Being a consultant means always seeing the before of a company’s situation, but seldom getting to enjoy the benefits of your consultation. These individuals are often parachuted in to fix a problem and once it’s complete, they’re off to solve the next problem.
But one consultant who has changed tack and moved in-house is Dave Ovenden, AXA Commercial’s new Chief Underwriting Officer. Having spent nearly ten years consulting with Willis Towers Watson (WTW), he’s helped countless organisations digitise their processes and become match fit for the modern world.
“In 2018, I did some consulting work at WTW with Jon Walker [CEO of AXA Commercial] and we were looking at how to modernise AXA’s underwriting environment,” says Dave.
He explains that while AXA’s underwriting was viewed very favourably by the market, underwriters couldn’t take advantage of the insight that deep data brings, helping to augment their existing experience and instinct.
“So, we put a roadmap together and I painted a picture of what a digital underwriting environment could look like and that was a catalyst for what has become Project Blueprint, AXA Commercial’s modernisation programme,” he adds.
From those early conversations, through to detailing what the transformation would look like, it became clear that there was a meeting of minds between Dave and Jon and indeed, the rest of AXA Commercial, leading to Dave’s decision to join the insurer.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity,” he says, “To be involved in the proper transformation of an insurance company where the executive, and everyone in the organisation is behind the activity, is a once in a career opportunity.”
Having been an underwriter for many years in both insurance and reinsurance, abroad and in the UK, Dave has seen his fair share of digital programmes beyond those he consulted on at WTW.
“This is my opportunity, in all the things that I’ve been talking about in consulting, to prove that these transformations can and will work if they are implemented properly and have the right support in the right places.”
But what will this transformation look like in practice and how will it affect brokers seeking to trade with AXA?
“I’m all about helping underwriters make really good decisions, with confidence, at speed and as close to the broker as we can get it. This transformation will make us much easier to do business with,” he says.
“Our underwriters will be more effective as they will have more insight at their fingertips so they will be better informed and better able to make accurate, quick decisions.”
Dave’s clear that the transformation is designed to remove friction in the processes, and critically to arm underwriters with rich data to allow them to maximise their already formidable underwriting skills. But he says that once every underwriter is using insight to perform at an optimum level, AXA can then be even more strategic with its underwriting.
He says that brokers can also expect to benefit from the insight that the transformation will throw up. He says that this data-driven insight needs to flow from AXA, down through the value chain to brokers and on to their clients. And that with that data, everyone in the value chain can start making better, more informed risk decisions.
“I’m a big supporter of pushing decision making down to individuals. We’re investing a lot in learning and development in our underwriting community but fundamentally, this is about providing rich decision support so our underwriters can make those good decisions quickly.”