Any global company with multiple worldwide offices and numerous product and service offerings can be a little confusing for new joiners. This is why Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty invests in introductory sessions for new colleagues, helping them to understand our business as part of their ‘on-boarding’ program.
Annika Schünemann of our Global Communications team joined one such group who were ‘Getting to know AGCS’:
9 a.m. – Entering a room full of curious new starters, already getting to know each other over a cup of coffee. I try to find my name tag on one of the tables that are arranged in groups in order to make discussion easier. The facilitator welcomes everyone and we kick off with a game: within 10 minutes we are supposed to fill in as many boxes as possible with answers to questions such as "… cycles to work", "… has undergone a successful diet program" or "… appeared on national TV" – the most difficult question proved to be "… will sing us a song this morning." After this I have talked to almost everyone in the room- great to get to know faces at least…
9.45 a.m. –The first session of the day is Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty CEO Axel Theis providing an overview of the strategy and vision of AGCS. By giving us some current examples he presents an overview of the breadth of the AGCS business and why it is so important to have a diversified portfolio (by business line as well as geographically). After his presentation he readily takes up questions but also asks the participants for their opinions on the different topics covered.
1.30 p.m. – In order to avoid a down after lunch we engage in a practical exercise. Each of us had been asked to bring their own leadership idol to the workshop. In our groups we then discuss the different characteristics it takes to make a good leader.
3.30 p.m. – A representative from the Allianz Group introduced the concept of OPEX- the Allianz approach to quality management and constitutes an adaptation of Six Sigma to the insurance industry. I am amazed: even after having worked here for a year I still discover new departments and approaches every day.
4:30 p.m. – As an insurer for large risks natural catastrophes are at the heart of our business. The next speaker heads the department for 'NatCat' [Natural Catastrophes – windstorms, earthquakes etc] at our sister company, Allianz Re. His staff are geologists, meteorologists, seismologists as well as mathematicians and many other interesting professions.
18:30 p.m. –We spend a very nice evening in an Italian trattoria, sharing a nice glass of wine with one of the AGCS board members as well as the participants and some speakers. This presents a more relaxed occasion to ask our CFO, Chris Fischer Hirs, all the burning questions I have been asking myself.
9 a.m. – We start our day by sharing some feedback on the previous day and our expectations for the last sessions. Another session introduces us to global brand management at Allianz and really broadens our horizon on why certain things look the way they do. We also get a sneak preview of the new corporate design which is still work in progress- exciting!
11 a.m. – After a short coffee break we plunge into financial lines, one of the newest business lines at AGCS. The head of this unit tells us about his current offering and his plans for the future. It looks like financial lines constitutes an extremely intriguing and fast-growing market. Once again we see that AGCS is moving and on the edge of things. Great for me to get a more detailed view of the underwriting side of things.
1:30 p.m. – Due to a volcanic cloud that caused most flights to Europe to be cancelled the country manager for the Region Americas at AGCS could not make it. However, his substitute has spent three years working for Allianz in the US and is very up to date with the market there. The speaker gives the participants a comprehensive overview of what is going on at AGCS in the United States and how the local business works in the global framework.
“One thing that is globally recognizable: emotions.”
2.30 p.m. – The last session of the workshop deals with emotional intelligence- a very important topic for everyone but especially us number crunching people here in the insurance industry… But what does emotional intelligence actually entail? We learn about sympathy (about me) versus empathy (about the other person), different leadership styles and which have the largest effect on the corporate climate as well as business performance (in case you are wondering - there is scientific evidence to prove that there is a correlation…). We also engage in some practical exercises which help us learn more about our own behavioural patterns. As one of my colleagues puts it: “Understanding yourself definitely helps to understand others.”
Wrap-up: The workshop is almost over but we are still invited to share feedback. For me the most important takeaways are the new contacts with my colleagues from other departments as well as the broader picture of the organization that we work for.