84 APAC / March 2017 , 1612AP03 Embracing Change StefanHicks talks to APAC Insider about what it means to be CEO of such a large and prestigious firm in the APAC region. Ensurance was started as a General Insurance Brokerage in 1990 in Perth, Western Australia. Maturing, the company set up national headquarters in Sydney in 2003. Listing on the ASX (Australian Stock Exchange) in 2015 and opening its first international office in London in 2016. It is now the parent company to a number of entities in the following sections; brokers (retail), underwriting agencies (wholesale) and an IT company that develops all of our innovated bespoke IT solutions. The company has been designed, and built infrastructure to manage future strategies in the areas of; • To capitalize on the digital disruption and flux of change in the short to medium term within insurance industry, • Increase distribution, by providing non-industry companies to sell insurance, fast and easy without the need of investing in costly infrastructure. • To provide the consumer with an insurance purchase model that meets their needs and demands. Including but not limited to, user experience satisfaction, online robo advice, decision making sensitivity, and new bespoke products. • Increasing margins by focusing on cost of acquisition and cost of maintenance. This includes increasing revenue but more importantly decreasing costs, particularly compliance costs. The company is now experiencing an exciting and challenging phase of exporting and expanding globally its significant disrupting capabilities. Stefan Hicks goes into further detail about the work the firm undertakes and the type of clients it serves. “Ensurance through its subsidiaries has been operating for over 25 years,” he begins. “As founder of the business over this period the role has literally encompassed everything from janitor to IT manager to international board meetings. Now as head of an organisation I have the ultimate responsibility to all stakeholders and shareholders. It could be the weight and complexity of these responsibilities that prohibit a majority of people even attempting a job as CEO. The types of people I work with on a daily basis is varied and the associated range of issues being dealt with, is dispersed. “The clients that I now speak and liaise with have changed dramatically over the years as the business matures. In the initial years my clients were small direct consumers of general insurance who required policies. Today my role involves managing; Internal heads of departments for results and strategy; Company Boards for governance and compliance; Insurers and Whitelablers (Clients) for products and new business; and Stockbrokers and Capital Markets for market support.” Stefan explains in detail the key principles behind his tried-and- tested approach which has led him to develop the company so successfully. “I find employing complementary people that bring different and required skills to the team enables problems to be solved faster and more comprehensively should and when they arise. “I encourage internal robust discussions. It is extremely healthy for the business. If the team has passion for the company/industry/ or strategy it needs to be harnessed into positive vigorous discussions. Too many people and businesses can take alternative thoughts or ideas personally as an affront to their leadership. Kept professional, connecting the team’s differences in thoughts, processes and decision making can only be a good outcome for the business. “I embrace change. The most constant aspect in the mechanics of business is change. It occurs with or without your participation. You will need to go through periods of reinventing yourself and the business to remain a competitor. As a successful CEO, you need to remain open, dynamic, fluid, flexible and embrace change. “Concentration is important. The role of CEO demands that one of the key attributes that is essential is concentration. Not just for long periods of time, but more importantly you need to ignore the noise. The information that requires processing is becoming louder by the day. A successful CEO can sift the noise from the vital information in order to make timely and correct decisions. “I place robust infrastructure in place for standards, quality, compliance, and trust in the people to execute their roles. This will enable you to focus more on the market/game and where profit can be made. “I also think like a customer and not a supplier. What exactly do your customers want, how, when, where and lastly why. By fully understanding what it is to be a customer of your company, can only lead to improvement.” Stefan states that, in his experience as a CEO there are a number of key attributes that considerably assist in performing successfully. “I believe the following are essential to performing this role over a long period of time; • Expect delays, headwinds, dead ends, split decisions and obstacles. These issues are a constant over the long term. In order to successfully problem solve all issues that arise requires the ability to look at problems from a multitude of angles, however above all it requires patience. When fires pop up in the business, or something arises that threatens existing or future operations, and it will, you need to address the issues with patience and a level head. Don’t dance around the issue, however address and solve it straight on. Recognition of problems is a great place to start improving your business, and in itself can be 50% of the solution. • As mentioned earlier, high competence in sifting the noise from the relevant data/ information. As CEO you need precise, condensed and above all accurate information in order to make correct decisions. Currently due to digital expansion, we are being constantly bombarded with information and data. Sifting through of what’s relevant and accurate is essential.