This article originally appeared in Insurance Business Magazine.
We live in a culture that celebrates breakthroughs and podium finishes, but the reality is that those short moments in time are the sum of years of effort, practice, and incremental improvement.
Think the 10,000-hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book Outliers or the Japanese concept of kaizen. What the 10,000-hour rule is to the Beatles and kaizen is to Panasonic, so the powerful and yet eminently implementable idea of marginal gains is to Arch Insurance in Canada.
Building an electronics behemoth or creating one of the most popular bands of all time sound like unrealistic goals, but the genius of marginal gains is to break seemingly Herculean tasks into small steps.
Small changes for the better and minor improvements are far more palatable, actionable, and achievable for the average person than aiming for a distant podium finish – and making enough tiny improvements can, over time, push people to the front of the field to bring the podium within sight.
“[The concept is] making smaller, incremental changes that over time lead to enormous breakthroughs,” says Jean-Pierre “JP” Galipeault, president and chief regional executive (Canada) for Arch Insurance.
“We’ve been able to really transform our business over the last four years … and provide solutions to the marketplace where there were some serious needs and voids of capacity”JP galipeAULT, ARCH INSurance
Galipeault, as an avid cyclist, is especially inspired by the example of British Cycling. Until around twenty years ago, British Cycling was so uncompetitive that European bike makers feared the bad publicity of any British riders using their equipment.
But after introducing a strategy of marginal gains, British Cycling first started to improve its performance and, after a while, came to dominate both the Olympics and the Tour de France.
“This very much resonated with me,” says Galipeault.
So when Arch Insurance introduced its brand promise of “Pursuing Better Together®” in 2021, Galipeault was drawn straight to the word “better.”
“By definition, it has no end – ‘better’ means always improving,” he says.
A Coaching Culture
Galipeault has responsibility for the people and culture of Arch Insurance in Canada.
The company is a rapidly growing speciality player in the commercial property and casualty space, with a large footprint in management and professional liability, and strong offerings in lines such as surety and warranty and lender solutions.
It’s done well over the pandemic, breaking away from the pack despite the tough terrain, and is looking to continue the momentum.
“We’ve been able to really transform our business over the last four years – notably, in our ability to step in and provide solutions to the marketplace where there were some serious needs and voids of capacity,” says Galipeault.
“We’re challenging ourselves to continually refresh our value proposition defining how we bring value to our trading partners.”Jp galipeault | Arch Insurance
The culture that underpins much of this success is one that Galipeault is actively driving toward concepts such as continuous improvement, partly because they have helped him in his own career.
Now, Arch North America is introducing another initiative known as the “year of you” that Galipeault can co-opt into his potent formula for success.
“[It’s] a curated program designed to approach career exploration and growth for colleagues from a variety of different angles,” he says.
The multi-pronged initiative will allow Galipeault to be very intentional about the career and skills development of the Arch team through a series of goal-setting exercises, “stretch assignments,” and specific skill development.
If stretch assignments and team goal-setting sound more like exercises a cycling team would engage in than an insurer, Galipeault is more than happy to run with the parallels and adapt it to his vision.
“We want to build a culture of coaching where we’re putting some resources into training our leaders to ensure that this feedback loop with our colleagues and our employees really underpins the goals established through the year of you,” he says.
The program aims to benefit Arch’s trading partners by continuing to bring them value in the face of changing market conditions.
“We’re challenging ourselves to continually refresh our value proposition defining how we bring value to our trading partners.”
This approach recognizes that Arch has served its client base well over the last few difficult years, but that the new challenges of today will necessitate constant recalibration to produce the same good results.
“The theory is the solutions our brokers needed in 2020 and 2021 are different from the solutions they need in 2023, so we’re being deliberate about that process, and we believe that’s how we will create value for our trading partners in 2023 and beyond,” says Galipeault.
Data, scale, and engaged employees
Like a modern racing bike, Arch has several other components that keep the wheels turning in pursuit of this overall goal. These focus on making decisions data-driven, building scalable and efficient operations, and leveraging engaged employees.
The post-pandemic world is awash in raw data. But converting this information into a useful format that informs action and benefits the bottom line for clients is necessary to create forward momentum for insurers like Arch.
“We want to get that information into the hands of our decision-makers, so that we can be more responsive and more decisive,” says Galipeault.
“I think it also gives us another tool [that provides] a bit of heft around new product development.”
Building scalable and efficient operations centers around the desire to provide customers with the same high levels of service regardless of how quickly, or how big, they grow.
“We’ve tripled our top line since 2018 – with that comes the need to ensure that our operations are keeping up with the top-line success we have,” says Galipeault.
Part of this drive is continuing to modernize by automating processes where possible.
The final pillar, keeping employees engaged, is key to ensuring that Arch’s value proposition remains current and relevant in a changing market. Galipeault sees goal setting as the main component.
“We want to give [employees] the tools, resources, opportunities to achieve those goals.”
When envisaging what kind of a company culture will work best to help employees set and achieve goals, Galipeault often imagines the kind of firm that he himself would have enjoyed working at earlier in his career.
He can imagine this company from a variety of angles. With experience in claims, as a broker and in various underwriting positions before entering management, he is uniquely qualified to understand how the different parts of the Arch enterprise work together.
“Having done a little bit of everything, I think, gives me such a broad perspective on the industry.”
This versatility in perspective, combined with the powerful ethos of marginal gains, sets up Arch for a culture of continuous improvement within its corporate DNA, enabling employees to develop their careers and provide service that holds its value through markets thick and thin.
“We feel like the platform we have today is such a great jumping-off point for what we’re trying to achieve in 2023 and beyond,” says Galipeault.
With his eyes on the horizon, that future is one of incremental gains to allow continuous performance in top gear.