Richard Pryce is all about people. In his role as International CEO at QBE, one of the world’s top insurers, he strives to deliver a high level of customer service and encourages his team to do the same.

However, Richard points out he gets much better results from employees when they feel secure and supported by management and their colleagues. “I think enthusiasm comes from people seeing opportunities where they can make a difference, and where they feel valued and supported,” he says.

“At QBE, we challenge and support each other. And by that I mean we’re not challenging ourselves to make each other feel vulnerable and exposed; we’re challenging each other to be better, both individually and collectively. I think that’s a very important part of our culture, that people are prepared to go the extra mile to help others in the organisation be more successful.”

Richard joined QBE in 2012 and was appointed CEO of the insurance company’s European Operations in 2013. In January this year, QBE’s Asia and Europe businesses formed a new international division, with Richard at the helm. “Asia is a smaller division, so it can be more effectively run as part of the biggest group. That’s why we created the international division,” Richard explains. “We can get value out of working closely together.”

While Richard is still based in London, his new role does require him to spend more time in Asia. “Some of my leadership team here have had to take on extra responsibility, and I must say they’ve taken it on without question and with great enthusiasm.

I think that’s a really good reflection of the positive culture in our organisation,” he smiles. “As leaders, we have to make sure we spread our priorities and balance our focus, and also spend time building relationships with new colleagues in different parts of the world.

So I find it really encouraging the way everyone has pulled together with the creation of this new team.” A looming Brexit deadline has posed a big challenge for the team, who have worked hard over the past few years to make the business more resilient throughout this period of change and uncertainty.

Last year, QBE received approval from the National Bank of Belgium to create a new subsidiary in Brussels to allow the company to continue to operate across the European Economic Area.

“We were decisive and early movers on setting up a new European legal entity to manage any consequences of Brexit and we are now well prepared,” he says. “By moving quickly, we made sure we took the uncertainty out of Brexit for both our customers and our staff.

As a leadership team, it’s been important to deal with Brexit as a priority, but not let it distract us from the agenda of building our organisation and improving the quality of everything we do.”

Indeed, the team at QBE continually strives for improvement, especially when it comes to customer satisfaction. The company has introduced a new global customer commitment program, which aims to deliver a consistent level of outstanding service to QBE’s customers and partners.

“This is to make sure all our people understand the importance of engaging proactively with our customers,” Richard says. “I think, too often in the past, people in insurance have been reactive around a customer.

You might get a customer or broker enquiry and people chase around after it. But it’s much better to understand what you’re good at and where you can really make a difference and be proactive around that.”

Richard points to natural disasters as an area where customer service is particularly important. “In the past two years, there’s been a high number of catastrophic natural disasters around the world. Inevitably, it does undermine the profitability of the industry,” he notes.

“But we have to be conscious that many of our customers have been adversely affected and make sure we give them prompt and quality service to get them back and up and running as quickly as possible. I think our claims department has
done a wonderful job with that.”

The company is also striving to improve customer experiences and outcomes by making better use of data and technology to streamline processes. It has introduced a Brilliant Basics program, which aims to achieve global best practice in underwriting, pricing and claims. “It’s just making sure that we absolutely nail the basics and do them very well.

We’re also using data to make smarter and faster underwriting and claims decisions,” Richard says. “We’re exploring how we can improve processes and then replace them with robotic technology. We use robotics to process, accept and pay claims, and that really is quite exciting.

It takes out labour-intensive processes that people don’t enjoy, provides a better customer outcome and makes the organisation more efficient. It also puts us in a better position to analyse our processes and extract data. So it’s very much a win-win situation.”

As Richard talks excitedly about the future of QBE, there’s one topic he keeps coming back to: the customer. “We really do put our customers at the centre of everything we do,” he says. “We have to listen and understand what our customers want – and that’s not just about the product, but how you deliver it and service it.

“We really do put our customers at the centre of everything we do.”

Our customers’ needs are evolving, especially if you consider the geopolitical world we operate in. So much is changing that we need to really understand what our customers want.”

In addition to focusing on excellent customer relations, Richard points out the company also works hard to nurture its relationships with other businesses, including banks and brokers.

“It’s very important there are organisations that can enhance our offering and make QBE better. We have to make sure we identify those and engage effectively with them,” he says.

“We operate with so many external parties who help us deliver a good, all-round customer experience. Strategic sessions help us all gain an understanding of what each of us, including the customer, requires, allowing us to pull the best of both organisations together.”

Fast facts:
QBE’s Premiums4Good allows its customers to make a difference in the community. When clients select this scheme, QBE invests up to 25 per cent of the insurance premium paid into projects that directly benefit communities or the environment.

Richard says one of the most satisfying aspects of his job is seeing the enthusiasm of his employees as they pull together to give back to the community.

Since its launch in 2011, the European branch of the QBE Foundation has donated more than €8.7 million to charity.

Every year, QBE’s employees in each region choose a charity partner to benefit from their fundraising efforts.

“I’m always quite humbled and amazed by how much my colleagues get behind the chosen foundation, which for 2018 and 2019 is the Alzheimer’s Society,” he enthuses. “Since January 2018, our staff in Europe has raised £185,000 (€216,000).

Importantly, it’s the employees’ charity and foundation, so they decide which charities they’re going to be. We provide support and assistance, but it’s very much focused on what they want to do, so staff feel a strong part of it. It’s a really important part of our company culture.”

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