This article is part of Carrier Management’s Cultural Q&A series featured in the Nov/Dec 2018 print edition.

Q: There is a famous saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Do you agree? Do you spend more time on culture or strategy? How does your culture support your strategy and vice versa?

John C. Roche, President and CEO, The Hanover Insurance Group

Recent news at The Hanover includes the sale of Chaucer, a Lloyd’s-focused international specialty division, to China Re for $950 million. “Strategically, this transaction will enable us to double-down on our proven distribution approach, further develop our specialized capabilities, and focus on innovation and helping our partners grow,” Roche said, referring to three pillars of the carrier’s strategy and explaining some benefits of the deal, which also include having capital for small acquisitions and hiring talent from competitors.

John C. Roche, President and CEO, The Hanover Insurance Group: Yes, I agree. Our unique culture is deeply ingrained across our organization and represents a significant competitive advantage. It has been a key factor in the successful transformation of our company over the past decade.

Our culture enables us to be nimble and responsive in a dynamic marketplace, capitalizing on changes in our industry, driving our distinctive independent agency-centered strategy forward, establishing a strong and respected brand, and creating substantial value in our organization.

Q: How would you describe your company’s culture today? Has the culture changed in recent years? If so, what prompted the change?

Roche: Our culture is progressive, constantly evolving, and supports our goal to be the premier property and casualty company in the independent agency channel. It’s a high-performance, collaborative and innovative culture, characterized by financial discipline and a growth mindset. It supports the effective and efficient execution of our strategy and encourages transformational change so we can deliver comprehensive and innovative solutions for our partners and customers.

Our culture is one of the main reasons we have been successful building such a talented and committed team.

Q: How does the structure of your organization support the current culture?

Roche: Our company is laser-focused on helping our agent partners deliver broad and innovative insurance solutions for our customers. That’s easier said than done, and we have worked very hard to build an organizational structure that supports the continued evolution of our culture and the success of our business.

We have developed a relatively flat organizational structure, with superior field and home office alignment and an emphasis on company success rather than individual employee success. The breadth and scope of roles across the company create opportunities for our people to grow professionally, have a real impact on our business and make meaningful contributions to our success. The opportunity for people to make an impact here is a big differentiator for us.

With our industry defined by rapid change, intense competition, and new customer demands and expectations, our culture recognizes the benefits of inclusion and diversity, alternative work arrangements, and virtual leadership while leveraging a “team of teams” approach, organizing our talent around important initiatives and goals as needed rather than always adhering to a more hierarchical structure.

Q: Describe your role in shaping and perpetuating the culture.

Roche: As CEO, I play a key role in shaping and perpetuating our culture, serving as champion of our culture, and providing leadership on our change imperative. The job of shaping and perpetuating our culture is a shared responsibility, and I work closely with our company’s leadership and employees around the organization to continually develop and enhance our culture, ensuring that we keep pace with the changes in our industry and business in general.

As we evolve our culture, we invest the time necessary to ensure that our employees are aligned on our vision and key strategic priorities, engaged, bringing our values to life in their work, and delivering for our partners and their customers every day.

“Our company is laser-focused on helping our agent partners deliver broad and innovative insurance solutions for our customers…Our culture recognizes the benefits of inclusion and diversity, alternative work arrangements, and virtual leadership while leveraging a ‘team of teams’ approach, organizing our talent around important initiatives and goals as needed rather than always adhering to a more hierarchical structure.”

Our chief human resources officer, members of our leadership team and I are caretakers of our culture.

Q: Does the company have a chief culture officer, or are you considering adding that role to the C-suite? What other leaders help to shape the culture of your company, and how?

Roche: Our chief human resources officer, Kathy deCastro, is the ambassador of our culture. She works very closely with me and with our leadership team while representing employees across our company as we continue to strengthen our culture. As ambassador, she helps us build and leverage our culture in ways that foster even greater employee engagement and enable us to deliver value to our agent partners, customers, shareholders, employees and other stakeholders.

Our CHRO, members of our leadership team and I play important, culture-building roles. But at the end of the day, it’s our employees who bring our values to life and drive our culture forward, deliver on our promises to our partners and customers, and ensure our continued success.