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Claims Transformation Director Melanie Kill tells us about her award-winning team and how they support customers, why she wants to tear up any barriers for women entering the insurance industry and the importance of developing her diverse team.
Melanie Kill joined AXA UK two years ago as Claims Transformation Director and oversees all change related activity across our claims function - everything from implementing new technology platforms for claims handlers to use, to small incremental ways that help them to more easily serve our customers. The hard work of Melanie’s team was recently recognised by the Insurance Times. AXA UK was awarded Customer Champion of the Year with the judges praising the teams for “developing a claims handling solution that not only involved the customer but had their interest at its core.” We spoke to Melanie to find out more about her role as a senior leader in Transformation and the Claims team.
Q) Have you always worked in insurance?
A) I’ve worked for lots of different companies, including management consultancies such as KPMG, and Ernst and Young, and I’ve also worked in various sectors such as travel, retail and banking. In the last 15 years I’ve focused solely on insurance working with Zurich, AIG and now AXA UK. I grew up in a typical, Northern Industrial town, and I was the first one in my family to venture to University. I took a risk and moved to London when I was young. I’m a big believer in taking risks and pushing myself to learn new skills and approaches. It now means that I have a wealth of experiences to draw upon. And I encourage my team to do the same. I want to help develop their skills in a very supportive environment. They can then take those experiences and grow – it’s really rewarding to watch that cycle.
Q) What is it like to work in Transformation, can you tell us more about your working day?
A) I've almost always worked in transformation, and I like the constant variety. There’s no such thing as a typical day. There are days where I could be working with a Steering Committee or Executive Team working through some funding requests, or I may have customer focus groups, or a virtual session with colleagues to work through an issue, be planning our next innovation with the wider claims teams or be joining an industry webinar or panel and sharing the latest thinking in digital. For me, communicating with the team is crucial. Change is only successful when everybody is working towards the same goal, our North Star. I love that part of the role, getting people engaged and making sure they understand their part in what we're doing, because everybody has a part to play in successful transformation.
Q) What does it take to be a successful senior leader?
A) A great team. I’m always invested in my team. I don’t like a hierarchical structure and I try to create an environment that my team want. I always aim to build a cohesive collaborative team by being empathetic, authentic and approachable. As a female leader, I’m pleased to say I’m not treated differently to my male counterparts. In addition to my role, I’m also the Sponsor of the AXA Balance employee resource group which represents gender equality and working families. As a business we’re doings lots of great things to support, mentor and drive female talent. We can see in the data that we’re improving, but there’s more we can do.
Q) You mentioned digital and the latest thinking, what is your team doing in the digital space?
A) We’re focused on becoming a data driven insurer. We want to speed up elements of the claims journey and enhance our customers experience. It’s essential that we do this. In the insurance sector, companies have often grown organically, so occasionally we find things being done in a certain way because that’s ‘just how it’s always been done’. We examine that and if it makes sense to work another way, a better way. We change it. We innovate. In the past couple of years, we’ve delivered significant change - from overarching technology change, end to end simplification projects to significantly reduce our indemnity spend, to smaller process reviews improving our day-to-day ways of working and decision making. Digital capability is one of our key areas of focus. It's not just a drive to get everything online, it's about how we really understand and support our customers – by making the claims process simpler and faster.
Q) What else are you doing to understand and support customers?
A) Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We want to look after them. Even if we’re making a small change, we assess how it affects our customers – it’s in the DNA of our function to do that! It’s also important to keep abreast of what customers want and how customer needs are changing. Surveys are good, but not enough. You have to be in their space and obsess about their needs. You need to know what’s being said in other forums and what’s going on in the industry, not to copy others, but to help you predict where things might be moving and new areas of innovation.
Q) What is it like to work for AXA UK?
A) AXA UK genuinely cares about its people and that comes from the top all the way down. It also wants to develop people in terms of skills and learning. It’s a can-do company. AXA wants employees to be themselves, be brave, and speak up. Within our team, the culture is fun, it’s open and the work is very enjoyable. It’s exciting to be working on key innovation areas, solving challenges and driving a culture of being data-led. We have a great, diverse bunch of people who bring lots of different skills and the common thread is that we love the satisfaction of successfully delivering innovation and change for our customers.
We always need fresh opinions and voices - with different skills and knowledge. A diverse team better reflects our customers who all have differing needs and is essential for innovation success. Some people may overlook insurance as a career option, but it’s an incredibly varied industry, with rich opportunities for development, especially now in niche skills like digital, analytics and change.