Suncorp is a leading financial services firm with diversified brands in the banking, insurance and superannuation sectors. Suncorp’s goal is to create value for customers through its portfolio of market-leading brands while benefiting from the efficiencies of scale achievable as a large organisation.
In 2009 Suncorp Commercial Insurance was led by CEO Anthony Day and a team of Executive General Managers each of whom was responsible for large and complex operational areas of the business.
The business challenge
The organisation was undergoing a significant change agenda with a relatively new CEO and several new Executive General Managers. In mid-2009, the CEO and his HR Director, Damien Bowden, initiated discussions with Executive Central to provide leadership development support for the team at individual and group levels.
“When we commenced discussions with Executive Central, the Commercial Insurance business was in the midst of driving a transformational change agenda,” Damien said. “Anthony had been appointed CEO approximately six months earlier and a number of the EGMs were still very new to their positions. Coupled with this was the fact that we had been given the mandate from the Suncorp Group Executive to aggressively grow the CI business and with this, bring about substantial change to virtually every aspect of the business. Indeed, I would have described us as being quite ‘fatigued’ from all of the change we were driving.”
Anthony said that, as the CEO, he wanted a leadership development approach that would help each member of the executive team step up to the very senior executive level they had each recently attained. At the same time, Anthony wanted the executive to work together as a cohesive team to ensure they were taking an ‘organisation wide’ view in running the business.
Executive Central conducted a needs analysis and identified the following challenges:
- Juggling the business-as-usual challenges with the new initiatives coming out of the strategic changes the team had designed was very difficult for all team members;
- Team members felt a strong need to move back into their own business units to focus on execution of new strategies while at the same time keeping an organisation wide perspective;
- The team felt they needed to be better at challenging each other in a team environment, with some executives perceived by others to disengage when difficult issues were raised;
- The team was still a ‘new team’ and needed to establish its presence within the Commercial Insurance and broader Suncorp organisation;
- Team members each had individual specific development needs that naturally differed from others and needed to be addressed in a way that balanced individual with organisational development priorities.
- “Ours was a case of bringing together a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals together and trying to make a collective impact that was far greater than any of us could make individually,” Anthony said. “I had worked with Executive Central in previous roles and knew that the tailored coaching approach of their programs would really suit this senior team.”
Suncorp Commercial Insurance embarked on a Leadership Excellence group leadership program combined with individual Executive Coaching programs for each team member.
Five members of the Executive Central team were involved in the delivery of various aspects of the program over a 12 month period. A series of half-day leadership workshops with all members of the team present were conducted and followed up with individual coaching sessions designed to target more specific individual needs.
“What we really liked about Executive Central’s unique approach was that it was totally flexible and tailored to both our group and individual needs,” Damien, HR Director, said. “What we didn’t need was a standard ‘leadership 101’ program that, frankly, would have really missed the mark. The material we covered was relevant, timely and had practical application.”
Outcomes and Benefits
The Suncorp Commercial Insurance leadership team reported significantly improved individual performances and team cohesion. Suncorp executives have continued to work with Executive Central coaches for leadership development for a decade. Over that time Suncorp has successfully implemented transformational change agendas, including new organisational and business models, and a new leadership team.