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Arun Balakrishnan CEO Arun Balakrishnan

Executive Viewpoint - 11 of 13

This article is part of a series written by leaders in property/casualty insurance and reinsurance sector describing how the pandemic has changed them personally as leaders and how it is changing their companies.

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From a personal perspective, the pandemic crisis has especially highlighted the importance of abiding by a driving purpose and core values. I have tried to function and act by our company’s core values and to lead by example.

Addressing the pandemic challenges has prompted exceptional cross-functional collaboration between every aspect of operations among insurers and their partners—from global service and delivery resources to IT infrastructure support, and from facilities management groups to human resources personnel.”

One of those company values—integrity—is about doing the right thing. In my opinion, as the global public health predicament deepened, the right thing was to make all our decisions with the health and safety of our teammates as the primary focus. Our belief was that if we prioritize the well-being of our teammates and ensure that they can be in a safe environment, then we can also be in the best position to fulfill our commitments to clients and other stakeholders.

After we overcome this contagion, we will look hard at the out-of-office work model and see where it may make sense to organize some parts of the workforce to operate remotely. Aside from the self-evident benefits of savings on office space and infrastructure, there may well be substantial and measurable benefits of productivity, especially if distanced working can be formally connected to a better work-life balance for our employees.

While some may be struggling now to work from home with spouses, children, family and pets in the same space—as well as managing the stress of a global pandemic outside the home—our global teams are very efficient and organized and meeting all client deliverables. So, where it makes sense, our employment and market engagement approaches may evolve. For example, with all the technological opportunities for connection and engagement, what will be the performance outcomes if parts of our workforce can avoid two to four hours of commuting on some days, as long as their remote workspaces and connectivity are suitable? Do our business development and implementation teams need to be on the road and on-location as much as they were just prior to the pandemic?

Balakrishnan was one of 13 leaders who responded to a Carrier Management request for views on how the pandemic has changed their worlds—personally and professionally. Responses from other carrier, reinsurance and InsurTech executives will be published in the July/August magazine.
Like other leaders, I have learned from my company’s responses to business challenges and conditions during the pandemic—and the responses of our customers. Above all, it is clear that we are a resilient industry. I think there are many stories yet to be told and shared about overcoming business adversity in such unusual times. I just know that in the face of very difficult circumstances across four continents our teams continue to perform remarkably well.

None of us contemplated a global pandemic where large sections of the world’s business communities would be working from home, so it’s a really hard condition to stress test and contemplate. Our business continuity plans certainly did not envision a global work-from-home environment for the entire organization, and we had to address a host of practical challenges associated with the transition.

A few elements included managing clients’ contractual requirements, many of which did not allow remote service and support teams; addressing security, connectivity and bandwidth issues for users, as a result of more reliance on virtual private networks and home Wi-Fi connections, which can be unreliable and highly exposed in some regions of the world; and ensuring productivity for dual-screen desktop users who may not have the processing power and specialized software in their remote work settings. (See related article, “Pandemic Crisis Story: Moving 1,000-Plus Employees in 7 Countries in Just 2 Weeks” by Amit Tiwari, chief operating officer at Xceedance.)

I believe insurance organizations everywhere have similar stories to tell about their own operations. They, too, likely did not anticipate a work-from-home environment for their entire organizations, not to mention substantial disruptions to their distribution, service, partner networks and supply chain relationships.

Addressing those challenges has prompted exceptional cross-functional collaboration between every aspect of operations among insurers and their partners, like our company—from global service and delivery resources to IT infrastructure support, and from facilities management groups to human resources personnel. Within a few short weeks, we were able to operate at full productivity levels with the entire company in a work-from-home environment. This is a testament to the level of commitment, ownership and collaboration among our workforce. In the last 60 days, service delivery to insurers by Xceedance have not been impacted.

Looking ahead to post-pandemic conditions, we know that while there is always value in face-to-face meetings and collaborations, we have learned first-hand that we can efficiently connect and constructively maintain relationships with our clients remotely. Going forward, this could be a cost-effective approach for industry stakeholders to collaborate and innovate. In several cases, as insurer clients moved their organizations to work remotely, they actually needed some of our insurance operations services even more. This tells us to make sure we invest and put in place all the appropriate processes, technologies and security for our teams to seamlessly be able to support clients in all capacities and from anywhere, even as insurers or us, or both, must operate in a fully remote environment.