Part III of IV

<<< Back to Part II here

In this new four-part series, we explore how your people can be your secret weapon in the next phase of tech-driven insurance transformation. With insights from Bullfrog Ventures' Hilario Itriago and Ana Rojas Matiz ...


Part III: Towards the archetypal team – exploring new approaches to talent development ...

In Part I and Part II, we explained why effective talent development & change management represent such important sources of competitive advantage for financial-services organisations big and small in 2018, as well as current failings. Now, in Part III, we move on from addressing today's shortcomings in these key areas to staking out some key tenets of the Human Capital Management of tomorrow.

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In a world where a given team passes from one configuration to the next in the blink of an eye, we are interested in getting to the bottom of the essence, or archetype, of a successful team: which team capabilities are peculiar to one point-in-time configuration only, and which are universal? — Selecting for competencies in the latter bracket (which we here term horizontal, to differentiate them from vertical capabilities specific to the functions and business scenarios of a given day) will create a team capable of recycling itself effectively.

As an example: someone who is hardwired as an expert on today’s Policy Management Systems may be good for one summer but, thereafter, the leaves are off. Someone who is a good ‘storyteller’ or an effective ‘influencer’ on the other hand is, in some sense, evergreen, and can be repeatedly redeployed across any number of functions – assuming a basic willingness to complement their strong horizontal competency with vertical, function-specific knowledge.

‘We have done a lot of research into this and identified the six core strengths that an innovative leader needs to develop as part of their toolbox – whether it’s a corporate job or a start-up doesn’t matter,’ notes Hilario. Mindful, Influencer, Communicator/Storyteller, Ownership, Open Mind / Flexible and Change Facilitator, these fall under Bullfrog’s new Innova100 competency framework launched in the fall of 2017.

Obviously, the latest function-specific knowledge – be it in tech or marketing or compliance – is table stakes for successful teams … However, it is easier, say, for an ‘influencer’ to acquire the marketing resources to push their vision through, than for these resources, left to their own devices, to acquire that vision to begin with. And what this implies is that not everybody in a successful team needs to represent an archetype, such as an ‘influencer’, a ‘leader’ or a ‘communicator’.

Indeed, as much legwork will be required as before, from reading the latest regulatory guidelines to data entry, and plenty of individuals will come and go. What will have changed, however, is the underlying structure – the enduring kernel – of that team.

In the past, when prominent individuals left a team, it was difficult to quantify the impact that would have, beyond the loss of specific knowledge. If, however, that individual’s deeper role in the team is understood through profiling, it makes it easier to maintain the team dynamic by replacing like with like (a ‘communicator’ with a ‘communicator’, for instance). This way, for all the winds of change, the atmospheric composition of a team will remain much the same over time. And, who knows? If the whole team, even its more junior members, have been successfully profiled, that like-for-like replacement may already be at hand, simply doing different work.

This raises another point: it is not necessary for every individual on the team to exercise their particular horizontal competency all the time. You could have all the makings of a brilliant leader and yet spend your time doing fairly routine work, if this is what is required of you at a given point in time; the key, for your company, is to know this potential is there.

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Different teams may require different blends of horizontal competencies to be healthy; and if people know which competencies are present where, Senior Management can start to map particular team compositions to success in different areas of the company. In this sense, profiling for tomorrow’s horizontal competencies slides effortlessly into analytics-based approaches to HR.

The sweet spot in terms of skills balance will not just vary across different functional areas (which are of course blurring), it will also vary depending on whether we’re talking about an incumbent or a start-up, as what’s being asked of the respective teams will be different in each case.

‘What you’re going to request from a team doing an implementation at an incumbent is going to be more around changing things and getting new technologies and new processes to be adopted by the organisation,’ Hilario points out. ‘So, for that you’re going to need people that are very well-suited to influencing, to communicating and to driving change.’

He goes on: ‘Whereas incumbents require teams to look and influence inwards and try to cascade throughout the organisation, start-ups tend to be more outward-looking. A start-up is trying to influence the world, so that their message resonates not only within one organisation but many, not only within one insurer but maybe a loss adjuster, not only a small insurer, a small loss adjuster, but also within multinational, multicultural environments. That requires a different set of strengths to be developed.’

A tie-up between an incumbent insurer and a start-up – a path which has been widely acknowledged as essential to the future growth of the insurance industry – will require personnel adjustments to be made within both organisations. We asked Hilario what tips he would give to a CEO at an incumbent looking to integrate with a start-up:

‘My key concern would be to ensure that the two teams are aligned in terms of the individuals’ strengths and capabilities. I’d want to know the strengths of the start-up team that’s going to be involved with my team, as well as how they correspond to my team’s strengths – so that I’ve got the right people talking internally and externally.’

He continues: ‘It would be terrible if I ended up having a change facilitator interacting with someone who is closed-minded and very inflexible, irrespective of whether it’s the incumbent or the start-up. Because, at some point, that communication and interaction is going to be a closed door.’

Hilario gives an example of a client applying Bullfrog’s Innova100 framework throughout their pan-regional IT organisation:

‘The leaders in the different countries have typically never worked together on pan-regional programmes, but their 2018 programme will demand them to,’ he explains.

‘So, we need to make sure that these guys know how each other’s strengths, because there are common components for each of them to deliver jointly; for example, the same CRM is going to be applied to the whole region. However, the local point-of-sale systems are going to be local implementations as opposed to regional ones. That’s where having the knowledge of how these guys operate, their strengths, is going to come into play.’

Our next and final post in this series (Part IV) takes the evolution presented in our three posts to date to its logical conclusion, asking:

·         What role will Continuous Professional Development (CPD) play in the "Virtual Skills Warehouse" of tomorrow?

·         What could a next-gen HR department look like?

All 4 posts in this series can be enjoyed in our full report, which you can download at any time free of charge.


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For any inquiries relating to this on-going content series, please contact:

Alexander Cherry, Head of Research & Content at Insurance Nexus (