Pictured: Aidan Connaughton, General Manager, Ireland branch at AIG Europe S.A.
Aidan Connaughton is General Manager at Ireland branch, AIG Europe S.A.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
I’m fortunate to have been with AIG, in various roles, for more than 30 years – through which I’ve seen the business grow and change dramatically. It’s a privilege to be in a position to lead AIG in Ireland with the support of a local team which has shown extraordinary resilience and dedication during a very challenging time. My priority is to continue to invest in the brilliant talent we have alongside fostering product innovation & digitalisation, so AIG can build on our proud history in Ireland and remain the insurance partner of choice for our brokers, clients, and customers.
What are your biggest challenges as General Manager?
The pace at which the insurance sector is embracing digitalisation has accelerated considerably, as has been the case across all sectors. At the same time, we have also transitioned rapidly to new ways of working. The biggest challenge across the business is for us to embrace new technology and processes while maintaining a customer-first mindset. Disruption is a positive where it leads to innovation and better outcomes for customers. Our challenge is to manage through a time of considerable change while ensuring there is no disruption to service.
How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?
It’s important to be very visible and available to the team. We prioritise open dialogue, ensuring we’re providing lots of opportunities for people to collaborate across teams and keeping everyone informed and updated on a regular basis through town halls and knowledge sharing sessions.
I make sure I have regular interaction with different teams across the business. I also make it a point to recognise and share success stories across the team.
As I have progressed through the business during my time with AIG I benefitted from the support of leaders who encouraged my career development by helping me to take on additional challenges and that’s something I’m keen to encourage in team members. Fostering a diverse and inclusive culture within the workplace is a big focus for me as is supporting open conversations amongst staff and encouraging dialogue around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) so that we as a business are receiving quality feedback and striving to improve where we need to.
What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?
The Irish insurance market is a very competitive and dynamic market with a strong base of well-established domestic insurers, along with many of the major global and London Market insurers.
Like other industries, the insurance sector faces challenges that we must navigate in Ireland. The industry however has a history of responding quickly to change, as evidenced by the 40% decrease in insurance costs following the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) in 2004.
One area that faces the industry is the challenge of competition. AIG welcomes the announcement by the Government that a new office will be set up to increase competition in the insurance market in Ireland. More competition will increase capacity and the availability of insurance solutions to this market, ultimately benefitting the consumer. Ireland is an international hub for insurance, employing 27,000 people and managing €303 billion in assets, and we’d like to see this grow further.
It is critical for the market that insurers are well capitalised with a strong governance and risk management framework. Therefore, it is crucial that we navigate this challenge moving forward.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
The pace at which digital transition is occurring, as I mentioned earlier, has definitely accelerated due to the pandemic. This has significant implications both at an operational level and in terms of improving and simplifying the process of obtaining cover.
Greater integration of data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are already enhancing functionality and improving the user experience for AIG customers.
On the commercial side, in terms of technology, we are continuing to leverage our digital platform Rapidcover which hosts an array of products to suit the needs of SME organisations predominantly, including office combined, cyber, public liability and many more. With this platform, a broker can obtain a quote and bind cover within a matter of minutes for their clients.
On the consumer side, we are always looking to improve our customers’ digital journey by assessing and building on our current capabilities. Customers can manage their policies online 24 / 7 with our MyAIG account service. Customers are continuing to demand more from service providers online and it’s important we continue to make it even easier to deal with AIG across all digital touchpoints.
Climate change is another important issue on our agenda in terms of looking at our own strategy as well as engaging with our clients to understand their plans and aspirations in this area.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
The sector is undergoing significant reform and we would welcome the government’s Action Plan on Insurance Reform and its principal actions highlighting the need to reduce the cost of claims for the benefit of policyholders. Claims pay-outs, particularly in whiplash and personal injury cases, are the highest in Europe.
The new Personal Injuries Guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council are an important step towards achieving meaningful change in reducing Ireland’s high cost of claims.
We also welcome the Government outlining its commitment to the review of the duty of care laws. We firmly believe that a more balanced approach to the duty of care applied to policyholders is an integral action to achieving meaningful reform.
As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?
We have a diverse talent pool in the Irish market. We continue to attract exceptional young talent and graduates. AIG supports the Irish Insurance Institute’s Apprenticeship Program, which fosters and develops young talent here in Ireland. It is important that we communicate the wide range of opportunities the insurance sector can afford to people, particularly to graduates and young professionals who are the future of our industry.
How has Brexit affected you?
At first instance Brexit brought with its considerable uncertainty and disruption for many businesses who rely on our expertise to help identify and manage risks. In terms of the impact on the insurance sector and AIG specifically we adapted and restructured very quickly and ensured that there was no impact for our clients. Brexit also presented opportunities for us to bring risks back from UK to Ireland.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Success is an output that comes from supporting the continuous development of our team. Our ability as a business to embrace opportunity and to deal with the challenges which come our way depends on the ability of the team to adapt and overcome obstacles in their way. Where we are fostering an environment in which the team can continue to learn, to develop and to improve, we will succeed.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
The best advice I was given was to surround yourself with people who have the talent and ability to continually strive for improvement and who are not afraid to challenge the status quo. The advice I would give to any business would be that autonomy and trust are the foundations of any successful team, and that the success of the team is the success of the individual.
I would also advise businesses to be mindful of how contributing to strategy and collective action contributes to your vision and to always focus on the role to the best of your ability.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Over the past year we have had several highlights that have stood out to me. Firstly, after what has been a challenging environment this past year, our collective resilience and dedication to adapt to change has been astounding. I think the industry showed operational resilience throughout the pandemic and I’m proud of how we thrived in this new environment. I also have to commend the new talent that have joined us over the past year and have embraced the culture of our organisation in a seamless manner.
In terms of claims, I am proud of how we stood by our clients when they needed us most. Some other highlights have to be our work in DE&I with our role in Dublin GAA, Women’s Golf Ireland, the AIG Women’s Open and our series ’50 Most Influential Women in Sport’ with Sport for Business.
What’s next for your company?
What’s next for us as a business is continuing to improve our operational efficiency. We will also be looking at how we both define and communicate to the market our differentiated value proposition as we focus on new business and further growth opportunities. We will continue to demonstrate to our clients and prospective clients how our products and services can help them, particularly in times of uncertainty and to build on our solid and well diversified portfolio. We will continue to be more than an insurance company – a risk management partner which helps our customers focus on the bigger picture.
We have ambitious business targets for 2022, with a broader risk appetite in areas such as commercial property, environmental and supplemental health products. We will also continue to support the expansion of Dublin as an insurance hub to write business into Europe.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
As a business we want to become the preferred insurance partner in all our selected markets and segments. This means retaining our position in some segments and improving our position in others. I firmly believe we have the most talented underwriting and support teams with the highest level of expertise in their fields backed by a global network of colleagues.
Building our brand – both from a business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) perspective through articulating our value proposition, for example, we can insure more jurisdictions around the world, than any other insurer, have deep expertise in terms of Group Accident & Health plans for our corporate clients and are a market leader in Financial Lines, which covers products such as Directors and Officers Insurance. We will also focus on leveraging our sponsorship assets: Dublin GAA, Golf Ireland & our global partnership of the AIG Women’s Open.