“Standing still can be risky for any business or leader,” — CEO Q&A with Rachael Ingle of Aon Ireland

By Business & Finance
19 October 2022
Pictured: Rachael Ingle, CEO, Aon Ireland

Rachael Ingle is the CEO of financial services firm Aon Ireland. She balances this role with her position as EMEA Head of Wealth Solutions and Sub-Region Leader for the Nordics.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

In a world that is more volatile and fast moving than ever before, the risks facing leaders are becoming more complex and the need for better decisions has never been greater.

That’s why I’m focused on tapping into the skills and expertise of our 700-strong team in Ireland to deliver the most cutting-edge commercial risk, health, human capital and wealth solutions for our clients.

In better harnessing these capabilities, we can give Irish business leaders the clarity and confidence they need to navigate all forms of business challenges while also building a resilient workforce fit for the future.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

The biggest challenge, which I know is one faced by almost all leaders in all sectors, is to keep up with the pace of change so that Aon Ireland provides the best advice and services to leaders.

Standing still can be risky for any business or leader.

The rapid speed of digital transformation, the emergence of a new world of work and new geopolitical risks are coming together to reshape the business environment. It’s vital that our team remains agile and stays one step ahead. Investing in their skills, capabilities and employee wellbeing is one of the main ways we can achieve that.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

Motivated employees drive business success. That’s why we’ve focused on building an inclusive workplace culture which recognises the backgrounds, experiences and strengths of each individual team member, and gives them the tools and support that they need to carry out their best work.

Sometimes, this involves creating a safe space to take risks, secure in the knowledge that without risk there can be no innovation.

It is also about investing in the changing needs of employees – not just physical wellbeing, but increasingly their emotional and financial wellbeing – as well as providing them with the opportunities to build a rewarding and exciting career.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

One of the most pressing challenges we all face is winning the ‘battle for talent’ that is underway. Aon’s Global Risk Management Survey revealed that attracting and retaining talent is one of the top five future risks for C-suite leaders in Ireland. The ‘battle for talent’ is being driven by an increased flexibility in how we work together with the growing demand for digital skills.

From boosting performance through workforce resilience and employee health and benefit programmes, to building bespoke solutions that provide for a secure retirement, we’re helping firms to navigate this ever-present challenge.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

One of the most exciting trends within our industry is the shift to hybrid working. This is opening up opportunities to reframe the traditional office as a hub of collaboration and innovation and creating a flexible working environment to further attract top talent and build a more diverse, equal and inclusive workplace.

New technologies are also helping our team at Aon to deliver innovative new solutions that address unmet client needs. With the combination of emerging technologies and data-drive insights, we can ensure Irish businesses are better informed, better advised and ultimately can make better decisions.    

Many employers are also facing increased levels of regulation. The coming into force of the EU IORP II Directive and the proposed auto-enrolment retirement saving system are set to transform the pension landscape with new obligations being placed on employers.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

Although Irish businesses have made important strides in mitigating risk during the pandemic, there is a need for companies to build a risk culture that is focused on managing risk in all its forms. That starts with a board-level understanding of, and commitment to, risk management as a critical factor for decision making and driving value for the business.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

We are continually looking for skilled people with great analytical, problem-solving and communication skills as well as a passion to succeed. Although the competition for talent has increased, thankfully we’ve been able to attract people with the right skills. That has helped us to build a diverse team across our commercial risk, health, human capital and wealth solutions divisions.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

As a leading professional services firm which advises clients on how to manage risk in a range of areas, the pandemic has brought about significant change to our sector and the economy at large. The way we identify, analyse and make decisions about risk has changed enormously, with COVID-19 demonstrating the interconnected nature of risks that organisations have to tackle.

It also illustrated how long-tail risks, those which may seem far off into the future or relatively unlikely, can suddenly become a reality. Just being aware of a risk is not the same as being ready for it — companies also need to anticipate and mitigate looming threats.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

For me, success is being able to do something you love and that challenges you every day. I’ve been lucky to be part of the Aon Ireland team for over fourteen years. From bringing together the Aon and Hewitt businesses and heading up the retirement and investment business for a decade to my current role as Aon Ireland CEO, I’ve had some unique opportunities to acquire new skills, grow the business and develop my own strengths and capabilities as a business leader.

I guess I’m driven by a number of factors, one of which is the satisfaction of overcoming new challenges. I’m also driven by a need to drive value and impact for clients, as well as finding new opportunities to empower and support those around me.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

I think it’s hugely important in business for leaders to nurture the skill of active listening. Whether it’s listening to your colleagues or listening to your clients, through active listening, you can really get to the core of what is going on with a person or business. It is a skill which I’ve found very useful at helping me discern things which might otherwise go unnoticed and make more informed decisions throughout the years.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

I’ve been particularly proud of how our colleagues have come together from across our solution lines over the past year to turn our Aon United blueprint into a competitive advantage. By really bringing together our client offering from all of our solution lines, we’re unlocking the power of Aon United so that Irish companies have a one stop shop to help them navigate new forms of risk, build a resilient workforce and rethink access to capital.

On a personal level, the biggest highlight of this year has been my appointment as CEO of Aon Ireland, as well as EMEA Head of Wealth Solutions and Sub-Region Leader for the Nordics. It’s an exciting time to be leading teams both nationally and regionally.   

What’s next for your company?

Working with the wider Aon Ireland leadership team, we continue to work towards the realisation of the goals of the Aon United Blueprint to create new sources of value for clients, deliver more effective client services, drive innovation at scale and ensure a unique colleague experience for everyone at Aon Ireland.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Clients associate our brand with clarity, confidence and success. As leaders emerge from the pandemic and face the impact of higher costs and new geopolitical risk, these core values will continue to underpin our partnership with Ireland’s leading employers and drive our continued growth at Aon Ireland in 2023 and beyond.

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