Gordon Bass: How’s the insurance industry changing to create opportunities for new kinds of talent?
Tony Cicio: Yeah, when you think about the change in the insurance industry, I think you go take a step back and first think about what’s changing, what is not changing. And it seems like every industry’s going through major changes and it’s really being led by the digital transformation. So if you focus on insurance, you can point to a InsurTech and the startups that are trying to disrupt a very traditional business model. You can think about what’s happening at Lloyd’s and the transformation that they’re going through at Lloyd’s.
And then very specifically when we take a look at Argo, it’s about the digital transformation that we’re setting the stage for here, that things are happening quickly. We’re trying to become far more efficient to automate a lot of the practices in the past. And that’s really, I think the start of another major transformation that we intend to go through.
Gordon Bass: What are you looking for when you’re hiring talent today?
Tony Cicio: I always say when people are coming to work here that there is a certain athleticism that’s required. I mean, you are on the field and plays are coming at you all the time. If you’re somebody that likes to be a spectator, then it’s not going to work out. I mean, we’re looking for players that are on the field that love the action. The pace of change here was quite surprising when I joined. I think it’s important for someone to be able to manage change, to deal with new challenges on a day to day basis and to move quickly. And I think that athleticism is important to successful working at Argo.
Gordon Bass: You talked about being surprised by the pace of change in this industry and you’re relatively new to it. You came most recently from Samsung. Talk about your background and what your experience has been like joining this world?
Tony Cicio: I always imagined, from the outside looking in, a very slow paced, traditional way of working in insurance. And I think Argo sets itself apart by allowing, creating an environment where the pace of change is there because it’s non-bureaucratic. And we’d like to continue that environment by allowing people to really speak up, say what’s on their mind, challenge the status quo, and that enables us to really move quickly.
And the other piece of it that I find fascinating about insurance is that it is very much about current events and what’s going on, and you have to know the businesses in which you’re managing risk for. In talking to some of the junior talent, the more senior talent in the organization, the common theme is really to understand our client base, understand what risks they’re trying to manage, and you cannot do that without the business acumen. It’s fascinating to be able to be in all these different product lines, but really to understand the business that you’re trying to protect. And with that, you would imagine a far more exciting career because of the diversity in which we’re trying to manage risk for.
Gordon Bass: It’s always interesting to me when I talk to people at Argo, you find people not with just with business backgrounds or economics backgrounds, but things as diverse as art history and philosophy.
Tony Cicio: Yeah.
Gordon Bass: What would you say to people that don’t have a traditional insurance background? Why should they consider insurance as a career?
Tony Cicio: Yeah, if you’re starting out, I would definitely not discount it and think of like that’s something that my mom or dad did in the past and I’m not interested. And it gives you sort of a taste of many different industries given the risk profile that we’re managing. From that piece it’s very exciting, as well as it’s a very social business. It’s built on relationships. If you have that skill as well, it’s not about just sitting behind a desk, it’s really about getting out into the field, understanding those industries that we’re trying to protect and building those relationships with people.
The level of education and the sort of on the job training that you get here I think is an amazing opportunity for someone starting out. And then maybe for someone mid-career that’s been with a more traditional insurance company, it’s about making an impact far quicker, making a difference or coming up with new product lines that we could do far quicker than maybe another insurance company would. The sort of feel and excitement of being an entrepreneur exists in our environment.
Gordon Bass: What are the potential areas of opportunity in the insurance industry?
Tony Cicio: I think when most people think of insurance, they think of the actuaries, they think of the underwriters. And those are critical roles that require very specific skills to operate. And then there are opportunities, for example, as we’re building our digital capabilities to attract people with maybe not the traditional insurance company background or requirements. Similarly in finance or HR or even marketing for example, as we’re maybe looking at different ways to go to market, moving from a B2B model or a B2C type of an approach could be an option that requires a very different level of skill in marketing. Again, I wouldn’t discount it just because I don’t have the experience. I think we’re also looking for people to bring new ideas and new challenges and new ways of working to the company.
Gordon Bass: Once they’re here, what sort of training and support do Argo group employees get?
Tony Cicio: I think we have a pretty robust training program. But what I wanted to highlight, which I think is really interesting is beyond HR and our own platform for training and the Argo Academy that we run with specific leadership courses. We also offer a digital platform called Degreed that has thousands of different opportunities for you to learn. But what I also appreciate is that it’s not just an HR function.
Another example is the program that the marketing teams are running that we call Ascend with Argo that gives people some of the basics of insurance through some mid career challenges on how to navigate through broker relationships. It’s a whole host of training opportunities that employees can take advantage of. But we also offer it to our external partners and that’s run by the marketing team as a great opportunity for learning.
And then most recently our digital team launched what they call Argo Innovates. And it’s a platform that allows people to share their ideas and actually to get rewarded for it, even in a financial manner, if the idea gets implemented. I think there’s this culture of exchange, this culture of learning and the appreciation for far more than just a traditional classroom, but experience the learning on the job through these different avenues that are on the table for everyone to take advantage of.
Gordon Bass: Well, that’s great. Well, thanks for taking time to talk today.
Tony Cicio: Yeah, it’s been a pleasure and I thank you for the time as well.