What do you need to become a CEO in insurance?

What do you need to become a CEO in insurance? | Insurance Business America

One trait stands out above all others…

Insurance News


What is the most sought-after trait in the C-suite right now? A unique blend of social skills, adaptability and big-picture thinking.

That’s according to Martina Seferovic (pictured), CEO/president of Outsource Insurance Professionals. Speaking to Insurance Business, Seferovic said that leading with empathy and understanding is not only a ‘nice to have’ trait in a leader, it’s a strategic must.

“Traditionally, in any industry and large organizations, CEOs had to have an operational and financial background, accounting and science knowledge – they needed to be able to do everything on their own,” she said. “Now, the most desired trait is social skills. A carefully crafted and passionately delivered strategy with both internal and external clients in mind, is a must in a competitive environment nowadays.”

Internal and external clients

This idea of internal and external clients is something Seferovic is a big believer in. Pleasing external clients is obviously a core goal for growth – but that can’t be achieved if your people aren’t happy.

“Leading with empathy is shown to [engage] both employees and clients,” she told Insurance Business. “Because if I’m talking the talk, I need to be walking the walk. Meaning each and every interaction with a client of mine is going to be not just through me but through all of the people in the organization. I can see that our employees are happy, they’re content and satisfied because we believe in them – we reward them for their performance and give them time, mentorship, and voice.”

This idea of leading with empathy is not a new one, but it is growing in popularity post-pandemic. According to O.C. Tanner’s 2024 Global Culture Report, when organizations educate and empower leaders to act with empathy, the odds of employee fulfillment increase by 894%. What’s more, when recognition is integrated into the culture, the odds of engagement increase by 7x and the desire to stay by 3x.

For Seferovic, commitment to people is manifested in care and commitment to education and training. With OIP having been in business for 12 years now, Seferovic believes she addresses a challenge that’s continued to plague her sector for over a decade.

“What was the driving factor when our company was founded, still remains – it’s the insurance industry’s need for knowledgeable and educated talent,” she told IB. “This is something that we help our clients with – and that is a sign of true partnership. I hear from a lot of companies that there’s a knowledge gap, a talent and skills gap – which there is. That’s being impacted by a lot of external uncontrollable factors – but I say, let’s focus on what we can control.”

Approach to insurance training

The approach to training at OIP and OIP Robotics is both rigorous and comprehensive. Newcomers undergo six months of general insurance training, complemented by mandatory continuing education sessions amounting to 30 hours annually throughout their careers. Seferovic proudly noted the high tenure among the company’s staff, a testament to the effectiveness of their investment in training and the promotion of employees from within, as well as technological advancement and efficiency both internally and to clients.

This culture of support runs through the DNA of OIP – especially regarding the implementation of new technologies, where Seferovic is passionate about maintaining a human-centric approach. Her organization, while primarily providing back-office underwriting support, dedicates a significant portion of its efforts—20 to 30%—towards insurance-specific technological solutions crafted by tech experts who understand the nuances of insurance.

“Most of the organizations out there, unless they’re only two or three years old, were not built to live in the environment of generative AI – so we need to learn and adapt definitely,” she said. “I don’t think we can be making ‘10 years from today’ strategies, but we need to have our eyes and ears open to the trends – because it’s fascinating how the insurance industry is being innovative.”

The power of innovation is something that Seferovic has seen time and time again when working at the Forbes Business Council – something she sees as a real privilege.

“Being a member of the forum of Forbes Business Council is an honor for me because it’s a platform that connects leaders from different industries internationally,” she told IB. “But just like any other accolade, it’s what you make out of it. It can just be a badge that you add to your resume or you can actually grow your network and connect with other leaders to be in that continuous learning loop – which is what I try to do.”

The notion of networking as today’s currency struck a chord with Seferovic, underscoring the importance of the connections and relationships built within professional circles. There’s been something of a shift in how value is perceived and created in the business world, where the wealth of one’s network significantly impacts one’s success.

“Because if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re doing something wrong,” added Seferovic.

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