Zurich Insurance is investing in automation and retraining instead of buying in skills
Technologists have kept the world running for the last year and a half, and it's time to celebrate their achievements. Next Wednesday, the 13th October, Computing will be at the Waldorf Hilton in London to host the Digital Techology Leaders Awards - and our finalists are gearing themselves up for a night to remember.
Zurich Insurance is on the shortlist for Best Place to Work in Digital - Large Organisations and we caught up with Alastair Robertson, head of continuous improvement and automation, to talk about how the company made it there and its plans for the year ahead.
Computing: Can you tell us about Zurich Insurance?
Alastair Robertson: Zurich in the UK provides a range of general insurance and life insurance products to retail and corporate customers. We supply personal, commercial and local authority insurance through a number of distribution channels, and offer a range of protection policies, available online and through financial advisers for the retail market and via employee benefit consultants for the corporate market. Zurich employs approximately 4,500 people in the UK with its main offices in Birmingham, Farnborough, Glasgow, London, Swindon and Whiteley.
CTG: What makes you different from your peers?
AR: We're an insurance company that utilises technology for the benefit of our customers and our staff. It's what our customers expect. I think that what sets Zurich apart from other companies is the pace and scale of how we've managed to move our thinking forward in a market often seen as staid, slow and stuffy.
We're a huge global insurer and we've managed to work nimbly, effecting change in a very short space of time. We've taken technological and societal shifts, affecting our business and others, and have used them to create opportunities. This has included investment in new jobs and career choices for our existing workforce and beyond. We are committed to supporting our people through these changes. Our internal automation academy is one example, which has provided everyone across the company with the opportunity to learn new skills working with technology. In turn, this approach is enabling new expertise to be embedded across many functions.
CTG: What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?
AR: Of course we're incredibly proud to be shortlisted for this fantastic award, which I think reflects the hard work and positive culture within the business. At the same time, we're proud of the evolution of our Automation academy, which has facilitated the building and implementation of much needed automation solutions that are helping to deliver better service for our customers.
Since launch, we've now automated hundreds of processes with plenty more in the pipeline. These have helped faster customer payments, collation of policy documents and swifter communication on key changes instead of sending paper and post. Most importantly, we have taken our staff and culture with us on the journey - showing that automation is not something to be feared, but something that can provide opportunities to all. We've changed the career trajectory of many, and trained people in new skills we would have typically ‘bought in', in the past. We want a sustainable, efficient organisation that can serve our customers impeccably and be an inspiring place to work for all.
CTG: What are you working on this year?
AR: This year, we'll be focusing on scaling this academy concept further, building more capability in the business to utilise new and different tools not limited to automation. By retraining and reskilling our own staff, who know our customers better than anyone else, we are able to grab the best of both technical insurance knowledge and emerging, cutting edge technology. This makes for a strong partnership and one that our customers will benefit from. We are also working with government and shadow government bodies on a number of fronts, including ethical AI and responsible Automation
CTG: Why are events like the Digital Technology Leaders Awards important to the IT industry?
AR: Events like this are a fantastic way of showcasing the exiting shifts we're currently experiencing and working with. There has been too much focus around how automation is a threat to people's jobs and livelihoods when in reality, it is creating new opportunities and skills for those who want to come on the journey.
The Digital Technology Leaders Awards take place next week; book your place now.