Q. Do you think that the industry has changed since you started working in it? If so, how has it changed?
A. Absolutely. Almost everything has significantly evolved — our offices, the organisation, technology and also society.
When I joined Aviva more than 30 years ago, I remember that we had to wait for a literal ‘green light’ to see the branch manager in the office where I worked. There were ‘typing pools’ as well — a room of people who typed memos and reports — you name it. Email really changed all that.
To that point, technology has been a great enabler for the industry. I remember the fairly limited functionality of the black and green screen computers back then — it’s almost hard to imagine, but we really are living in the future — we all have such powerful tools at our command.
And, while there is a much better representation of women and a more diverse workforce than there was in the 1990s, there is still a way to go on that front.
Q. What has been the key positive or negative impact of change in your area of the market?
A. As Aviva’s Digital Trading and Automation Director, I am bound to say technology! IT should make serving brokers and their customers easier, faster, and smarter.
I believe the real value of digital is about enabling humans, not the other way around. An example of this is the use of data and analytics, which gives our underwriters market-leading insight to support better outcomes for our customers, whilst ensuring, through the use of technology, that this is provided on demand and with less time spent keying in data, which, in turn, frees our people to get involved where and when they are needed.
I believe the real value of digital is about enabling humans
Q. Who inspires you and why?
A. This may sound corny, but it really is the people I work with. I look at what our team has accomplished in the last year — both in the volume and quality of work — and I am in awe. Going into lockdown last March really brought this home to me. Before Coronavirus, I would have said it would have taken us months to enable our entire workforce to work from home. But we managed to do that across Aviva in just weeks. In my own area, there was no service disruption during this time, and we continued to work on change and innovation, responding swiftly to customers’ changing needs during this time. I was genuinely inspired by the commitment and speed our people showed to moving to homeworking, and their drive to overcome all the logistical and technological obstacles they encountered.
Q. Have you had/got a mentor? If so, what was the most valuable piece of advice they gave you?
A. Yes — I’ve been blessed to have had several really great mentors. One in particular was instrumental in making me think about unconscious bias in the context of systems thinking. This really unlocked the potential of systems thinking and how it relates to our customers and our purpose: ensuring we remember to look at what we do from the eyes of our customers and ensure that we are relentless in our ambition to improve.
Q. If you had to choose one other company to work for, who would it be and why?
A. I wouldn’t! Aviva has always provided me with fresh challenges and a working environment that I find inspiring. I’m naturally curious, and Aviva — and the people I work with — constantly keep me motivated and intrigued by the next challenge. I wouldn’t have stayed here 33 years if that wasn’t the case!
I’ve had opportunities across the years, but I genuinely love working for Aviva.
Q. If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
A. I’d probably open a yoga school. I love yoga and have been to India to learn and practice it. I appreciate the peace of mind that it provides. I’d love to share that with others.
Maria Crockart | SME Digital Trading & Automation Director | Aviva
Read more interviews here