Season 2, Episode 9 -10

May 22, 2022

Season 2, Episode 10 | Laura Drabik + Priscilla Hung, 2022 Elite Women in Insurance—Two Winners Are Here With Your Altitude Adjustment

Speaker 1 (00:01):

It's time for InsurTalk, with insurance industry tech geek and Guidewire Chief Evangelist, Laura Drabik. In this podcast series, we don't just talk about innovative ideas and PNC insurance. We talk with industry trailblazers about the big ideas they made happen and how they did it. If you're looking for insights on the trends and technologies reshaping the industry, an all-new InsurTalk starts now.

Laura Drabik (00:27):

Welcome to InsurTalk. My name is Laura Drabik, and I'm the Chief Evangelist at Guidewire. I am joined by Guidewire's President and COO, Priscilla Hung. In this episode, we are switching things up. I won't be doing the interviewing today, but we'll be interviewed along with Priscilla by a spectacular corporate communications leader at Guidewire, Melissa Cobb. Over to you, Melissa.

Melissa Cobb (00:52):

Thanks, Laura. I wanted to congratulate you and Priscilla for being named Insurance Business America's Elite Women List that spotlights inspiring women who are making an impact on the industry. The focus of today's conversation will be on how Priscilla and Laura have made it to the top of an industry still dominated by men and the steps they take to promote diversity at Guidewire. Hi Laura, thank you for joining your podcast as an interviewee today.

Laura Drabik (01:17):

Thank you very much, Melissa.

Melissa Cobb (01:19):

Hi, Priscilla.

Priscilla (01:20):

Hey Melissa, how are you?

Melissa Cobb (01:22):

Good. Good.

Priscilla (01:23):

Thanks for having me, Melissa.

Melissa Cobb (01:23):

Absolutely. So Laura, can you tell us a little more about your current role at Guidewire?

Laura Drabik (01:30):

Yeah, so I am the Chief Evangelist. It's a Silicon Valley term for being the brand ambassador if you will. What I love to do is espouse on Guidewire's products, our partners, and our customer innovation journeys, all while keeping my finger on the pulse of how our wonderful industry is evolving and also educating our key stakeholders on that evolution.

Melissa Cobb (01:51):

That's fantastic. And Priscilla?

Priscilla (01:54):

Sure. I'm the president and chief operating officer of Guidewire. I co-owned the go-to market motions with my dear colleague co-president John Mullen. I oversee sales support functions, such as solution sales, inside sales, sales ops, product line management, business development, corporate development, venture investment, as well as the company wide business operations.

Melissa Cobb (02:17):

Wow. It definitely sounds like you wear many hats in your role.

Priscilla (02:20):

I'm lucky to have the opportunity to do so.

Melissa Cobb (02:22):

Exactly. What gets you fired up, Priscilla, about working at Guidewire?

Priscilla (02:26):

Oh, many things. I would say that what gets me really fired up every day is the opportunity to work with a team of really dedicated, super smart colleagues and solve problems together as a team. And also witnessing that our collective hard work is really making a difference and moving a needle for our business and or our customers. It's really highly motivating for me.

Melissa Cobb (02:48):

That's fantastic. Laura, do you have any thoughts on that front?

Laura Drabik (02:51):

What gets me fired up every day is knowing that I work in an industry, insurance and technology, that takes good care of people. We empower insurers to better serve their customers, which includes me, my friends, and my family. I'm excited to go to work every morning because I know what we do as a company positively impacts our global community.

Melissa Cobb (03:15):

Absolutely. Priscilla, why is diversity important in our industry?

Priscilla (03:20):

I don't want to oversimplify this, but I think the world is a diverse place. It is logical for us to aspire to cultivate an environment to closely resemble the tele-mix of the world. And I really strongly believe that different genders, background based on culture, preferences, way of lives bring different strengths to the team and different perspectives only could make our collective viewpoint that much more encompassing.

Laura Drabik (03:49):

Yeah. If you have a homogenous team, then you're going to build a product that serves that homogenous team. In order to build a product that serves everyone, you need voices and input from all types of people. Number two, it's important for increased creativity. Innovation happens when teams challenge the status quo and work creatively together. If everyone on the team has the same knowledge, the same skills, the same worldview and the same biases, they will then reach the same conclusions. Diversity allows us to circumvent this trap and thus foster innovation.

Priscilla (04:23):

Yeah. And it also allow us to really counteract our individual weaknesses, which makes the overall team much more robust.

Laura Drabik (04:31):

Yes. It helps to improve financial results of the bottom line. So Slack has been outperforming other Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, where women hold only 19% of the technical roles. At Slack women hold 34% of technical roles and Slack employs three times the number of minorities of the peer companies that I mentioned. Diversity improves the bottom line.

Priscilla (04:58):

Yeah. Diversity inclusion is really is the top of the agenda for Guidewire as a business. And I'm super passionate about this topic. I will continue to spend a lot of time with our employee resource groups to drive equality and diversity and inclusion across the company.

Melissa Cobb (05:15):

I couldn't agree with you more. Diversity is critical to bringing perspective, to creating a product for all and creativity. Thanks for sharing that. The Elite Women award submission process, Insurance Business America asked why each nominee is a woman of influence. What does the phrase woman of influence mean to you?

Priscilla (05:33):

So while I really appreciate bearing the privilege to be called the woman of influence, I don't wake up every day, seeing myself as such, but I do understand given my tenure at the company and position, I understand, and I recognize that my day to day actions and opinions can really affect other people's point of view and how they shape their own thinking process. So my experience of what I have to learn in the past good or bad, steps that I made, decisions that I made can change how others make their own decisions as they traverse down the similar path.

Laura Drabik (06:06):

A woman of influence to me is someone who would have an effect on me, who I would see as a role model or a leader that I would follow. That means a woman of influence is someone who has strength of character with the courage to fight for what's right, persevering and hopefully never giving up. Someone who creates female or minority empowered workplaces. That's incredibly important. So woman of influence is someone who inspires through her actions, not just her words. And really, really important, a woman of influence extends a hand to another woman to also help her succeed.

Priscilla (06:43):

Yeah, this is a heavy responsibility and I do not take that likely. I have the job and responsibility to set the best examples and be a positive influence on the others every day.

Melissa Cobb (06:53):

I really like your description of a woman of influence, especially someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. What tips or advice can you give to women starting a career in the insurance or technology industries?

Priscilla (07:05):

Yeah, I would say, and that again is not only applying jobs uniquely confined to insurance and the technology industry, but I think overall I would encourage our women to be confident in yourself.

Laura Drabik (07:16):

Focus on being prepared, prepare for everything, every meeting. When you think you're done preparing, you need to prepare some more. Being prepared builds your self confidence and empowers you to be bold.

Priscilla (07:29):

Yeah, for sure. Please do not be afraid to try new things. And the fact that you have never done this or that before doesn't really mean that you cannot be successful. Be adventurous. You'll be amazed the sky is really the limit in terms of what each of us can really do and achieve.

Laura Drabik (07:42):

Yeah. Do things that push the envelope, experience life, educate yourself, and try new experiences. Amelia Earhart said, "The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity." So be bold and act.

Priscilla (07:59):

Another thing I would really strongly encourage is to go find a circle of friends or maybe colleagues as well, that you feel comfortable to share your challenges. Really seek them out because whenever we encounter a work problem, it is really easy for us to create our own echo chamber in our head and think that we are the only one who has experienced that dread and the pain. But I can guarantee you from my own experience that most of the time, if not 100% of the time, what you are really encountering has been really experienced and dealt with successfully by many others.

Laura Drabik (08:32):

Ladies, you need to neutralize negative people. The very best way to neutralize those negative Nellies is focus on your work. As you continue to expand your sphere of influence, the negative people will see their attacks inflict less and less damage. And you know what? Eventually they're just going to give up.

Priscilla (08:49):

Right. And then that circle of trust in a safe platform really provide an environment where you can get support by an empathetic group. And you really don't have to recreate solutions that have proven to work many times over.

Melissa Cobb (09:03):

Great insights. There's a lot of really good points there. And I really like how you touched on a community of women that can come together knowing that others have probably gone through something similar. Thank you for sharing. Laura, you're on the Board of Girls in Tech. What is the nonprofit's mandate and how does it help women in STEM?

Laura Drabik (09:20):

Yeah, thank you for mentioning them. It's a great nonprofit organization. And our mission is to eliminate the gender gap in tech, by providing experience as well as educational opportunities to women. So I would also like to call out that Guidewire is a proud partner of girls in tech and has been for the last three years. So there's a number of ways that we educate women and empower them. And that's through hackathons, mentorship programs. We have a masterclass series and set of courses. We have a podcast series and I think the [inaudible 00:09:54] resistance is our Girls in Tech Annual Conference. It includes panels, sessions, networking opportunities, and also a booth area for companies looking to recruit. So anyone listening here, if you feel like joining this organization or want to attend the conference or just get more information, you can go to

Melissa Cobb (10:13):

Wow. It sounds like girls in tech is definitely doing a lot to support women in technology.

Laura Drabik (10:18):

Yeah, I think we are. We're doing good work.

Melissa Cobb (10:21):

Great. Priscilla, you've worn many hats throughout your career ranging from starting and operating your own mass merchandising trade company to various leadership roles at well known tech companies like Oracle and Sun. How have these experiences contributed to where you are today?

Priscilla (10:35):

Ah, I wish I could tell you that my career path was intentionally plotted and I was so genius in doing this, but you'll be disappointed to hear that I did not do that at all. I did not plan well. And in fact, I would say during the first decade of my career, I kept switching from job to job, including there was a period of time, I decided to completely leave technology for a while to start my own mass merchandising business, selling consumer products. And I was thrashing around because I really had a hard time figuring out what it is that I wanted to do and what it is that really gave me the greatest sense of achievement and satisfaction in my career.

Priscilla (11:10):

But in hindsight, as a result, because I have thrashed around and do many jobs, I accidentally exposed myself to many different challenges and responsibilities that actually makes me better equipped to do a good job at Guidewire. And it also allows me to have a big picture view of different components of an enterprise and any business and what it takes to make all the gears to work in concert together. And also what I learned from my journey is, as I said earlier, don't be afraid to try new things. And the fact that you have not done certain things before, it really doesn't mean that you would not be successful. Really, the key ingredients are hard work, self-awareness, determination. With all that. There's really little limitation in what you can achieve in your career.

Melissa Cobb (11:52):

Great advice, Priscilla. Laura, why is mentoring of women in our industry critical?

Laura Drabik (11:57):

So one of the things that I found effective in advancing my own career is mentorship programs. Why are they important is that they help to guide women in tech that they might need that extra boost or advice to help them getting where they need to go. I myself have been very fortunate and had a mentor for the last 13 years. My mentor is actually our former head of sales, which is Steve Sherry just to call him out. So is it critical? Absolutely. I am where I am because I had a good mentor.

Priscilla (12:30):

Yeah, for sure. I really, really believe in mentorship. And many years ago before I was an official mentor to anyone, I was connected to a few, I would say up and coming women executives who wanted to ask me for advice as they hit certain obstacles at work. And through those meetings, I picked up the pattern that many of the challenges were pretty much exactly the same as mine. I realized that sharing my own experiences, my own challenges and how I solve them have been helpful to others. So it is really eye opening.

Melissa Cobb (13:01):

Want to gig deeper a little bit. Do you have any tips for mentors or mentees?

Laura Drabik (13:05):

What I've learned is that it's hugely important to find the right match between mentor and mentee. You don't want to reach out to a mentor that isn't going to be a good fit for where you want to go with your career. You want someone who's going to be able to guide you by offering real life experiences. So for both find a good match.

Priscilla (13:26):

Don't be shy to look for a mentor, to find a mentor. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Laura Drabik (13:31):

Be respectful of each other's time. Mentees should come to a session with prepared questions and take actions on the recommendations that the mentor recommends or provides.

Priscilla (13:43):

And don't be overly considerate and think you're bothering them and wasting the time. It is definitely not easy for women to move up a corporate chain. So for those who are there, they are all very happy to help and share their experiences. For me personally, I would say that is cathartic moment for me to talk about my own problems, even though that they took place many years ago, right? And recognizing my path has positive impact on the next woman who walks the similar path.

Laura Drabik (14:12):

I think lastly, don't confuse mentor with manager, guys. They aren't there to manage your time or your deliverables. It's to guide you with advice and ideas for your career.

Melissa Cobb (14:24):

Great advice. So thanks for sharing that as well. Can you discuss an important lesson you learned early on in your career and how it helps you grow professionally?

Priscilla (14:32):

Yeah, for sure. There are many, many things that I have learned. What I mentioned earlier about trying different things and different jobs, because I didn't know what I really wanted to do. It really in hindsight helped shape and build my competency. And I would say expand the tools in my toolbox. Even though it is an accident, that's an important lesson learned for me.

Laura Drabik (14:51):

Yeah. I think something I learned very early in my career is find your voice. I started my career working in software sales. So I had an MBA from a top Canadian school. I worked at two very large consulting firms and I had real life industry experience. Yet when I would craft sales strategy or had creative ideas to generate revenue or move the company forward strategically, I would voice those through a Guidewire leader, typically a male. I wasn't confident that my name would carry enough weight and my ideas wouldn't be considered.

Priscilla (15:27):

I remember distinctly when I was younger, I was very reserved. I was shy. I was afraid to speak up most of the time in meetings. As women, we tend to be a little bit too reserved in sharing our opinion. So I would encourage everybody to be confident. Find your voice, speak up in meetings, contribute because I can assure you that no comments are silly and there are no dire consequences if you share your thoughts, even if others disagree.

Laura Drabik (15:53):

Eventually my mentor, Steve said to me, "Laura, you're going to articulate your own ideas from this point forward." And he empowered me to do so by giving me a seat at the management table. And I'm forever grateful for that empowerment. I firmly believe that until you find your voice and you start representing your own ideas, you're going to be overlooked and ignored because no one knows those ideas came from you.

Priscilla (16:17):

Because I didn't speak and I didn't talk in meetings and share ideas, may it be good or bad, I pretty much did not exist and I was not relevant.

Laura Drabik (16:25):

Be bold, find your voice. And yeah, sit at the management table too.

Melissa Cobb (16:29):

I really like how you said, don't be afraid and be bold. Those are great words to live by and to work by. Can you share with us a moment in your life that you are most proud of?

Priscilla (16:39):

Yeah. I would say that the most memorable work moment, January 25th, 2012, when we took Guidewire public in a New York Stock Exchange. I was one of the few lucky ones who were part of the Roe Show and was up in the balcony when we ran the bell to open the market. It was really a surreal moment and one that I would never, never forget.

Melissa Cobb (16:59):

What an amazing moment to see everything coming together that you and the team had worked so hard for.

Priscilla (17:04):

Yeah. Indeed.

Melissa Cobb (17:05):

Thank you for sharing that. And Laura, do you have any thoughts on that?

Laura Drabik (17:08):

Yeah. So when I think about this question, I immediately go back to something I'm very proud of it, but also very stressful situation in my life, which was when I presented my first TEDx Talk, I was so nervous and I was scared to do it. I didn't sleep for three months while I was preparing for it. I didn't think anyone would want to hear my personal story of working in insurance and also in insurance technology, but it actually ended up being the opposite. And I don't know if you'll believe me or not, but you have to. Four years later, I'm still getting people reaching out to me, telling me how my story inspired them and touched them and helped them. This is my favorite, help them choose a career in insurance or a career with Guidewire.

Melissa Cobb (17:53):

That's incredible. Our next question is a little bit different, which 80s song best describes your personality or your career path?

Priscilla (18:03):

Well, 80s in my era and probably I'm dating myself right here. I have many, many favorites, but if I have to pick one that best describes my career path, I would choose Don't Stop Believing by Journey.

Melissa Cobb (18:15):

Love it. Laura?

Laura Drabik (18:18):

So I am a Canadian. And Heart, an all female band is not only Canadian, but also the ultimate girl band. So they have tons of amazing hits, but Never is the one that really gets me fired up. It makes me want to take charge and get stuff done. Some of the lyrics, and I'll read them to you as opposed to singing them to you. But anything you want, we can make it happen. Stand up and turn around. Never let them shoot us down. I think that describes my career trajectory and path over the last 20 years. I also think I should just print out the lyrics and read them every day to inspire me for what the day holds for me. Maybe also inspire some big hair and some neon clothing choices for the day.

Melissa Cobb (19:03):

I love that. And what inspiring words those are as well. That's great. Laura.

Laura Drabik (19:08):

Have you heard that song, Melissa? I think we're from a different generation.

Melissa Cobb (19:11):

I don't know this song. I'm going to have to look it up now, Laura.

Laura Drabik (19:15):

You're killing me. You're killing me.

Melissa Cobb (19:19):

Thank you very much for your time today and for your incredible insight on achieving success in the business of insurance as a woman and how critical diversity is to the advancement of the industry. You have showed us it's not just about ideas. It's about making ideas happen.

Priscilla (19:34):

Thank you, Melissa.

Laura Drabik (19:35):

Good job, Melissa.

Melissa Cobb (19:36):

Thank you. Bye.

Speaker 1 (19:39):

Tune in next time for an all new episode of InsurTalk with Laura Drabik brought to you by Guidewire, the platform P&C insurers trust to engage, innovate, and grow efficiently. For more information, visit



Season 2. Episode 9 | Andy Taylor, CEO of Gore Mutual Insurance Company, on Navigating P&C's Next Horizon

Speaker 1 (00:01):

It's time for InsurTalk with insurance industry tech geek and Guidewire's Chief Evangelist, Laura Drabik. In this podcast series, we don't just talk about innovative ideas and P&C insurance, we talk with industry trailblazers about the big ideas they made happen and how they did it. If you're looking for insights on the trends and technologies reshaping the industry, an all new InsurTalk starts now.

Laura (00:26):

Welcome to InsurTalk. My name is Laura Drabik and I'm the Chief Evangelist at Guidewire. In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing Andy Taylor, CEO of Gore Mutual Insurance. Andy is a seasoned executive with decades of experience working in insurance, under his leadership Gore Mutual launched their Next Horizon strategy to become a purpose driven digitally led national insurer and that is the focus of today's conversation. What's on the Next Horizon for Gore Mutual and for our industry. Hello, Andy. Thank you for joining my podcast.

Andy (01:03):

Hello, Laura. Thank you so much for having me here today.

Laura (01:06):

Tell our listeners about Gore Mutual Insurance and what gets you fired up every day to lead this wonderful organization?

Andy (01:13):

Yeah. Thanks Gore Mutual is Canada's oldest P&C mutual insurance company. And just to give you some perspective, we're over 180 years old but what's super exciting for me and gets me fired up every day is we're going through as you referenced our Next Horizon strategic transformation and the scope of that is ultimately to completely rebuild our organization with the vision of becoming a purpose driven digitally led national insurer over the next decade. So it's an exciting time to be with the organization, one that's got so much history but also really reinventing ourselves for the future.

Laura (01:47):

The Next Horizon strategy is to become, as you said, purpose driven, digitally led national insurer. What else can you share with our listeners on your strategy?

Andy (01:59):

Our strategy is extremely exciting for us and there's three key components of the transformation. The first one is completely rebuilding our operating models, really bringing in best in class operating model design from around the world. The second pillar is completely replacing all of our technology over a very accelerated two to three year period with industry leading Cloud based Guidewire platforms. And the third one that I'm extremely passionate about is a significant investment in the talent and elevation of our business. Just to give you a perspective, we brought close to 200 people into the business over the last few years. So really taking our business from being a mid-size regional generalist insurance company and building a scalable business model that will allow us to achieve that vision of becoming a national insurer in the years to come.

Laura (02:52):

So Andy, I had the pleasure of watching you present Gore Mutual's Next Horizon strategy at Connections in 2021, you did a great job. In your presentation, you used the memorable quote from one of our Canadian heroes, Wayne Gretzky, which is skate to where the puck is going not where it has been. This quote perfectly describes Gore Mutual's mindset, would you mind sharing that mindset with our listeners?

Andy (03:16):

Yeah. It's a great quote and a great question. And I do think that was a pivot point for us in our strategy which is the whole idea behind Next Horizon is to look out 10 years on the horizon. And so we took a very different view with the concept of even though we may be performing well today and we were, we were financially strong, we were growing. When we looked out on the horizon and this is the idea of looking at where the puck's going, we could see some very concerning trends in our industry and that really was the catalyst for the transformation. The three key trends that we were looking at specifically were massive consolidation of our distribution, landscape, financial change and technology and then finally significant change in consumer expectations. And so the idea behind this is if we were not to dramatically change our company and position ourselves for success in the future, we might have actually, found ourselves in a difficult spot. So this concept of looking ahead even if today, things aren't looking challenging, they might look very different if you look out on the horizon.

Laura (04:18):

Yeah. That makes sense. Thanks for sharing that. And speaking of moving forward, you have to evaluate where you are and where you've been no matter how uncomfortable that is. As a leadership team, what difficult conversations did you have as you evaluated your situation and how did you decide to move forward?

Andy (04:35):

I think this is a really difficult one for many companies. In our specific example, we did have to have some very uncomfortable conversations with our leadership team and with our board that building on my earlier comments around looking to the future that were much more candid than we normally would've been. And so specifically when we measured ourselves in today's world as I mentioned, we were doing okay but when we measured ourselves against our competitors and where our industry and the world was going we actually, concluded that our business was not a high performing business.

Andy (05:09):

We didn't have scalable operating models, our technology was not modern. We had been struggling with a legacy replacement program for some time. And if we looked at our talent, we were unable at the time to really attract industry leading talent. And so that was a conversation that we took to our board that wouldn't be a normal one. You used to go into the board with putting your best foot forward but we actually, built a lot of credibility with our board being open and honest about where our weaknesses were, where we needed to change. And I think the alignment between us on that was what led us to the decision to make such a dramatic change and really quite literally, rebuild our organization.

Laura (05:48):

So what were your business goals and if you don't mind sharing, what were your greatest obstacles to achieving those goals?

Andy (05:55):

The vision and our ultimate goal is to be a purpose driven, digitally led national insurer. And the idea between purpose driven digitally led is building off our roots as a mutual insurance company. We feel we have a unique opportunity to position ourselves differently in the industry from a purpose perspective. The second part digitally led is we want to be a high performing business and a leading business from an operating model and technology standpoint so that we could compete with the largest scale players in the industry.

Andy (06:25):

And so the challenge for us when we looked at the goal of becoming a top 10 insurer financially that would mean quadrupling the size of our business at the time when we started Next Horizon, we were just under 500 million, top 10 insurers or 2 billion plus in Canada and write business in all the provinces. So for us, the obstacle was when we looked at that goal of becoming a national insurer, we didn't have a scalable business model that could take us to that scale. We didn't have the technology or the talent and so that was the catalyst to say, "Let's spend the first three years of our Next Horizon." This phase we call the Be Brilliant phase which is getting the foundation built to ultimately, allow us to now scale the business to those financial targets.

Laura (07:10):

Okay. So scalable business model, technology and talent. How did you navigate around these obstacles or how are you navigating through them?

Andy (07:21):

Well, I think the first step we took which I think was a meaningful one, was to think differently about the transformation. Initially, it was a technology transformation program and then for all the reasons that I've just mentioned, the scope of it was much greater and it became a strategic business transformation. And with that mindset, we looked at how do we create value first and then augment that value with technology implementations and talent. And so I think this mindset of business strategy, strategic transformation, creating value, enhancing that with technology allowed us to take some fairly radical decisions early in the program. One of the things we did was we changed our mindset from trying to do it ourselves to working with external partners who in many ways had already done transformations of this scale before. And I think that was a mindset shift for us too because previously we had tried to innovate on our own and we'd struggled.

Andy (08:19):

And so I think that was probably, one of the most meaningful changes. And then I think the second piece is really just the scale and the scope and the pace that we were approaching it with. We had incrementally improved our business for decades and in this case, what we decided was we needed to radically transform our business. So from a capital investment and a resource perspective, we put close to a decade's worth of investment into two to three years to really accelerate the transformation. I mentioned this at the Guidewire Conference but the concept of rather than renovating our house incrementally, we really had to rebuild the entire house and that had a lot of benefits but also introduced a significant amount of risk and complexity to the transformation.

Laura (09:01):

I really appreciate what you said, Andy, in particular around the point about think differently how this was initially seen as a tech program but pivoting it to become a strategic business transformation. Well done, well said.

Andy (09:15):

Thank you, it's very exciting.

Laura (09:16):

When we come back after the short break, we'll continue our conversation with Andy Taylor.

Speaker 1 (09:22):

Digging InsurTalk with Laura Drabik, be sure to subscribe on Amazon, Apple podcast, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. While you're at it, rate the show on Apple Podcast and let us know how we're doing. Now, let's get back to the show.

Laura (09:37):

And welcome back to InsurTalk. This is Laura Drabik and I'm talking to Andy Taylor, CEO of Gore Mutual Insurance. How are you measuring the success of your transformation and are there any achievements to date that you can share with us?

Andy (09:52):

Yeah, absolutely. I think measurement became a key pillar of the program. We really embraced metrics, KPIs and value creation. The one specific example early in the program was we worked with an external partner to bring an entirely new operating model into our claims area. And just in that area alone, we were able to generate in excess of $30 million of recurring cost savings out of our business which helped ultimately, fund some of the technology investments that we were making. So I think there's been meaningful improvements in our operating model that we can measure through KPIs and value creation, I think that's the first one.

Andy (10:30):

The second one, which I think is very relevant to our conversation today is the success of the implementation of our Guidewire Cloud platform. And again, in this area, we took the very ambitious goal to replace the entire technology platform within a three year period. But we were able to finish the entire personalized business within 18 months and that was a highly successful launch. And the third measure of success has been our ability to attract talent and then retain that talent throughout this journey. We've created a lot of excitement around our transformation, our vision where we're going and that's really allowed us to attract next level talent to help us on this journey. So those would be three areas that we're seeing great success and that we're very proud of.

Laura (11:15):

Andy, how important was broker input and buy in to achieving the Next Horizon strategy and can you share with us any useful practices you employed to weave brokers into the transformation?

Andy (11:27):

For us, it was highly strategic and highly important because we distribute our products 100% through independent brokers and strategic broker partners are really a critical part of our vision to growing a company into a national insurer. There's a couple of things we did early in the program that I think really helped the broker experience and our engagement with the brokers. And the first one was our approach to the transformation and how it would impact our broker partners. So we embraced a concept we call, Meet the Market. And what we mean by that is really meet the scale competitor experience in our broker offices. And so historically, we had thought innovation and differentiation, I think that's a common thing most businesses think, it's good to differentiate and innovate but in the distribution space, what we actually, wanted was if a broker was working in their office within their systems, we wanted the experience to actually, be quite similar to the experience with other large scale insurers that we were working with.

Andy (12:28):

And so this concept of meet the market and what that means is the amount of disruption to a broker's workflow of our implementation would be limited and success would be if there was no disruption to our brokers through this journey. And then I think the second piece was we actually, engaged with our broker partners in a council. And I met individually with our leadership team with a number of our partners and we asked them, what are some of their learnings that they've had for other companies that have implemented technology programs or transformations of this scale? And so what could we learn that those companies did well and what could we learn that could have been improved on? And we did take those comments to heart and really try to feed those back into our transformation program. So far the feedback from our broker partners has been extremely positive on the overall implementation and so we're really pleased with that.

Laura (13:15):

How has your transformation improved the experience for your brokers? Can you give any examples and also how about your policyholders?

Andy (13:24):

I think from a personalized perspective where we have now completed the operating model and launched the full Guidewire on the Cloud platform to support it, I would say it's absolutely, game changing for our brokers and our customers. And if I gave you a specific example in our previous operating model, our workflows and our connectivity to our brokers was very manual. And we measured our business in days and weeks in our new model, we have direct connectivity through Guidewire's platform, directly into all of our brokers BMS systems. And we have extremely high level of automation and straight through processing.

Andy (14:01):

So what that means is our brokers can work directly in their systems who issue and buying policies directly through into our platforms without any intervention from our underwriters. And so what we do now is we're monitoring the KPIs around this instead, to give you an example in our auto business, we're seeing close to 95% straight through processing. Now, in our personal auto business, we just recently launched our property line and we're already exceeding over 80% straight through processing there. And I think again, if you just compare that to our previous model where the experience for a broker or customer was measured in days and weeks, that's a whole new game for us. And that's really the basis of now allowing us to really scale that business because we've built a scalable business model there.

Laura (14:44):

Oh, congratulations on these improvements. It's fantastic to hear. So during the pandemic Gore Mutual, you mentioned hired 200 new employees. Right now hiring across any industry is challenging. So that in itself is a great accomplishment, Andy. Where did these employees get added in your organization and how did they help you achieve the vision of Next Horizon?

Andy (15:06):

It's probably, the most exciting area of change. And one that has really surpassed our expectations, all areas of our business are seeing new talent coming in. Previously as a mid-size regional insurer, we were only able to draw on talent from predominantly the geographic area that our head office was located in. And so with the vision now of becoming a national insurance company and we really have embraced a hybrid, highly flexible business model now with three offices in Toronto, Cambridge and Vancouver. But highly augmented with a virtual workforce, it's really opened the floodgates for us in our ability to attract talent from right across the nation. In many ways, the pandemic helped us because the new model is much more attractive to employees. I think the second piece is the nature of the roles that's what you're getting at. And I think what we're bringing in now is a lot more deep specialization in different areas of our business.

Andy (16:00):

So for example, we have an entirely new internal claims legal team. We've tripled the size of our actuarial pricing team, we're bringing deep technical expertise in our underwriting areas, particularly in commercial lines, building out depths in certain classes and target focus areas. Now, so this shift from being a generalist to much more specialization again, combined with our scalable business model is really where we see the vision of trying to scale this business. And I think just one final thought on that is, it is difficult to attract talent in this market but the nature of the talent who are coming to us are individuals who are really excited about our vision and our transformation. They're the type of employee who wants to be a part of that journey, to be able to influence where things are going. And that's really created an amazing culture in our company right now and a sense of pride for what we're accomplishing together.

Laura (16:51):

You peaked my attention with mentioning hiring deep technical resources in underwriting that's very interesting. So how has the profile of a new hire candidate changed from what you hired four or five years ago versus what you hire for today and potentially tomorrow?

Andy (17:07):

Yeah, it's completely different from even just three years ago, for sure five years ago. So the profile I think is technical expertise in areas where we lacked it. Individuals who likely have worked at a larger scale organization and so they're actually, bringing a lot of experience to our organization to help us on our journey but we're seeing a lot of talent from our larger competitors. The second piece would be we're seeing a lot of new talent that's not traditional. So again, five years ago we might have been hiring more traditional underwriters, claims or finance individuals. Now, we are seeing a lot of roles coming into our data and analytics area through our technology and digital areas. So a much more broad set of skills and many of these individuals are coming from outside the insurance industry and bringing insights into our business to really help drive us forward.

Laura (17:57):

Great. Thanks, Andy. On the other side of this break, we'll continue the conversation so don't go anywhere.

Speaker 1 (18:05):

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Laura (18:24):

Welcome back. This is InsurTalk with Laura Drabik, where we're talking with Andy Taylor. You were the first Canadian carrier to go live on Guidewire's Cloud platform and you mentioned earlier, you did it in just 18 months. I bet that wasn't stressful at all?

Andy (18:40):

Yeah. No, it was highly stressful. I think what I would say is in the early days, given the scope of what we had taken on, there was a high level of stress but I would say it was healthy stress. I think the stress was around, would we be able to accomplish such a dramatic implementation in such a short timeframe? I don't believe anyone else in our industry had done something so ambitious in terms of the full scope, underwriting, claims, billing, data and analytics, everything live within 18 months.

Andy (19:08):

I think what gave us the confidence and we saw that particularly, after our first release was again, back to this principle of working with partners who had been there and done it before. And so whether it was working with the Guidewire team or we partnered with Deloitte which is our implementation partner and we also hired internally from other organizations where they had implemented similar solutions or had gone through a similar type of transformation. But I don't think it was till we finished our first release that I finally took a deep breath and said, "Okay, we're going to be fine now." And after that it's been smooth sailing and the subsequent releases but certainly, not for the faint at heart.

Laura (19:45):

Healthy stress, who knew such thing existed? I guess it does if you do what you did which is hire people or leverage partners with experience. So I think the Cloud solutions like Guidewire help insurers by providing them with access to leading edge infrastructure without the operational overhead or capital expense and Cloud software provides insurers with a flexibility to rapidly prototype, if you will, and deploy new lines and also services. But Andy, it doesn't matter what I think. From your perspective, did Cloud factor into your decision for selecting a modern solution? If so, why was it important?

Andy (20:23):

Yeah. It absolutely, did. And I think we found ourselves in a position where we were lagging the industry. We were on outdated technology platforms, we were working on a legacy replacement program that hadn't been successful. So we had the decision to make, do we catch up to where the industry is or do we leap frog to the most modern platform? And again, it comes back to that mindset we talked about earlier of looking out on the horizon. So when we looked out on that 10 year horizon, it was clear that Cloud was going to be the leading strategic platform that we wanted to be on.

Andy (20:56):

So that was the first decision. We do believe strongly in this concept of a lower cost scalable solution but I think the third piece that is highly exciting for us particularly now that we have the platform in place is our ability to leverage it with third party accelerators and move really quickly. And so we refer to that as the innovation layer on our program, we think the Cloud really opens up an opportunity for us to partner with many new solutions at a pace that we certainly could not have done if were we not on the Cloud.

Laura (21:26):

Hey Andy, could you share an example of the type of value proposition that is helping you innovate by leveraging third party accelerators?

Andy (21:33):

Yeah, absolutely. I think one area we're looking at which is really exciting for us is the whole claims journey and the claims experience. So there's two pieces to the claims accelerator program for us. One is partnering with accelerators that are bringing deep expertise around fraud analytics and so we're working with FRISS, that's one of our partners on the fraud side and that's going to be critical to continued profitability of our business. And the one that I'm really excited about is there's a number of new solutions that we're looking at to improve the customer journey through the claims process and really ensure that where we have meaningful moments of truth with our customers, that we're able to really change the experience for them. So there's a high level of digitization and focus on customer experience with our partners on the claims journey that we're really excited about. I think we're just really starting to scratch the surface because we're just at the beginning of that program.

Laura (22:26):

Congratulations on opening your Bay Street office. It's absolutely, gorgeous.

Andy (22:31):

Thank you. It's stunning and very exciting for all of our employees.

Laura (22:35):

For our listeners, Gore Mutual is headquartered in Cambridge, Ontario about a hundred kilometers from Toronto. So Andy, why open an office in the heart of Toronto's financial district?

Andy (22:46):

For us, I think there's two key strategic reasons. One is for us having a presence in Canada's largest market downtown where largest scale broker partners are, reinsurance partners and others. It Was just a logical repositioning of our brand in the marketplace. The second one ties to my earlier comments, is our ability to attract industry leading talent and then retain that talent. So now we have a vision that we've launched actually, just this week of what we call our next normal future of work model, where we have flagship offices in Toronto, Cambridge and Vancouver. And we are augmenting that with a virtual workforce and it's been extremely, exciting for us. So we're attracting talent in focus areas for us strategically commercial lines. Our Toronto and Vancouver offices will be highly focused on building on our commercial capabilities but also technical expertise in actuarial and technology areas. So both repositioning us in the market as well as ability to attract talent. And we launched the office and our employees couldn't be more pleased with it.

Laura (23:47):

Good. And I also noticed it's really close to Tim Hortons. So yet another benefit for the talent.

Andy (23:51):

That's right, that's a given.

Laura (23:52):

Yes. Double, double please. All right. Any advice you would share with our listeners on how to maintain your cool and mental health during a company wide transformation?

Andy (24:03):

Yeah. Within our purpose program, we have a pillar we call Be Good which is how we treat our employees and all throughout the pandemic but also the transformation. We really put a focus on wellness and the wellbeing of our employees. Another way of thinking about it is although we've been going through a very dramatic transformation, we don't actually, see the transformation ending. We're building a skill set around continuous improvement and innovation and so we've built into our organization systems and tools to help our employees from a wellness perspective because we really see this as more of a marathon than a sprint. So just a couple examples, we focused a lot on Wellness Days throughout the years, giving our employees time off to recharge and refocus as we came into really busy time periods. We're even piloting a four day work week and shortened work weeks this coming summer.

Andy (24:53):

We call them recharge days to really recharge your batteries and get ready for the next phase. I think the other piece is focus. So we've embraced something we call a Strategic Boulders as a mindset. And so sometimes a transformation of the scale can be completely overwhelming just because there's so many pieces that are moving. But really aligning our organization to a few very specific major strategic focus areas allows everyone to really get their head around what they need to work on and not become overwhelmed with the scope of the transformation. So I think that balance of focus but really of supporting our team through wellbeing and wellness and issues has been important for us.

Laura (25:30):

And my last but very important question for you, Andy. Maple Leafs or are Calgary Flames.

Andy (25:36):

Oh that one's an easy one, particularly with our new office, Leafs all the way. But to be fair, I'm more of a Raptors fan than I am the Leafs fan. But obviously, as a proud Canadian, I grew up playing hockey but there's so much excitement right now with all of our sports team. So sorry to say Leafs over Calgary and definitely, Raptors as they had into the playoffs. It's a very exciting time for Toronto.

Laura (25:57):

Yes. Living in California now but being from Toronto, it wasn't taken very well when the Raptors beat the Warriors a little while ago. So I was proud but it was a challenging situation in the office.

Andy (26:10):

Yeah. I can imagine.

Laura (26:11):

Andy, thank you very much for your time today and for your incredible insight on navigating the Next Horizon. You've showed us it's not just about ideas, it's about making ideas happen.

Andy (26:22):

Awesome. Thank you. That was a lot of fun.

Speaker 1 (26:28):

Tune in next time for an all new episode of InsurTalk with Laura Drabik, brought to you by Guidewire, the platform P&C insurers trust to engage, innovate and grow efficiently. For more information visit