In such a com­pet­i­tive in­dus­try as in­sur­ance, it is im­por­tant to stand apart in prod­uct and ser­vice of­fer­ing. Ni­ran Peiris, Al­lianz CEO speaks with Busi­ness First about be­ing a cus­tomer­centric or­gan­i­sa­tion. Story by Jonathan Jack­son.

Business First - - PROFILE -

Ni­ran Peiris’ pre­de­ces­sor Terry Tow­ell was one of the long­est serv­ing CEOs in the coun­try when he fi­nally de­cided to hand over the Al­lianz reins. His in­flu­ence on the or­gan­i­sa­tion was im­mense and he left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion as well as a great track record.

Ni­ran, who had worked his way through the or­gan­i­sa­tion from Gen­eral Man­ager of Fi­nance in 2000 to CFO in 2001 and Head of Re­tail and CEO of Al­lianz Life in 2009, sat at the ex­ec­u­tive ta­ble with Terry through most of those years and dur­ing that time learnt that the most im­por­tant as­pect of the or­gan­i­sa­tion was its cus­tomer-cen­tric­ity. Another im­por­tant les­son was the value of diver­si­fi­ca­tion.

“We had just pur­chased HIH and that brought in sev­eral streams of busi­ness. How­ever Terry’s fo­cus was on cus­tomers.”

Cus­tomer fo­cus has been the com­pany’s rai­son d’etre ever since and that fo­cus is backed by sys­tems within the or­gan­i­sa­tion that fa­cil­i­tate the ser­vice to them.

“Terry was a stick­ler for ef­fi­cien­cies and em­bed­ded them in the over­all cul­ture. There was a re­lent­less fo­cus on ef­fi­ciency and us­ing that to cre­ate com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.”

There is a third fac­tor in the suc­cess equa­tion and that is that in­sur­ance is about cy­cles; to have your eggs in one bas­ket equates to dan­ger for the busi­ness.

“We em­barked on a diver­si­fi­ca­tion pro­gram away from pure un­der­writ­ten busi­ness, so that that we had a fee-style busi­ness that could buf­fer the un­der­writ­ing busi­ness. Our non un­der­writ­ing busi­ness in­cludes work­ers com­pen­sa­tion claims that we man­age for State gov­ern­ments and our pre­mium fund­ing busi­ness, which are vi­tal el­e­ments that can help sus­tain us in more dif­fi­cult times.”

Hav­ing been a key mem­ber of the man­age­ment team for more than a decade, when Ni­ran took over as CEO he was com­fort­able with the strat­egy and no ma­jor changes were re­quired. What he did do how­ever, was look at gen­er­a­tional change and fo­cus on the in­cor­po­ra­tion of data an­a­lyt­ics into all lev­els of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Tech­nol­ogy is rapidly chang­ing and how we de­liver and ex­e­cute an­a­lyt­ics is an im­por­tant driver. I changed man­age­ment in IT through claims and oper­a­tions be­cause that is where the cus­tomer touch comes. Claims is the ser­vice we sell and we want to make that as ef­fi­cient as it can be; it needs to be cus­tomer fo­cused. We work out what the cus­tomer wants and then work our way back­wards.”

The sec­ond change Ni­ran im­ple­mented was based around pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment.

“We needed to ac­knowl­edge the rapid change in the world in terms of tech­nol­ogy and en­cour­age a learn­ing agility to try to stay ahead of the game as well as look at di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion.”

Al­lianz has grown sub­stan­tially since Ni­ran first joined the or­gan­i­sa­tion. When he first started they had less than $2bn in premi­ums. To­day they are around $4bn. They also had about half the num­ber of staff that ex­ists to­day.

Ni­ran says the growth was achieved through a sys­tem­atic re­build of ev­ery­thing.

“When we first merged with HIH, there were five un­der­writ­ing di­vi­sions and five dif­fer­ent cul­tures and we had to get them all en­gaged. We worked to cre­ate en­gage­ment and to in­te­grate our un­der­writ­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, sales and dis­tri­bu­tion into one. The evo­lu­tion of Al­lianz was an evo­lu­tion from a medium sized in­surer to a one of the top 5. The chal­lenge now is to be bet­ter, with a fo­cus on mak­ing it real for cus­tomers and bet­ter re­flect their risk pro­files.”

Part of the growth was based around Ni­ran’s roles as CFO as he in­jected a phi­los­o­phy of when you have a bot­tom line you need to get some­thing out of it. Ev­ery­one in sales knew what they had to achieve and this gave Al­lianz sta­ble mar­gins and good re­sults.

As the head of re­tail dis­tri­bu­tion, he em­bed­ded the im­por­tance of great work­ing re­la­tion­ships with busi­ness part­ners.

“A lot of our busi­ness comes through our sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ships with part­ners, we have a multi-chan­nel, multi ap­proach to the mar­ket. Peo­ple will do busi­ness with peo­ple they want to do busi­ness with. We rely on part­ners to pro­mote our busi­ness. Those re­la­tion­ships are para­mount.”

Part­ners in­clude as di­verse or­gan­i­sa­tions as mo­tor deal­ers, banks and credit unions, who sell hun­dreds of thou­sands of pol­icy on be­half of Al­lianz ev­ery year. That’s a lot of in­sur­ance. Then there is CSC Aus­tralia, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions

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