Having worked in both sectors, what do you see as the key differences and similarities between insurance and assistance? And how are they linked?
Both insurance and assistance companies have a responsibility to provide quality customer service. Whether we’re working with one of our partners or directly with an insured, our products and services are used when something goes wrong and someone needs help, so the way we treat our customers is an essential part of our business.
The industries are pretty different when it comes to navigating regulations. Insurance is highly regulated, and this can vary quite a bit from country to country – even state to state. But at the end of the day, helping people in times of need is at the core of what we do. The insurance and assistance industries share that common goal.
What sets your company apart from others?
Generali Global Assistance is unique because we manage all aspects of our business, from filing insurance language with state regulators to delivering 24/7 travel and medical assistance, as one team and under one brand. Direct insight into each stage of the customer experience means we can ensure that our standards are met and that each individual is taken care of every step of the way.
You have worked at Generali for over 25 years in a variety of senior roles. What does your current job entail?
The company is experiencing rapid growth in the US with our focused, niche approach in the travel insurance, identity protection and cost containment markets. In the travel insurance space, we’ve grown to become the market leader, so a great deal of my job is keeping the team customer-focused and disciplined. Growth is exciting, but we must remember what made us successful in the first place – being a good partner and providing great service to customers. When a company grows, it can become more bureaucratic and less nimble, so we have to stay motivated but thorough, ensuring that all the proper controls and checks and balances are in place.
How have your previous roles helped you in understanding the challenges the business is facing?
Fortunately, I was given large global responsibilities early in my career, so I have learned how to work effectively with people from many different cultures. Travel is a worldwide business, and this global nature is becoming more important to our clients. I hold the firm belief that strong leadership is founded on effective communication; both internally to build teamwork and externally to build partnerships. Clients and employees need to trust the company that they work with, or for, and communication is the best way to understand complex global issues and find solutions.
Your background is in law – why did you move to the insurance and assistance industry?
I hold the firm belief that strong leadership is founded on effective communication; both internally to build teamwork and externally to build partnerships
I started my career as an attorney and represented Generali in some high-profile cases in New York. Generali then retained me as their General Counsel in 1996, instead of paying my outrageous hourly attorney rate! In 1999, I moved to the business side and became CEO of Generali US Branch. Since then, I have had various roles within the Generali Group, including CEO of our Global Corporate and Commercial Centre in London and CEO of Generali Life Reinsurance. For the past seven years, I have been with the Europ Assistance Group, which is wholly owned by Generali. The change has been interesting and very positive, because at Europ Assistance our focus is always on caring for the customer. Having the opportunity to bring the DNA of an assistance company together with the global strength and technical expertise of one of the world’s largest insurance providers – and delivering that combined value to our clients – has been a massive win and fuelled our dynamic growth.
How has the sector changed and how have you adapted?
When the travel insurance industry was in its beginning stages over 30 years ago, the regulatory climate was pretty different. It wasn’t just new to travellers and suppliers; it was new to insurance regulators. As the industry has grown, the need for standards across all providers in the US has emerged, for the betterment of consumers and the industry. At Generali Global Assistance, we’ve embraced these changes and see this oversight as a positive thing. We want travellers to really understand and trust in our products and services – and we want that for the industry as a whole.
How did the pandemic impact Generali?
It highlighted insurance in a way that we hadn’t previously experienced. Travellers wanted to know more about it, so we found ourselves in a position where we had to figure out how our products could help during this widespread and unprecedented crisis – not just in theory, but in practice. We had to do it under the same constraints, with the same challenges as many other businesses, including staff shortages. Some good things came out of that, such as empowering our people to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule. We’ve also learned a lot about what people are looking for from a travel insurance plan. How we can do a better job at both educating consumers about what we can offer them, but also develop more diversified and comprehensive solutions moving forward.
On winning a Gold Stevie Award for Most Innovative Business Blog, you said you have ‘one of the most creative B2C teams in the industry’. How important is it to engage with customers this way and why?
Education and communication are key, and I truly believe our B2C team does the best job at presenting our solutions in a way that’s simple and easy to understand. Working in a regulated industry, you can get caught up in the nuances of business and lose sight of your end customer, but our team doesn’t. They’re experts at distilling complicated answers into clear and straightforward explanations. They also understand that every individual absorbs information differently, and they do an amazing job at creating a variety of unique and fun ways to communicate with customers. Whether that’s through videos, infographics, quizzes or other interactive mediums, they share who we are, what we do and how we can help.
Have you overcome any significant obstacles in your career?
Over the past 25 years, there have been too many challenges to count. You might have heard this before, but I think a positive attitude is key. As a leader, you must recognise that people are watching you. If you are genuine and caring, set the right tone and are true to yourself, they will follow. Recognising that when things are down, it will pass and improve, is critically important. Leaders can never succeed and overcome obstacles without the right team, so always surround yourself with folks you trust and cherish. That is a winning formula.
The world is an unpredictable place and we’re in the business of providing people with the peace of mind to explore it
What has been your most rewarding moment?
Wow, tough question. I’ve had the opportunity to build several profitable businesses with the Generali Group. In my last three positions as a CEO, we achieved massive success with the top and bottom lines, and I have seen many individuals from my teams grow into leaders within the company and industry at large. While the business success has been great, I am really a people person at heart. The most rewarding thing is when colleagues say that I’ve touched their lives in a positive way. I’m lucky to have been given opportunities, and I believe I should always be looking to make a positive contribution to people’s lives.
What does the future of travel insurance and assistance look like to you?
I expect demand will continue to grow and that protection will become even more essential for travellers. The world is an unpredictable place and we’re in the business of providing people with the peace of mind to explore it. I don’t see any of that changing anytime soon.
Do you have any advice for those looking to join the sector?
If you’re interested in joining the insurance or assistance industry, it’s a great time to jump in. My advice is to just go for it and see where it takes you. Be curious and ask questions. If you have a passion for people and problem solving, you can really make a difference.