Zurich Insurance’s Kathleen Savio on succeeding in the new era of working
Kathleen Savio is Chief Transformation Officer for Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich). Kathleen previously served as Chief Executive Officer for Zurich North America from January 2018 to December 2020. She has more than 25 years of experience working across several departments at the Swiss financial services company. She joined the Zurich-based insurer in 1991 as an entry-level technical writer.
How have the two years of disruption changed the insurance industry globally?
The pandemic accelerated digitalisation with ripple effects throughout the insurance industry, challenging its status quo in many positive ways. For us, many of the practices introduced during the pandemic – for example, signing policies electronically – have now become part of business as usual. At Zurich, our digital connectivity has really come of age, thanks to digitally processed and paid claims, policies issued, new products and our entry into new distribution partnerships.
Do you think AI and related technologies can have a seismic impact on all aspects of the insurance value chain in the near future?
Yes, I believe so. We are entering a new phase in the insurance industry, which turns everything on its head, with insights and innovations that are leading to improved customer service design. This is the age of service-to-sales where insurers can provide services to customers, even before they have signed an insurance policy. It’s very much a “try before you buy”. This shift is only possible because of technologies these days – a lot of what we do is powered by digital capabilities, for example, AI.
Is Zurich on a hybrid work model? Can you share some insights about your learning?
We already had a subset of principles around flexible working in place before the pandemic. Building on our experience with flexible working and insights from the pandemic, we developed our hybrid working model, which focuses on why we come together in person, how we collaborate and in what instances. It is very much about determining the best ways to promote learning, collaboration, innovation and deliver results while serving our customers and building on our strong culture.
How are you driving purposeful, sustainable advancements in the company culture for the new era of working?
In 2019, we shared our work sustainability commitments as part of the Group’s overall sustainability strategy and actions. Work sustainability is about putting our employees first during moments that matter. It’s about ensuring they can grow the right skills for the future, in a changing world, to deliver what our customers need. It’s also about ensuring employees feel valued in their role and supported in their career development – both with and beyond Zurich. Work sustainability goes hand in hand with employee well-being and employee experience, and these principles will remain key priorities for us.
How do you envision positioning Zurich for success in the new ways of working?
Our purpose is to create a brighter future together, and this really defines who we are, and the impact we want to have in the world, and Zurich will continue to drive efforts that support diversity, equity, and inclusion within Zurich, but also across the insurance industry. As we move to new ways of working, we will continue to listen to our employees and address their individual needs and concerns, find new ways of supporting their mental, physical, social and financial well-being, and achieve an inclusive mindset in all areas of our business, wherever we are.
What are some of the biggest challenges that HR leaders must prepare for in the next 2-3 years?
Employee well-being and mental health will become an increasing risk as we shift to new ways of working. Employers need to find reliable ways of monitoring and measuring the mental, physical, social and financial well-being of their employees regardless of where and how they’re working. The Great Resignation will continue to affect workforces globally which increases the pressure on employers to attract and retain diverse talent.