I think we can all agree that insurance isn’t the most romantic industry. I certainly didn’t imagine myself working in it. But in fact, insurance is one of the key pillars of a functioning society under capitalism. It’s a crucial tenet of our economy – but for the most part, the industry remains stuck in its ways, and unresponsive to change. He was talking about the music business, but a former head of Warner put it well: in the race to adopt new technologies, we have historically finished just behind the Amish.
We’re trying to change that at Simply Business. We’ve been at the forefront of new technology in the insurance industry since the company was founded. In fact, we’ve been doing fintech since before it even had a name. Through the application of proprietary new data science techniques, and with a firm focus on the customer, we’re taking strides to revolutionise the way insurance is bought and sold.
But that’s not the only thing that interests me in my role. More than that, I’m motivated by building a business that not only makes money, but is also based on a culture that fosters personal growth and great work – and, ultimately, that hopes to make a positive difference in employees’ lives.
This is, clearly, good business – a happy, motivated workforce is a more productive workforce. But for me, it’s about more than that. For too long, we’ve taken too sanguine a view of the relationship between business owners, employees, and society at large. I think we need to consider more carefully the sort of businesses we want to run, and the sort of world we want to see.
It seems clear to me that we have a generational opportunity to make a change in this respect. This is partly because of the seismic global shifts that are occurring, but also, just as importantly, because of the pace of technological change. We are witnessing progress in tech at the fastest rate since the Industrial Revolution, and I firmly believe that we are also seeing social shifts of a similar order. We need to think long and hard about the society we want to build.
This will require us to rethink the application of the technologies that are so rapidly revolutionising the economy. For the most part, the benefits of these advances, in terms of productivity, speed, and ROI, go straight into the pockets of shareholders. I want to see something different. I want to see the gains of new technologies spread more evenly, not just in cash terms but also, crucially, in the returning of time to the global workforce. Obviously we’re not all going to be working three day weeks and spending the rest of our days writing poetry. But I do believe that the productivity gains we are making should be distributed more fairly. We have made huge advances in, for example, medical care in the past century, and yet our working patterns have remained oddly static, even as the nature of the work that we are doing has shifted almost beyond recognition. This is a function of an economy that has not yet caught up with the tech that will soon drive it. The clock-in-clock-out, presenteeism mentality will surely soon seem a bizarre anachronism.
These sorts of ideas are becoming more mainstream, but still they are all too easily dismissed as pie in the sky. In reality, though, the choice will soon be taken out of our hands. The structures that we have built will not bear the weight of such rapid change. We need to think carefully, together, about how we move forward, and about the world that we want to see not only for ourselves, but for the generations that follow.
Jason Stockwood, CEO Simply Business, will be speaking at the Earnix Summit in London on November 2-3, 2016. Join him and other extraordinary industry leaders at the event. Click to see the full Summit agenda.