In conversation with Ann Kelleher has been saved
In conversation with Ann Kelleher
President of Insurance Ireland and CEO of Ark Life, Ann Kelleher, reflects on the industry’s rapid response to COVID-19 and assesses where the sector stands as restrictions lift and we look to the future.
This is a short excerpt from the full interview available to download as part of FinSight magazine.
Q: COVID-19 has affected every facet of life and business in 2020. What are your thoughts on how the insurance industry reacted?
A: Firstly, I think the industry responded remarkably well. I think the industry almost surprised itself at how it was able to, almost overnight, transform to organisations that were no longer office-based and where big and small companies had the vast majority of their staff working from home and answering customers.
We wouldn’t necessarily be known as an industry that moves at a very fast pace but in fact the member companies did a tremendous job at executing and transitioning at pace and I think by and large it worked rather well. For sure, we’re helped by technology: tools like videoconferencing really came into their own and facilitated us, and the industry maximised the tools available. There were two key focuses for most companies: look after the staff and ensuring continuity of service to customers. On both of those, I think the industry delivered really well.
The question is, now that we’ve moved into a new normal, companies are pleasantly surprised at how well it’s worked, how productive people are and how much you can do, and the question arises: where will we end up ultimately?
From a longer-term perspective, I would say it’s unlikely we will go back to the way things were just before the pandemic. It’s probably opened our eyes to the different ways that you can work, and the different models will be considered - maybe some sort of blended working and office-based working.
I do think that working from home is not the panacea; how does somebody join an organisation and learn and understand about the company norms and culture of the organisation - or how do you maintain the culture of an organisation when everyone is working remotely? Where there’s a significant level of learning required, it’s often by sitting alongside more experienced people, almost by osmosis. That mentoring can’t happen from home.