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Different countries have their own cultures and quirks, particularly when it comes to the world of work. For some leaders, recognizing these nuances can be a tiresome challenge, but Ludovic Senecaut finds great satisfaction in managing those intricacies.
Indeed, this is a large part of why he accepted the position of CEO at MS Amlin Insurance in 2020, right at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the business world’s most difficult times.
“I really enjoy finding the right way to communicate with different cultures, to be understood and to get people motivated and to see the result at the end,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “That’s why I took on the job.”
These are skills that he honed during his time as CEO Northern and Eastern Europe at Allianz Trade, formerly Euler Hermes, where he worked for several years managing 15 teams in 15 countries.
“If you don’t listen to your customers, I would say you are simply dead in the market.”
“It’s a different level of interaction and a different level of involvement,” he explains. “And it’s a situation I am experiencing again with MS Amlin Insurance, where I have teams in France, in Brussels, in the Netherlands, in the United Kingdom and in Germany. So, working in a multicultural environment.”
Adapting his approach for each market is critical from both an internal and external perspective. Each country in which MS Amlin operates requires a different touch, which aligns nicely with the company’s consumer-centric strategy.
“If you don’t listen to your customers, I would say you are simply dead in the market,” Senecaut warns. “To go the distance, you have to be relevant for your market, so you have to listen to your customers.”
In a cluttered market, MS Amlin cannot afford to simply compete on price. Quality of service is absolutely critical.
“We may be slightly more expensive, but we really provide a solution which meets your needs,” he says. “It’s a question of being available to provide bespoke solutions.”
With MS Amlin’s ambition to become bigger and more profitable, one of the first things Senecaut did when he took the reins was to devise a strategic plan that would achieve these goals.
“We are well on track, even advanced, regarding the financial KPIs of that plan,” he reveals.
While this is important, even more valuable in his view is putting the company on a trajectory toward long-term growth.
“I want to make sure that the company is still relevant in the market in 10 years, that the people here working for us have developed themselves, have grown, and are also still relevant in the labor market,” he says.
“I want to make sure that the company is still relevant in the market in 10 years, that the people here working for us have developed themselves, have grown, and are also still relevant in the labor market.”
This is an aspect of his leadership style that has certainly evolved over the last 20 years of his career.
“I’ve seen so many people stuck in one position and suddenly the tools are changing, the challenges are changing, the needs of a company are changing, and we discover people are not able or relevant anymore,” he reflects.
While the employee has a responsibility to be proactive in developing themselves, it is one that also is shared with the employer.
Ensuring team members are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills is a key part of MS Amlin’s mission to deliver the very best service to its customers.
In the B2B insurance sector, which is where MS Amlin sits, there are both standardized and personalized insurance products.
“We’re positioned more toward the bespoke market,” he explains. “I like it because, on one hand, we are able to really listen to our customers and provide them with a well-designed, well-adapted solution to their needs. And to do so, I have to invest also in the expertise, in the knowledge of my people, to put them in the position to be relevant for the market.
“But by doing so, I can guarantee that they will remain relevant over time for the future, for the benefit of the company, but for their own benefit as well, wherever they want to go.”
It’s a future that is looking increasingly different due to a number of escalating factors, with MS Amlin required to swiftly adapt in order to remain relevant. Climate change is a growing issue, with its impact on the insurance industry being quite significant.
“What we have been experiencing over the last year is that there are more and more climate disasters,” Senecaut says. “Last year, we had the worst windstorm since 2000 in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The year before, it was the worst flood in Belgium and Germany since 2000 as well.”
Severe hail damage in France in 2022 resulted in US$4.4 billion in damages, and similar problems are being seen around the world.
“It’s everywhere,” he stresses. “Europe was still considered a safe haven until two, three years ago. And now we are seeing more and more climate-related events in Europe. This is putting pressure on the whole industry. We need to find a way to solve this.”
Although not just a problem for the insurance industry, it bears the brunt in the form of claims. So MS Amlin must reassess its offerings based on these climate trends.
Related to this is the company’s approach to ESG, which all plays into the bigger picture.
Another challenge is cyber risk. Although MS Amlin doesn’t provide cyber insurance, it must protect itself from potential attack.
“The question is not if we are going to be attacked one day, it is when we’re going to be attacked,” he says soberly. “Companies who are not working enough on that will have an issue within the next 10 years.”
“The question is not if we are going to be attacked one day, it is when we’re going to be attacked.”
The repercussions of globalization, which were amplified during the pandemic and continue to resound throughout supply chains, are another area that requires some thought.
But in tackling these points, it all comes back to one thing. “We need to have the right people, the right knowledge and to keep them,” Senecaut reiterates.
Innovation is also essential to help MS Amlin achieve its goals with the company’s immediate focus on positioning itself at the forefront in the use of certain technologies. Earlier this year, it kicked off a project to replace its core IT system for a modern alternative with higher levels of automation.
“This will make the work easier for the employees, and they will have more time to dedicate to customers and added value tasks,” he says. “On top of that, we are increasingly using algorithm-based machine learning or artificial intelligence.”
Such technology can also be harnessed to help MS Amlin analyze the risks brought about by the shifting environment, as well as to streamline its operations.
All of these changes are shaking up the insurance industry around the world, according to Senecaut, making it an exciting place to be.
“The insurance industry is a relatively old and well-established business,” he reflects. “Nevertheless, it has to face these modern challenges.”