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Sam Bagnall, Commercial Transformation Director, AXA UK, has worked in change and transformation for most of her career. Sam talks to us about spinning plates, the importance of bringing a team together to collaborate, and what motivates her.
You joined AXA UK 15 months ago, what brought you here?
I started my career working in operations for Mobil Oil. I’m very much driven by a desire to succeed, and my team recognised that I was organised and able to conquer tasks by dividing them up. It was therefore a natural progression to combine change and project management. I then moved into the banking industry with an opportunity to work on a programme to divide the Northern Rock business. I also worked on the CO-OP Bank’s recovery and restructure and helped stand TSB up from Lloyds. You learn an awful lot very quickly when working in a demanding environment like that. After CO-OP, I decided I needed to stretch myself, so I moved to insurance. I no longer had the same network around me in this new industry, so I wanted to prove myself. I love working in change and have been contracting for around 30 years, because that gives me the flexibility to move from organisation to organisation and drive personal change too.
Are you enjoying the insurance industry?
I'm really enjoying my role at AXA UK and establishing a new network. A lot of the skills that I learned in banking naturally translate across to insurance, which is helpful. Insurance is at the start of its transformation journey too, so there are lots of opportunities in the industry right now.
You started your role during the pandemic, how have you found that?
It's been interesting setting up a new project remotely. While I knew some of the team already, there were others whom I had never met face to face until a few months ago and we’ve had to find a different way to plan. Normally we’d all come together in one room with lots of post-its, lots of conversations, and lots of challenges. You can't do that as easily when working remotely, so we had to try new things and embrace virtual meetings. We’re finding new ways to crack some of the problems, but in the height of the pandemic when we couldn’t visit the office, we missed the interaction you get when everyone is round the table, bouncing ideas off each other. At AXA UK, we’ve adopted Smart Working which blends working remotely at home and in the office. This flexible approach allows us to connect, collaborate and drive projects forward. The energy in the room at our last team meeting was great so I'm really looking forward to bringing the team back together again.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
It's the variation and plate spinning – you never know what the day is going to bring, despite what my diary says! I also enjoy the sense of achievement when you get to the end of a project, and you can see a tangible outcome. Right now, we can see the progress our changes are making in our Commercial Insurance business.
How would your team describe you?
I’m focused, supportive and understanding. My team work hard, so I’ll always protect my team and I like to help develop people.
Our role as an insurer is to protect what our customers care about; what does that mean to you and your role?
In the commercial space, it's about doing the right thing for customers and our colleagues to make sure that we deliver solutions that fit their needs. We can do that in several ways: making sure we get the right outcome for the customer in the right period and with the correct price; responding quickly and making sure they get consistent treatment; and ensuring documents are clear and easy to understand. We haven't nailed it all yet, but we’re making good progress.
How are you supported in your role as a senior leader?
There are a number of senior females around the table – certainly more than I ever saw in banking where it wasn't unusual for me to be the only woman in the room. There’s a lot of formal support from an HR perspective and we have an open-door policy, so I can reach out to other senior leaders in the business. I feel real encouragement to work with other parts of the AXA UK business and I’ve been asked to support women with mentoring and training, which is fantastic to be part of.