on the short and long-term impacts this crisis will have on the insurance industry.

Steven, many in the insurance industry have been working remotely for the first time. Leaders have been managing distributed teams and everyone has had to learn to collaborate 100% virtually and stay focused and productive. How has your team stayed connected and what are you finding works (or doesn’t work) during this new normal?

We benefited from a partially distributed team before COVID-19, but still benefited from refinements to ensure we were operating at a high level of performance for our clients. A few things which are working well,

  • Daily 30-minute team meetings, mostly with cameras on to maintain “contact” as much as we can
  • We continue to maintain strong project management principles but are checking on progress against tasks daily.
  • Coincidentally, the company was in the process of rolling out new work collaboration platforms, e.g., Microsoft Teams and Skype. These tools are proving useful.
  • We expedited the rollout of new digital client capabilities to enhance our engagement and offer new self-service tools.
  • Given the sudden increase in online communication (messenger, email, texts, meetings, etc.) we have had to make a conscious effort to take time to switch off on the weekend and evenings where possible.
  • I have discovered that bribing my kids and severely relaxing our screen time restrictions works like a charm for my focus and productivity.
  • What doesn’t work is expecting we can operate a school, restaurant, and two offices without impacting someone’s mental health.

P&C carriers and brokers’ business continuity planning and operational capacity has been put to the test during the pandemic. While it may not be business as usual yet, how well would you say the insurance industry is doing in adapting and rising to the challenges of COVID-19?

Honestly, I’m somewhat surprised at how well the industry has responded. Guy Carpenter and our sister companies didn’t skip a beat in converting to the new work environment. From our interactions with insurance carriers in the US, they are reporting much the same. While this isn’t a unique view of the situation, I do expect a shift in culture to more acceptance of a disparate workforce and increased adoption of work collaboration platforms. 

The pandemic will inevitably force carriers and brokers to rethink their IT and operations priorities. What impact will this have on Insurtech, which has been a catalyst for digital transformation? What areas of innovation will continue, or gain momentum, and which Insurtech investments do you believe will help hasten a broker or carrier’s recovery post-Covid-19?

In light of COVID-19, while we are seeing insurance companies further scrutinizing new projects and investments, in progress and critical investments appear to be largely proceeding unabated. With the possibility of constrained IT budgets and continued uncertainty in the market related to recovery, it is feasible we will see longer and more rigorous procurement cycles. However, there we don’t anticipate digital transformation programs to be impacted substantially, and in fact, there is an indication the current environment is further evidence of their innovation agenda. We expect digital experiences for agents and policyholders to be an increasing focus area, such as electronic signature and payments. We also expect companies will continue to prioritize process re-engineering and efficiency initiatives in underwriting and claims.   

Though investment in Insurtech has dropped in the first quarter and there are likely to be short and intermediate-term impacts on Insurtech startups, insurance companies will continue to successfully partner as the need and demand for data, analytics and technology solutions will not disappear. 

What do you think the insurance industry will look like in, say, two years after the coronavirus crisis is behind us? What lessons will we have learned from COVID-19 and the experience of living and working through this pandemic?

This is difficult to predict, given insurance companies are still developing and refining transformation strategies and the current uncertainty and outlook for the economy and industry. Over the next few years, we could see new digital transformations and business models emerge. This experience has taught us that work can continue mostly unabated. One of the key lessons is that business does not stop. As with other types of disaster, insurance and insurance services will continue to be needed and even more so during increasing times of uncertainty. For policyholders, those who have suffered losses and need to make claims, struggling businesses, stranded travellers, etc. One benefit is that insurance companies will emerge from COVID-19 in a much better position to serve customers, and I genuinely expect the industry will more durable, more responsive, and in a better position to serve the needs of their policyholders.

What gives you inspiration or hope in these anxious and unprecedented times?

I’ve lived and worked through multiple economic downturns in the last 20 years and some fairly significant events. This situation is worse given the human toll globally, and the financial implications could be staggering. However, people and economies are incredibly adaptive. I feel fortunate to work for such an amazing company and have the ability to work remotely as we are. Lastly, while it is trying at times, I think months and years from now I will appreciate the amount of time my family is spending together.  

What’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing when you’re back in the office?

Seeing my team, patronizing my favorite coffee shop, and using my dry erase wall. 


Steven Jones, Guy Carpenter

Steven Jones is the GC Genesis Client Services Lead for Guy Carpenter. Genesis focuses on providing Global InsurTech advisory services in strategy, research, and technical assessments to help our insurance carriers better leverage data, analytics, and technology investments. Before joining Guy Carpenter, Steve led the Marsh NA Risk Analytics group performing risk quantification and financing analytics for clients. Prior to MMC, Steve worked at Accenture in Management Consulting in Communications, Media and Technology (CMT), Capital Markets, and the Insurance industries. His primary focus was assisting clients plan, deliver, and manage information management, data warehouse, business intelligence, and analytics programs.

 

 

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