Engaging talent through innovation

“The most interesting innovation is happening with partnering with our customers.


Justin Gress, Director of Strategic Operations-North America Insurance, AXA XL

Insurance Innovators spoke to Justin Gress about transformation in the commercial lines space, how to create meaningful change with innovation and how carriers can best attract and retain talent.

What do you expect will trigger the greatest transformation in the commercial lines space over the next 5 years?

J.G. We will quickly see non traditional companies enter and succeed in the insurance market. It could be in specific niches, but I feel strongly insurance will pivot to be much more focused on services and operating in a greater marketplace than traditional insurance operates in today.

Innovation has been a buzzword in the insurance industry for a few years now – what steps can insurers take to ensure innovation creates meaningful change, rather than just being a buzzword?

J.G. I believe it’s important to understand the customer’s challenges first and look to partner/pilot different technologies with customers that can have a positive impact on results for them and for the insurer. So many exciting technologies exist out there, but the opportunity is to test, verify, then deploy on a larger scale. It’s also a way to give opportunities to up and coming talent at your company. Running a technology pilot and working between a tech company and a customer can be a challenging and rewarding assignment.

What are the greatest challenges to leveraging innovation at scale across the business? How can these challenges be overcome?

J.G. I think the most interesting innovation is happening with partnering with our customers. Of course, large scale innovation exists internally, but I think you can get more traction by finding a positive way to impact a customer and their business. You need a strong senior leader to sponsor your idea and efforts (buy in), a clear idea of the investment (big or small doesn’t matter-just clear), what are the logical steps to move forward, and what is the benefits (financial and non financial)…one of the other challenges is navigating the legal and compliance landscape. New innovations come with new legal questions of how they will work and what impact they have. It’s most important to find a senior level advocate who can help guide you in your company. If it’s the right plan, you will gain excitement and learn from the process!

Attracting the right talent to the insurance industry is a crucial consideration for carriers currently. What would you say are some of the most important steps for carriers to take to successfully attract and retain talent?

J.G. Carriers have jobs they didn’t have a few years ago, the opportunity exists to find and take on roles in the industry that are very innovation focused. With the right innovation strategy a carrier can attract and retain talent. Giving opportunities that focus on innovation, pilots, customer partnerships, etc…are exciting, relevant, and a great way to engage talent.

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