Heidrick & Struggles in conversation with Aviva at Future Talent 2018

Written by
Sarah Wild

10 Jul 2018

10 Jul 2018 • by Sarah Wild

Aviva's 300-year journey to digital transformation

Voted UK Business of the Year in 2017 by the London Evening Standard, insurance company Aviva rebuilt its strength in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, under the leadership of CEO Mark Wilson.

“Hard actions were taken – share price, performance, profitability, cash: they all went in the right direction – but staff engagement went up rather than down,” explained Colin Price, partner at Heidrick Consulting, in conversation with Aviva’s chief people officer Sarah Morris.

“How was it all achieved?”

“There’s no silver bullet,” admitted Morris. Fixing the balance sheet involved reducing costs, embracing simplicity, clarifying strategy and changing 80% of the top team.

“Mark was really clear about the vision,” she explained. “And here we are now with 83% of colleagues worldwide seeing a connection between what they do every day and the vision. I don’t think we would have turned the business around without that alignment.”

Aviva’s emphasis on leadership has involved retraining its top 300 people via a “high value content” two-year accelerator and making tough choices about who to invest in. Meanwhile, talent strategy has embraced digital; Aviva has 600 data scientists, retraining some of its actuaries. “You have to believe, in the future world of work, that you can retrain people to do a different role,” said Morris.

“It’s unusual for the people director to be driving a commercial transformation of this scale,” commented Price.

“Mark is good at putting people where talent and passion lies and I had a passion for change and transformation,” replied Morris. “The [seat at the table] debate is long over in our business. But if you’re at that table, you really do need to be a business leader.”

To watch an exclusive Q&A with Colin and Sarah, as well as their conversation in full, click here.