Martin Thompson: The (not so) secret formula for success   Chair, Insurance Institute of Canada

Aug 10 (Lagos) - Aug 10 (Toronto) - A desire to learn and an appetite for change, equals one winning formula for a rewarding career in insurance. This is the prescription that IIC Chair, Martin Thompson adhered to over his very successful 24-year career, and one he says will work well for any insurance professional.

“For me it’s about two key things: a personal desire to learn and the ability to embrace change,” says Martin. "I believe ‘if you’re not learning you’re standing still.’ You have to keep your skills up to date whether it’s your professional skills, your personal skills or other skills that you don’t have experience with yet.” Martin says it will be difficult for anyone to continue to be relevant and keep up with the industry if they are not on a learning journey. The second part of the equation is what he calls an attitude towards change. “It’s easy to look at change as a threat and see problems, but I think those who do well see change as something that presents opportunity. My experience suggests people who embrace change excel and seize the opportunities.”

Martin says he believes customer experience will need to be the main focus for the industry in the near and distant future. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” he says. “I believe as technology evolves and shifts how customers interact with businesses, we are going to see continued changes in customer expectations.” He says customers want services that are personal to them, where they are in control and where minimum effort is required. “We have to shift from trying to react to customers’ needs to being more proactive and predictive, managing the experience ahead of time. This will continue the increase of and reliance on technology and data. The industry has long used data for the pricing and selection process, that now needs to expand into areas around customer behaviour and experience.”

Increased regulation around the treatment of customers and the ongoing evolution of risk especially around catastrophic and cyber are two other trends Martin sees coming down the pike for the industry.

During Martin’s tenure as Chair, the IIC embarked on a review of its CIP program including developing a competency profile of the future insurance professional. “I think it’s important to keep the foundation on the core business skills such as claims, underwriting, financial and legal and I’m pleased to see the CIP curriculum continues to have a strong focus on that. But I am equally pleased to see increased emphasis on technology and how we use it effectively.” He says a heightened focus on data is important in order to learn about how customers think. “Understanding our customers is fundamental and has always been the engine of our industry, but there is going to become an even greater need for what I call ‘outside-in’ customer thinking. We are still an industry that doesn’t always think ‘customer first’. The organizations that are winning today are the ones that have an ability to understand customer experience and can design processes and products that make it easy and effortless for customers to do business.”

Martin says his year as Chair has been a rewarding one. “I had the fortune, or misfortune, depending how you look at it, to be Chair during a global pandemic. On the one hand it was sad and disappointing that I wasn’t able to be as personally involved in the events and activities such as Convocations. It’s always a really proud moment when you see people coming on stage to get their CIP or FCIP designations. However, we managed to celebrate our grads in a meaningful way through virtual convocations.” But what he says he is most proud of over the past year is how the IIC CEO, the leadership team and all the volunteers and staff managed to not just help the Institute survive, but actually thrive, through a global pandemic. “The investments the institute made in technology, the attitude and responsiveness of the staff and volunteers towards change, and how they were able to pivot quickly has resulted in the Institute emerging even stronger than it was at the start of COVID-19. It’s nothing I can take credit for personally, but as the Chair it certainly fills you with a level of pride.”

He credits the many volunteers for the Institute’s ongoing success. “The institute would not be what it is without the passion and commitment of volunteers and their countless hours spent helping people thrive in the industry. Everyone in the industry owes a huge debt of gratitude for everything they do, and I want them to know that they are very highly regarded.”

Martin wants to remind insurance professionals that they have made a solid career choice. “Customers need protection and always will and the nature of the industry is we’ve got to find solutions for them. We have to be creative and work across our businesses to meet customer needs. This creates a wide variety of roles and challenges. That, alongside the great people we get to work with, makes it a fabulous and exciting industry to build a career.” As this will be Martin’s last Chair’s Message in The Pace he wanted to leave members with his Top 5 Tips for a successful career in insurance:

Never stop learning
Embrace change
Be humble and respectful of others
Build lasting relationships
Don't forget you have a responsibility to pass on what you've learned to others.
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