We are driven to do the right thing

09 February 2011

By Adam Jezard,  The Financial Times Limited 2011.

Published: February 3 2011 12:08

Paul Walsh has experienced financial services from both sides of the commercial divide – in mutual country and in what he calls “plc land”.
He says the important difference between the banks and mutually owned organisations, such as building societies, is the emphasis on customer focus. “We are about creating sustainable, rather than opportunistic, profits,” says Mr Walsh, chief executive of Cuna Mutual Group Europe, and previously commercial director for insurance at Barclays.


He says “traditional plcs” are instead driven by quarterly results and the need to “say how well they have done”. The contrast is that: “We are driven to do the right thing for the client and over the long curve.”Cuna, which Mr Walsh joined in 2007, is part of a global mutual with a turnover of $13bn (£8.36bn) providing services such as underwriting insurance policies to other mutuals. It has 5,000 employees, 56 in Europe. It seeks to attract bright, talented candidates – and there is also a contrast between its recruitment practices and other financial institutions. Whereas the “plc” might seek employees with mathematical talents, Cuna values a computer or life sciences background just as highly. “I’m as likely to be competing with Electronic Arts (the games maker) as with a bank when I’m recruiting a computer person,” laughs Mr Walsh.


Mutuals were seen as lagging behind banks on technology, but Mr Walsh says the segment has now leapfrogged its rivals, thanks to customer demand for products to be delivered more quickly, whether it is a mortgage or life assurance application.
As Mr Walsh points out, it took an hour or more in 2005 to apply for a mortgage in a branch; life assurance policies in branches could take up to 25 minutes. Now, he says: “People want to buy their product online in under eight minutes and if they can’t do it they’re on to the next guy.”


Cuna’s technology lets customers apply online quickly and with simple explanations, which makes it very interested in finding people with skills in delivering online sales and marketing strategies.

Cuna’s technology lets customers apply online quickly and with simple explanations, which makes it very interested in finding people with skills in delivering online sales and marketing strategies.


Similarly, recruits with backgrounds in maths or life sciences could find themselves working on actuarial and risk aspects of underwriting insurance policies in a specific UK region, tailoring the products to the needs of Cuna’s partners and the local purchasers of the products in branches, online and by phone.


Determining the health, wealth and longevity of possible customers is an important part of what some future recruits are likely to do. “Everyone asks purchasers of policies how much they drink, or smoke,” Mr Walsh says. “But we realised there is more to it. So if you understand more about the underlying trends in health, lifestyle and education regionally you can offer a more effective product in a more sustainable way.” Here a life sciences background could be as important as maths.


Those hired are likely to find themselves quickly gaining responsibility – developing products, testing them with customers, and finding ways of marketing and delivering them. Exceptional talents can make it into a management position in two years, Mr Walsh says. As it is, the hiring and retention of top talent is likely to be one of Mr Walsh’s main concerns. “We want good people, but it is the brightest people we are competing for.”

The Financial Times Limited 2011.

 
Protect your loved ones

Look after the people who matter. Our products can help protect you and your family from the unexpected.


 
 
About us

Find out more about CUNA Mutual, our history and what makes us different.