Tag Archives: survey

Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?

It’s time to share the results of our coaches and mentors poll.

You may remember that, back in August, we launched a short survey. Thanks to those who participated. We now have stable enough results to give an interesting, at least initial, picture. As someone who works as an external coach and mentor, I was surprised  by some of these results. See if they accord with your experience.

See also: How to Choose a Great Coach  

Having given advice on understanding the difference between coaches and mentors, together with when you might need each, I was keen to see take-up. So, questions in this poll centered on three topics: use of coaches; use of mentors; personal development progress.

Here is what you shared…

Use of coaches

In answer to the question, “Do you have a coach?“:

  • 57% No
  • 43% Yes

The following questions were only completed by the 43%, who answered “yes” to having a coach.

In answer to the question, “What type of coach are they?“:

  • 33% Executive Coach
  • 33% Leadership Coach
  • 33% Professional Coach

Given the preponderance of “life coaches” and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) coaches I have met at coaching events, it’s interesting to see those did not make the list. The focus on the most senior leadership roles still appears to hold true. But it was interesting to see professional coach selected as a title as well.

In answer to the question, “Are they external to your employer?“:

  • 100% Yes

This was the first result to not have an element of surprise. It accords with my experience that most leaders (who do hire) only hire coaches externally, or view any such internal work as “mentoring.”

In answer to the question, “Do you believe you need a coach, to develop your leadership or to sustain high performance?“:

  • 60% Don’t know
  • 20% Yes
  • 20% No

This is perhaps the most concerning answer so far. There has been quite some debate within the coaching community about the need to improve methods of measuring effectiveness, to be able to demonstrate genuine progress or ROI for clients. This answer underlies the importance of that quest. If coaching clients themselves aren’t convinced they need a coach, there is probably more work to do on demonstrating what coaching delivers for them. We all need to see robust, understood metrics become commonplace.

Use of mentors

The next three questions in our survey focused on the use of mentors, with similar structure (to allow comparison with feedback on coaches).

In answer to the question, “Do you have a mentor?“:

  • 67% Yes
  • 33% No

Those results bear out my own experience, of selling coaching or mentoring services into U.K. and European businesses. Many companies appear to value technical or professional mentoring, while remaining skeptical about coaching. Despite that, my experience in mentoring engagements almost always involved elements of coaching, and it may become apparent that is the client’s primary need. But, as mentors are more widely taken-up, let’s see how mentors are being used.

The following questions were only completed by the 67%, who answered “yes” to having a mentor.

In answer to the question, “Do they also work for your employer?“:

  • 60% No
  • 40% Yes

Given the common situation of mentoring being provided by senior leaders within a business, this answer also surprised me. It seems, perhaps in line with the experience I shared above, that the take-up of external mentors has increased. It may just be the language used, or perhaps reflects the time-poor nature of many business leaders. Are companies struggling to free their own senior leaders for mentoring and opting to buy-in mentoring expertise instead? Either way, the answer confirms the greater popularity of mentoring rather than coaching services.

In answer to the question, “Do you believe you need a mentor, to develop in your career or succeed within your current organization?“:

  • 40% Yes
  • 40% No
  • 20% Don’t know

A more positive answer than the equivalent one for coaching, but still the majority answering “don’t know” or “no.” Perhaps the most interesting comparison is the lower number of undecided. It seems experiencing mentoring either clarifies that it is optional or identifies a clear need for this support. Once more, mentoring seems to be better understood than coaching.

Personal Development

Our final three questions focused on respondents’ progress in their personal development and time commitment to any form of such investment.

In answer to the question, “Do you have clear goals for your leadership development this year?“:

  • 50% No
  • 50% Yes

A concerning lack of clarity among responders to this question. If leaders really only have a 50:50 chance of having clear goals to develop their leadership capability, a need for goal-oriented coaching or mentoring is clear. It’s perhaps not surprising from increasingly time-poor leaders, working in business that too often focus on short-term targets. However, it is still concerning and perhaps something for prospective coaches or mentors to emphasize more – the benefits of such goal setting and how they can help clients use them.

In answer to the question, “Are you on track to achieve your goals?“:

  • 60% Yes
  • 40% No

Given the lack of clear goals identified in the previous answer, this positive view of progress risks looking overly optimistic. But, with hindsight, perhaps the wording here encouraged leaders to think about their wider goals. Another interpretation is that without clear goals it is easier to persuade yourself that you are doing fine. Certainly, believing you are on track, while potentially lacking clear goals or any accountability mechanism, could be a recipe for complacency. Does that also drive a lower uptake of coaches?

In answer to our final question, “How much time (per week) do you give to your personal development?“:

  • 67% 1-2 hours
  • 17% 3-4 hours
  • 17% >1 day

In the full version of this question, participants were asked to consider all development activities (coaching, mentoring, reading, training, events, etc). In that context, spending one to two hours a week (<5% of a 40-hour working week) seems far too little. Perhaps that is another sign that “short-termism” can rob leaders of investing what they need to grow and develop in their leadership. I’ve found that if you are not protecting sufficient time to develop your leadership skills, you not only fail to grow but also burn out quicker.

What are you going to do about it?

I hope those results were interesting. Feel free to share whether the scores aligned to your experience.

If you have been challenged by this post, to reconsider investing more time in your personal development and perhaps seeking a coach or mentor, then stop right now. If that thought is going to become more than just wishful thinking, the best thing you can do is commit to an action you are going to take as a result.

See also: Best Insurance? A Leadership Pipeline  

What will you do differently, within the next two weeks? Write it down, preferably with an app that will remind you.

I wish you well with your development as a leader. Today’s customer insight teams need the best leaders possible.

Getting to 2020: the Finance Function

Even as economies recover, the insurance sector continues to face many competitive pressures and regulatory challenges. Yet a new drive for growth is emerging. The 2014 EY Global Insurance CFO Survey captures the priorities and challenges for finance and actuarial teams as they seek to support business growth strategies while addressing regulatory and cost pressures.

Delivering more value to the business through performance measurement and improved decision support is the top priority for the finance function through 2020. Among senior finance professionals participating in the survey, 71% indicated that “being a better business partner” ranked among their top three priorities, with 35% placing this as number one.

As insurance companies around the world continue to invest in data management and analytics capabilities, the role of finance and actuarial functions has become even more critical. The processes and systems supporting these functions are key to developing deep insights into business performance, as well as customer needs, preferences and behavior. In response, finance leaders have been increasing their efforts to improve the capabilities of their organizations to meet the new demands. In the survey, 89% of respondents stated that they have either begun a change program or are in the planning stage.

However, the drive to better insights is not without challenges. Among the issues is the impact of continuing regulatory compliance demands. According to 35% of those surveyed, implementing new regulatory and financial reporting requirements was the highest priority for finance and actuarial organizations; 56% ranked this among their top three. As a result, the ability for these organizations to strike a balance between delivering value to the business and meeting daily operational demands will continue to be a challenge.

Not surprisingly, the current data and technology footprint will require significant change to meet the challenges of the finance function of the future. Across the finance operating model, survey participants scored data as the least developed capability on average, while technology recorded the greatest gap between current and required future state.

Other Key Findings

  • Top three business drivers: #1 growth, #2 managing costs and #3 regulatory changes
  • Two-thirds of respondents rank data and technology issues among the top three challenges facing finance and actuarial functions; participants on average score data as their least developed capability
  • By 2020, the most significant shifts in maturity levels by operating model will be in data management and technology capabilities
  • Respondents expect onshore shared services to support transaction processing functions, with outsourcing selectively used for payroll and internal audits
  • Decision support and controls are expected to account for a larger share of finance and actuarial headcount by 2020

What insurers must do

We see three key areas where insurers can take action:

  • Modify current reporting processes by developing an efficient reporting solution architecture.
  • Deliver timely and relevant management information and link strategic objectives to performance indicators.
  • Improve finance and actuarial operational performance by using the right skills and processes to strike a balance between effectiveness and efficiency.

For the full survey from which this excerpt was taken, click here.

Survey: Predictive Modeling Lifts Profits

The breadth and depth of predictive modeling applications have grown, but, of equal importance, the percentage of participants reporting a positive impact on profitability has dramatically increased, Towers Watson’s most recent predictive modeling survey finds.

Our 2014 Predictive Modeling Benchmarking Survey indicates the use of predictive modeling in risk selection and rating has increased significantly for all lines of business over the last year, continuing a long-term trend. For instance, in the personal auto business, 97% of participants said that in 2014 they used predictive modeling in underwriting/risk selection or rating/pricing, compared with 80% in 2013, a 17-percentage-point increase. For standard commercial property/commercial multiperil (CMP)/business-owner peril (BOP), the number jumped 19 percentage points, to 51%, during the same time period (Figure 1). In fact, the percentage of participants that currently use predictive modeling increased for every line of business covered in the survey.

Figure 1. The use of predictive modeling in risk selection/rating has increased significantly for all lines of business over the last year

Does your company group currently use or plan to use predictive modeling in underwriting/risk selection or rating/pricing for the following lines of business?

Sophisticated risk selection and rating techniques are particularly important in personal lines, where models have now penetrated most of the market. An overwhelming 92% of survey participants cited these techniques as essential drivers of performance or success. To a significant degree, this was also true for small to mid-sized commercial carriers, with 44% citing sophisticated risk selection and rating techniques as essential and another 42% identifying them as very important.

Even as the use of predictive modeling extends to more lines of business, there is an increasing depth in its use. Predictive modeling applications are increasingly being deployed by insurance companies more broadly across their organizations as their confidence in modeling increases. For example, 57% of survey participants currently use predictive modeling techniques for underwriting and risk selection, and another 33% have plans to use them over the next two years. Although a more modest 28% currently use predictive modeling to evaluate fraud potential, a sizable additional 36% anticipate using it for this purpose over the next two years. Survey participants report plans to deploy predictive modeling applications in areas including claim triage, evaluation of litigation potential, target marketing and agency management. These applications will favorably affect loss costs, expenses and premium growth.


Eighty-seven percent of our survey participants report that predictive modeling improved profitability last year, an increase of eight percentage points over 2013 (Figure 2). The increase continues a pattern of growth over several years.

Figure 2. Companies implementing predictive models have increasingly seen favorable profitability impacts over time

What impact has predictive modeling had in the following areas?

Slide 9 of Executive Summary

A positive impact on rate accuracy helps explain the improvement. In fact, the percentage of carriers citing a positive impact on rate accuracy has increased every year since 2010, when 70% cited a positive impact. In three of the past four years, the percentage-point increase in carriers citing a positive impact has hovered around 10%. In this year’s survey, nearly all (98%) of the respondents reported that predictive modeling has improved their rate accuracy. Improved rate accuracy has both top- and bottom-line benefits: It boosts revenue because it enables insurers to price more effectively in very competitive markets, retaining existing customers and attracting potential customers with rates that accurately reflect their level of risk. At the same time, rate accuracy drives profit because it also helps carriers identify and write more profitable business,and not focus solely on market share and price.

More accurate rates also improve loss ratios, which have improved in parallel, according to our survey participants. In 2014, 91% of survey participants cited the favorable impact of predictive modeling on loss ratios, an increase of 14 percentage points over 2013. When premiums more accurately reflect risk, losses are more likely to be properly funded.


The bottom-line fundamentals — profitability, rate accuracy and loss ratio improvement — identified in our survey are complemented by top-line benefits. Positive impacts were registered on renewal retention (55%), underwriting appetite (46%) and market share (41%).


Sophisticated risk selection and rating are cited as essential by many of our participants, but our survey indicates that, despite favorable trends, insurers are still far from leveraging sophisticated modeling techniques to their fullest, even in pricing. Two-thirds of participants aren’t currently using price integration (the overlay of customer behavior and loss cost models to create metrics that measure different rate scenarios) for any products. A few are past price integration and are currently implementing price optimization (harnessing a mathematical search algorithm to a price integration framework to maximize profit, volume and other business metrics) for some products.

The disparity between what is viewed as the optimal use of modeling techniques and the current level of implementation needs to be bridged if insurers want to leverage predictive modeling as a competitive advantage to identify and capture profitable business. Increasingly, insurers are making greater use of analytics including by peril rating (which replaces rating at the broad, line-of-business level with specific rating by coverage), proprietary symbol (customizing vehicle classifications for personal automobile policies) and territorial and credit analysis.

Those insurance companies that can’t employ sophisticated risk identification and management tools face the possibility of losing profitable business and adverse selection.


Profitability is hard-earned in the current competitive property/casualty market, and predictive modeling is recognized by a steadily growing number of companies as an invaluable tool to improve both top- and bottom-line performance that ultimately reflects in earnings growth. Our survey suggests that insurers are increasingly comfortable with predictive modeling and are using it in a growing number of capacities. However, participant responses also indicate that there are still many benefits offered by predictive modeling and other more sophisticated analytical tools that have not been achieved, such as treating data as an asset and more effectively using predictive modeling applications to improve claim and other functional results. Improving performance on these issues alone could make a significant difference in the profitability of insurance companies and offers all the more reason to explore new ways to benefit from data-driven analytics and predictive modeling.


Towers Watson conducted a web-based survey of U.S. and Canadian property/casualty insurance executives from Sept. 3 through Oct. 22, 2014. The results discussed in this article represent the views of 52 U.S. insurance executives. Responding companies represent a significant share of the U.S. property/casualty insurance market for both personal lines carriers (17%) and commercial lines carriers (22%).

Insurance in a Digital World: The Time Is Now

From market instability to catastrophic losses from natural disasters, insurance companies face many conflicting challenges. But the toughest challenge facing the insurance sector now is the adoption of digital technology.

Digital is transforming consumer behavior and driving insurance executives to reassess their business models. Our 2013 global survey of more than 100 insurance companies explores digital readiness, leadership strength and future strategies. With many insurers on the sidelines of the digital shift, it’s time to make the digital agenda a higher priority and tackle the challenges ahead.

Insurers view digital as a key priority, but are lagging far behind

While the majority of insurers believe in the importance of digitalization to deliver the customer experience, many express concern that they will be left behind as shorter-term corporate priorities lie elsewhere.

79% say they are “not setting the baseline” for digital or are “still learning.”

57% have operating models that do not faciliate digital.

89% don’t consider past interactions when recommending products or services to online customers.

Key findings from the survey

1. Insurers acknowledge their current low levels of digital maturity and the need to take action. Almost 80% of respondents do not see themselves as digital leaders, and are instead trailing the spectrum in customer engagement, analytics and adoption of mobile and social media. The majority believe instead that they “only play the digital game” or are “still learning to use digital capabilities for a competitive advantage.”

2. Companies have high digital ambitions – but are they grounded in reality? While insurers aspire to future digital leadership, they haven’t made the significant improvements necessary to realize their ambitious digital objectives. By their own admission, more than two-thirds of insurers have delivered some easy quick wins, but only 10% cite transformational changes to digital capabilities.

3. Insurers are holding themselves back. Internal factors — legacy technology, slow pace of delivery and cultural constraints — are hindering digital progress. Focusing on key enablers such as culture and innovation will release significant future value and enable companies to better grasp digital business opportunities as they arise.

4. It’s all about retention through improved customer experience. The two biggest drivers of digital strategies are “enriching the customer experience” and “regaining more direct control of the customer relationship.” While the cost of acquisition continues to rise, retaining existing customers is an increasing necessity and should be a critical and measurable benefit of any improvement in the customer experience, digitally enabled or otherwise.

5. Distributors are digital customers, too. Insurers cite intermediary and agent channel strength or resistance as one of the top three inhibitors in implementing a digital strategy. Sharing the benefits of investment in digital and communicating a clear mutual value proposition to deliver a better customer experience will help to minimize channel conflict.

6. Analytics are critical to digital success. Segmentation, customer data analytics and predictive modeling emerged as the digital skill set most in demand, followed closely by technology and marketing capabilities. Analytics capabilities are a prerequisite for extracting maximum value from digital investment.

7. Insurers need to embrace the mobile and social media wave. With mobile and tablet use growing exponentially, neglecting mobile is turning one’s back on the future. Similarly, insurers could be taking social media more seriously, recognizing its value as a relatively inexpensive marketing tool and a means to engage with and influence skeptical, digitally-savvy younger consumers.

How insurers should respond

Adapting to a new digital landscape presents many difficulties for insurers as they face challenges in introducing new channels to market while simultaneously remodeling traditional ones.

While no single solution can seamlessly integrate digital into a business, there are elements intrinsic to all effective digital strategies. Insurers need a vision that focuses on the basics:

  • Framing the investment argument for digital
  • Building the analytics infrastructure
  • Embedding a culture of innovation into the organization

A robust digital strategy begins with a plan and a sound understanding of the practical realities of implementation. Each of the elements – corporate strategies, customer expectations, target operating models and enabling frameworks – will shape each other as digital capabilities develop.

Related Resources
Download the full study
Review an illustrative summary of the survey
View the on-demand webcast
Read the press release


Graham Handy collaborated with Shaun Crawford in writing this article and in preparing the deeper study based on the survey. Shaun Crawford leads Ernst & Young's Global Insurance Industry across all services; audit, consulting, tax and corporate finance. Although based in London, he spends the majority of his time traveling across the Americas and Asia.