The 2020 Executives to Watch: QBE North America’s Eric Sanders
QBE North America — the sleeping giant. That’s how Eric Sanders described the North American division of the 130-year-old general insurance and reinsurance company.
“QBE is a major global player in the industry, but it’s relatively unknown here in the U.S.,” he said.
Sanders joined the claims team at QBE in 2013, where he was first introduced to the company’s integrated specialist approach. He said that what attracted him to his initial role at QBE was the company’s “true global reach,” “true global values” and the opportunity to leverage those to build a strong presence in North America.
“I felt like it was a unique approach,” he said. Sanders added that he wanted to be a part of that strategic mindset.
“The integrated specialist strategy separates QBE; it shows how it’s different and innovative,” said Sanders. “This approach breaks down silos and makes it easier to communicate with others in the company. We’re one team. That enables us to apply our expertise holistically on the problems our clients are trying to solve and makes the team a much more effective risk partner.”
In August of this year, Sanders was promoted to the role of head of claims at QBE North America. In this role, he has been tasked with directing and providing a vision for integrated and customer-centered claims operations across North America.
Sanders sat down with Risk & Insurance® to discuss his new role, his career path so far and what makes him an Insurance Executive to Watch in 2020.
Sanders studied economics in college. When it came time to decide where he would go from there, one thing was clear: He wanted to put his degree to good use.
“Insurance felt like a natural fit,” he said.
Sanders explained that when he graduated, the insurance industry had an excellent reputation for creating internships and on-boarding programs for new graduates. He was able to find a placement out of school and began his stint in insurance as a general liability claim adjuster. “Claims agreed with me,” he said, and the rest was history.
But growing through the ranks wasn’t an easy task; it took hard work, perseverance and somewhat of a “go-getter” attitude.
“I try to always remember what my dad told me when I was just starting in my professional career,” Sanders explained. “No one’s going to do a good job of managing your career like you would.”
Sanders knew early on that if he wanted to continue down a path of success, he would need to take charge of his career himself.
That time at a desk job in insurance shaped him as a leader as well. “I know what that’s like. I started in the trenches and I’ve carried that with me since. That’s why I always make sure to have time to talk with my team members about their careers,” he said.
The Crossroads of Tech and Communication
Sanders believes this is an exciting time in the industry, especially for young professionals.
“Insurance has a reputation of being boring, but it’s really an exciting career with all these advancements in technology and cyber. I always tell young professionals that insurance plays a key role in helping companies tackle these new innovations they want to include into their business.”
Young professionals looking to start a career in insurance, he said, have the opportunity to enter the industry at a time when it really needs them. Advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and other technologically-driven innovations require savvy professionals to truly utilize these platforms.
“Traditional insurance is changing, and that is due in part to technology,” he said.
“Staying on top of changing technology is important, but just having that tech focus and not tending to the relationships you have with your clients is a huge risk for our industry.” — Eric Sanders, head of claims, QBE North America
Claims, in particular, is a place where clients see and deal with the carrier most often. Innovation and communication within the internal team and external partners can help provide feedback on the various aspects of tech integration throughout the insurance process. Sanders said this is something that all carriers are watching, because insurance is at a unique crossroads between technology and disruption.
Sanders even said it may very well be one of the last industries to feel this kind of disruption from technology. “That’s an opportunity for us to draw new talent into the field, this crossroads of technology, talent and insurance.”
The digital transformation already happened, he added. “It has made us faster and more effective. Now it’s increasing the way we monitor, prevent and mitigate growing risks.”
However, as vital as technology has become, Sanders said good communication is still the number one factor for delivering an experience of excellence to clients.
“Staying on top of changing technology is important, but just having that tech focus and not tending to the relationships you have with your clients is a huge risk for our industry.”
It’s a Team Effort
Since he stepped into the role of head of claims, Sanders strives to be the best leader he can be.
“The insurance world is the subject of relentless and fast-moving change. If I don’t evolve with these changing times, I won’t be able to lead well,” he said.
Luckily for him, he has a great team behind him at QBE. “I’m lucky in that I have a really great team to work with,” he said. “It’s truly a team greater than the sum of its parts.”
Sanders has a goal to push toward transparency with his team. He encourages members to speak up and say where they think the claims team can go to both improve and grow. “It’s critical to empower them, because I think that prepares them for tomorrow’s challenges.
“In claims, we have to fundamentally operate well internally before doing any outside work on claims.”
And because of the ever-changing world of claims, Sanders believes constant feedback and perspective on claims from his team as well as his clients is vital.
“If we don’t instill discipline around listening, we face being reactive instead of proactive when it comes to how we manage claims and serve our trading partners and clients.”
So while he’s excited to see how technology moves the industry forward, Sanders is even more excited to engage internally with the QBE team. His goal is to build upon the QBE road map for how they handle claims, underwriting and actuary assistance. He’s also excited to engage with external partners in the process to execute on QBE’s vision.
“Tech is a necessary, useful tool, but relationships and communication make the world go ’round.” &
For the full list of Insurance Executives to Watch in 2020, click here.