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Industry Leader Interview – Stewart Steel, CEO, Sedgwick

Sedgwick is a leading global provider of technology-enabled risk, benefits and integrated business solutions. We provide a broad range of resources tailored to our clients’ specific needs in casualty, property, marine, benefits and other lines. At Sedgwick, caring counts®; through the dedication and exper­tise of more than 21,000 colleagues across 65 countries, the company takes care of people and organisations by mitigating and reducing risks and losses, promoting health and productivity, protecting brand reputations, and containing costs that can impact the bottom line.

 

1.  How did you get to where you are today?
Broadly, through a combination of hard work and the good fortune to work for and with excellent people.  By watching, listening and learning from others, I have been able to develop a leadership style that works for me, as much from observing what doesn’t work as well as what does.

 

Being able to relate to people at all levels is a critical requirement for any leader. Early on in my adjusting career, I relocated often to different parts of the country, meeting new people from varying backgrounds which really helped me develop my interpersonal skills. Working with people to understand what motivates and challenges them has probably been the key driver in my career.

2.  What’s the biggest challenge facing your sector of the industry?
The advent of ever better and faster technology brings both a challenge and an opportunity for the claims service sector. Whether a consequence of insurers in-sourcing work or new technology led competitors undercutting on price, traditional adjusting houses will suffer in the lower value space as the number of field visit assignments – notably in the volume homeowners sector – dries up.

 

The opportunity for the sector is to use its renowned industry leading technical and customer service expertise supported by technology (rather than led by it), to deliver its own faster, more effective and cost sensitive end to end solutions to the market. For some customers, this might take the form of adjusters delivering higher end and niche expertise and capacity as a seamless adjunct to the customer’s own end to end solutions. For others, this might see the complete outsourcing of the claims function to an external provider.

 

3.  How are you and your business dealing with this?

Sedgwick is extremely well positioned to work with the insurance market to support its digital journey. Technology has always been at the forefront of all that Sedgwick does, with bespoke multi-access platforms created and developed in-house to support our market leading positions in many product areas.

 

With access to deep resources available through being the world’s largest insurance claims services provider – people, technology, innovation and finance – we are heavily engaged in an exciting project at the moment in the UK to “make claims easier”. A key part of this project involves bringing together all of our wide and varied expert and volume services in a single new end to end digital process.

 

4.  Out of your business achievements what are you most proud of and why?

In 2005, I was asked by my then employers to lead a project to create value out of what remained of the loss adjusting business they had acquired in 2001. This broadly involved working with the major loss and corporate account practice teams, out of which we together created a new business called Teceris. Being an adjuster by background, I knew we had the technical capability to achieve our aims, but there were significant internal and market barriers to overcome which necessitated a lot of hard work by the team and a lot of belief in the end outcome.

 

When we set up Vericlaim in the UK, Teceris became the first acquisition we made. The company went on to become some 250 strong by the time of the acquisition of Cunningham Lindsey.

 

 

5.  What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the industry.

First and foremost, be yourself and be prepared to work hard.

 

In the claims space, qualifications are very important, so these need to be passed with reasonable despatch. In the long run, however, qualifications on their own are really only entry to the game and are no guarantee of future success. In short, it’s what you do with the knowledge you gain and with the relationships you build that dictate future success.

 

My advice to future insurance leaders is to focus first on people and relationships before task and output. Be decisive – it’s sometimes better to make a poor decision than no decision at all – and, above all, build and preserve a reputation for honesty, integrity and fairness.

6.  If you could change anything what would you do to make the insurance industry “Better tomorrow”

In our bit of the claims industry I believe we are still not where we should and need to be from a diversity and inclusion perspective. Quite simply, it’s our loss that we are not finding enough people from ethnic and minority backgrounds to develop and enhance our world.

7.  What’s your top tip for being productive?

First of all, keep on top of your inbox, but I don’t just mean this in a mail sense. Rather, prioritise time to make decisions quickly so that the rhythm of the business is not interrupted waiting for the boss to approve / comment / whatever a request from below.

 

In addition, make time each day to do (at least) one difficult task i.e. one of those things in the pile on the edge of your desk that requires time to get stuck into. Pull out one of those and get it done.

8.  What gadget can’t you live without?

It’s got to be the iPhone, sadly.

 

On the domestic front, I’m rather partial to my Nespresso coffee maker. I only drink black coffee so get the benefit of great tasting blends with a minimum amount of fuss.

9.  Talent or Perseverance?

Definitely both, but my view is lots of the latter will get you further in the long run than lots of the former on its own. Through absence of application, resilience and dedication, many incredibly talented people fail to realise their full potential.

10.  What do you do to switch off or escape from work?

I love to play and watch sport. I play hockey – indoor and outdoor – to keep fit and also like to get the road bike out now and then, go for an occasional run and play the odd round of golf. I also ski – more motorway and apres ski than daring off piste stuff!

 

With two young daughters aged 11 and 8, I also spend time supporting them in their activities. My eldest is a competitive pony rider and my youngest is mad about gymnastics – training about 12 hours a week!

 

I also like to travel – preferring city breaks to beach holidays – which is starting to cause challenges in the family holiday planning dept. Favourite city break to date – Barcelona!