Emma Thomas

In a recent editorial published by Asia Insurance Review, Achmea CEO Emma Thomas reflects on COVID-19 and discusses the importance of leveraging Achmea’s purpose of keeping farmers farming as a tool for innovation.

Editorial by Emma Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, Achmea Australia

Leveraging purpose and collaborative leadership for a better future
Due to the rapid emergence of COVID-19, recent societal shifts were not just unplanned, they have also had to take place simultaneously. Governments, businesses and individuals have had to pivot quickly and in parallel. For many, it was a rapid shift from Business as Usual to pandemic planning and execution.  In Australia, we are dealing with COVID-19 and navigating economic instability not long after enduring a summer of many catastrophic events including the prolonged drought, floods and a devastating bushfire season.

Parallel threats of COVID-19 and catastrophic weather events have served to remind us of the essential nature of food security and the importance of insurance.

Australian insurers including Achmea Australia, responded immediately and as an industry we continue to assist clients to help their recovery.

Like so many industries around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is now also serving as a test for insurance companies to simultaneously navigate a new set of risks, whilst staying true to purpose and core values.

Shifting to future-focused instead of ‘just weathering the storm’
Sustainable risk management is at the heart of the insurance industry. However, recent challenges have not only tested our procedures, policies and plans – but has also tested our personal and organisational resilience.

Continued COVID-19 tallies, government updates and media reports about market volatility can result in an information overload, which in turn can limit the ability to focus and look at the bigger picture, anticipate the changes ahead and seize the opportunities.

Yet, as history has proven, it is not only necessary to better prepare for tomorrow, or ‘next time’ but it is critical to prepare for ‘what’s next’. Key competencies for the future of work include adaptability, creativity, innovation, a growth mindset and resilience to change.

As we are navigating uncharted waters and managing situations nobody had envisaged, we can no longer rely solely on the lessons of the past – a purpose must bind and connect its people to adapt to future scenarios that previous experience could not prepare us for.

Weathering a metaphorical storm requires an organisation to have already prioritised and planned for a crisis, and to have the resilience and the patience to see out the storm – acting too hastily or too slowly can have significant implications.

However, to emerge from a crisis in the strongest possible way, a greater and disciplined focus on the future leveraging innovation is required.

Don’t just survive – thrive
Purpose-driven leadership does not change the amount or the impact of risk, but crystallising purpose can limit the ‘noise’, providing clarity for employees as to what to focus on whilst reassuring clients they will continue to receive the support they need.

As Australia’s specialist farm insurer, Achmea has seen first-hand the worst of what mother nature can bring – but we also see the very best in people. When mother nature is at her worst, people are finding strength in community support and solidarity. As an insurer with a co-operative heritage, it is these principles of community support and solidarity which have carried us through both good and uncertain times for more than 200 years.

Guided by our vision of protecting and enhancing agricultural communities, our common values and purpose is what unites us.

This focus has helped our people to thrive – not just survive.

At Achmea, we continually leverage our purpose of keeping farmers farming as a tool for innovation.

This innovation continues to be encouraged and celebrated at all levels of the organisation – particularly during these difficult times.

Building for tomorrow
Globally, the Achmea Group supports the lives of 13 million people worldwide and is committed to a healthier, safer and more future-proof society.

The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development serves as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future, and three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals integrated into Achmea Australia’s strategy including; Good Health and Well-being, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Climate Action.

During these times of social distancing and self-isolation, there has never been a greater need for collaboration and purpose-driven leadership.

As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said recently, “against the backdrop of threatened lives, crippled businesses and damaged economies, the highest cost is the cost of doing nothing” .

“The only credible response is brave, visionary and collaborative leadership,” the Secretary-General said.

There is no doubt the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting impact. History tells us that over time, uncertainty will diminish, businesses activity will return, people will go back into offices and children will return to school.

I am confident that as an industry, we can collectively leverage collaboration and purpose-driven leadership as tools for driving greater innovation, long-term resilience and achieving a sustainable future for all.

About Achmea

The Achmea Group is the holding company for a group of insurance brands including Achmea Australia. Established by a group of Dutch farmers more than 200 years ago, the Achmea Group supports the lives of more than 13 million people worldwide.

In Australia, Achmea provides insurance exclusively to farmers. Through its direct approach and focus on reducing on-farm risks, Achmea is committed to protecting livelihoods and ‘keeping farmers farming’.

For more information, visit:
The Achmea Group: www.achmea.nl
Achmea Australia: www.achmea.com.au