- Jon Dye, the new CEO of Allianz UK, on his first year, three key priorities and the most enjoyable parts of his job. What has he achieved in his first year and what’s next?
What have been the highlights of your first year as CEO?
Jon Dye: Well I have to start with collecting the ‘General Insurer of the Decade’ award at the British Insurance Awards recently. It’s a fantastic achievement and reflects the dedication and talent of every person in the business who has contributed to our success over the last ten years. The feedback I’ve had from around the organisation is that people are delighted to win this prestigious award that recognises our performance over such a long period.
When I became CEO I set myself three priorities. Firstly, I wanted the shareholder to agree our strategy of profitably growing the business over the next five years. The Group’s strategy is also one of growth in Property and Casualty (P&C) so we were clearly aligned. I was very pleased that our plans were approved and we are already delivering some strong results; revenue is up 9.7 percent across the board in the first half of 2014, which is a good start but of course we still have a long way to go and there is no room for complacency.
What are the other two priorities?
My second priority was to visit those parts of the organisation I was less familiar with. This has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. I’m doing two CEO Roadshows a month, each of which involves a short presentation followed by a walkabout in the office. I find that hugely useful to form a picture of what is going on with our people who work with customers and business partners.
My final priority was to find a successor for my previous role. After a very rigorous internal and external selection process, the successful candidate was internal, Neil Brettell, who has already got off to a strong start. Neil’s appointment was one of four internal appointments to the Management Board of Allianz Insurance plc in the last year, clear evidence of the strength of our succession planning.
What else has been important for Allianz this year?
Brand is a relatively new and potentially very rewarding programme of work for us. We hadn’t really invested in the Allianz brand in the UK before 2013. Our brokers knew all about us, but the general public didn’t have anything like the same level of awareness. Now that we have increased our investment in branding, awareness of Allianz with consumers in the UK is increasing significantly. In fact, we’re now the fastest growing insurance brand in the UK, thanks to our adverts on the backs of buses, on TV and online. We’re looking at the next stage in TV advertising after our ‘school run’ adverts, so watch this space.
What surprised you in your first year?
I’m not sure if anything has surprised me but there are greater and more wide ranging demands including working with the shareholder, business partners, customers and regulators than I was used to in my previous role as General Manager. As CEO you get invited to quite a few more events too which it’s important for me to attend.
What challenges has Allianz Insurance faced in your first year and how has it coped?
We suffered some severe weather in the UK and it was important for us to be there for our customers. Insurance is an intangible product – it doesn’t mean anything until you need to use it, so major flooding is a particularly dramatic example of us stepping up to deliver on our promises. Earlier this year I visited some of our customers recovering from flood damage to find out what it was like from their perspective. Some of them had three inches of water running through their kitchen on Christmas Eve so helping them was clearly a major priority for us.
The increase in the volume of calls put pressure on our claims handlers, but overall I think we handled it very well. It was also great to see other parts of the business stepping up to help. As well as getting mobilised to provide the level of support our customers need, it’s about assessing the demands on the company accurately when we need to switch our resources around.
Who and what has helped you in your first year?
People across the whole of Allianz have been tremendously supportive in helping me gather the knowledge I need to do the job and to understand the pressures and challenges they face. I also drew on a “new leader model” I learned at the old Commercial Union when I worked there in the 1990s. It’s a simple version of ‘The First 100 Days’ and this is the sixth new job I’ve used it for. It’s a really good framework for making sure that in the excitement and demands of a new role you don’t miss anything important. When you have lots of people beating a path to your door, you need the discipline to stand back and consider the impact on the bigger picture.
Any advice for colleagues considering their next step?
The more you can do to prepare yourself the better. Try and get involved in as much of your boss’s job as you can. Then, if you end up getting it, you’re ready. Don’t be afraid of delegation, you can’t do everything yourself. This means you’re only as good as your team – focus on them, what they need and what they are delivering.
How do you see Allianz UK’s performance developing over the next three years?
People can expect to see steady profitable year on year growth as we move towards our five year target of becoming a £3bn business. We will undoubtedly have some challenging periods as we saw in the first quarter of this year when weather losses negatively impacted on our results, but we are now very close to our 2014 profit plan.
People will also see Allianz continuing to invest in the professional development of our people as this has been at the heart of our success. We invest heavily in the skills of our underwriters and claims colleagues because that provides us with a solid platform from which to achieve growth. Additionally, we will also look at how we develop other disciplines within the business such as our marketeers for example.
This investment in people is a perfect alignment of interests: it helps our people to develop, and at the same time improved skills lead to better decision making which in turn produces better results for us and for our customers.