When Dr Michael Goodwin, chief executive officer, QBE Insurance International, started his career as a veterinary surgeon, little did he know that one day his professional and personal interests would take him out of his area of conventional expertise and that eventually he would deal with, and manage, people instead of animals.
However, the move, as he
recalls, was deliberate.
It was his
interest in the financial services sector and a sheer desire to continue to find new challenges that drew him to the insurance industry.
"I decided to undertake post graduate studies in actuarial science to assist in this change, which culminated in my being offered my initial general insurance position," he
Begin with learning the ropes
But coming from a smaller and entirely different business to a large organisation such as QBE
, was a big challenge for him and he
had to learn the ropes of the business, whilst sharpening up his
managerial and communication skills, he
"This was mainly because the communication process was much more complex and I had to ensure that my thoughts, requests, goals and expectations were communicated in a concise and consistent manner to everyone," he
For instance, he
had to learn to delegate part of this communication role to others, something that he
never had to do in the past.
"I also had to ensure that all the employees were updated on the latest developments in the organisation", he
"I had to make a concerted effort to adapt my communication style to a large corporate culture."
Apart from aligning his
point of view with that of the organisation and ensuring that the message was rightly interpreted, Goodwin
feels this was also a significant part of his
own development as a leader.
"In a human-intensive sector like the financial services industry, personal interaction is vital in developing employee loyalty.
In particular, this means thinking about the personal impact of any statement that I communicated and how it would be interpreted within the organisation.
This has become increasingly important as I've taken on more senior roles in the organisation," he
But right communication was not the answer to all the questions.
There were other issues that needed to be addressed with equal dexterity.
soon found it was also harder to make and instigate fast changes in a larger organisation as a result of having to consider input from a variety of sources and mobilise support in the decision-making process.
"As a veterinary surgeon, in most instances, you need to make a decision rapidly as time is of the essence, but many decisions in a large corporation are more strategic and the impact is delivered over a longer period of time."
Set your people priorities first
decided to address each of these issues by prioritising the key concerns.
Whilst recognising the role of training in people development, Goodwin
has not neglected the larger picture.
other key initiative has been talent development and succession planning.
"While there's a ready pool of talent in the industry, it's important for QBE
to focus on identifying, attracting, grooming and retaining talent for the leadership roles in the organisation.
On top of providing opportunities for career progression and learning for employees, I believe that it's also important to provide experiential learning and exposure for individuals.
I have personally benefited greatly in my career in this way and, as a result, I'm committed to facilitating this in the organisation," he
In addition, he
feels mentorship is also an essential way to train and prepare employees for bigger roles and responsibilities.
"On a personal level, I had the opportunity to be mentored by the CEO of a large company from an unrelated industry.
This assisted in allowing for differing solutions to issues to be openly discussed.
This was augmented by short-term overseas assignments which allowed exposure to differing methods of doing business and different cultures."
Like most other leaders, Goodwin
agrees that initiatives like workforce development and talent development are common notions and should be an integral part of an organisation.
However, implementing them is less than easy, he
Having said that, Goodwin
adds that in future, managing people commitment may get even more difficult, especially since the insurance industry attracts talents from a very diverse pool of potentials.
Dr Michael Goodwin's journey with the group first began in 1993, when he accepted a position in the actuarial department at Mercantile Mutual, before being appointed as the general insurance actuary.
In 1999, Mercantile Mutual
(a member of the ING Group) and QBE Insurance Limited
established a joint venture known as QBE Mercantile Mutual.
At that time, he was appointed deputy general manager of the new joint venture.
In 2004, QBE bought out ING's share of the joint venture and, at this time, he was appointed Principal Officer of QBE in Singapore.
In 2005, Goodwin became the regional general manager for QBE in Asia and in 2006, he was appointed chief operating officer, Asia-Pacific, to oversee business operations throughout the region.