President Chason Ishii discusses new cloud-based services, recruiting and retaining employees, and the costly challenges of climate change.
What are Atlas Insurance’s biggest goals for the next six to 12 months?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, customer demands have increased. You want more than just an insurance broker; They want a trusted advisor who can offer them advanced insights and unique solutions.
Agencies must proactively mandate risk mitigation solutions that drive better outcomes, rather than just managing risk or responding to events. We have to be the agency that does it best with our personalized customer service.
We have launched a 24/7 cloud-based portal called MyAtlas Connection Powered by Zywave to help our customers stay compliant, manage their risk and security needs, and meet their people and compliance needs. It includes apps like the OSHA Log and the Cobra Notice Generator, an education and training portal, and an HR hotline where clients can speak to an HR professional for advice. And it’s mobile-friendly, so customers can find what they need, anytime, on any device.
What are the biggest challenges for Atlas and the insurance industry in general?
There are three main challenges. One of them is social inflation: every insurer writing commercial liability insurance for companies has been exposed to the rapid rise in civil arbitration awards.
The second is climate change. In 2021 alone we saw a Texas freeze, Germany floods, Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas, Tropical Storms Fred and Elsa, heat waves in the western US, droughts and wildfires. These catastrophic events have insurers wondering how many more will be caused by climate change.
The third challenge is disrupting the supply chain. The shortage of building materials, microchips, car parts, etc. and rising labor and distribution costs have contributed to above-average inflation. Insurers are concerned about how higher claims costs will affect premiums.
How have the uncertainties surrounding climate change affected your pricing policy and insurance coverage?
Overall, according to new estimates by the reinsurance giant Swiss Re Group, losses of around USD 270 billion were attributable to natural catastrophes in 2021. Disasters included flooding, tropical cyclones, extreme cold and heat, wildfires and severe thunderstorms.
Globally, property insurance premiums are projected to rise 5.3% annually through 2040, with climate risks being “a key driver,” according to Swiss Re estimates.
Many companies struggle with recruitment and retention. What measures are you taking to retain employees?
I think it’s important to think of recruiting and retaining employees as a two-step process that starts with supporting current employees. Caring for employees outside of office hours can be shown in a practical way – a simple call to inquire about employees working remotely can go a long way.
Creating an employee-centric environment starts with leadership, so frequent two-way communication is essential for employee retention as well. The view from the outside is also important. As of 2020, we started working with an organizational management consulting firm to better understand our organization and our people.
Through this process, we have been able to create a more engaged, unified organization that maximizes employee strengths through quarterly employee engagement surveys and peer-led engagement committees. This allows employees to be part of the improvement process of our agency.
What about recruitment?
Different generations are looking for different things. Younger recruits may be looking for office flexibility, telecommuting/hybrid work schedules and mentoring opportunities, while older recruits are looking for stability, an organization that values their expertise and knowledge, and opportunities to train the next generation of employees.
We have found that partnering with clubs at the University of Hawai’i has been helpful in recruiting interns and graduate students. Having a presence where most young people spend their time — like on apps like TikTok — has also helped us reach them in a non-intimidating way.
To hire older generations, we have found it effective to reach out to them personally to share any professional growth and career development opportunities available within our organization.
Atlas was one of them Hawaii Business Magazine 14 times the best employers. Have your practices changed during the pandemic?
We have had to rethink how we communicate and care for our employees during the pandemic. The start of 2020 has been a scary time and we wanted to make sure our employees know that we are committed to keeping them busy and most importantly, safe.
That meant showing practical ways we’re taking care of them – like handing out care kits containing hand sanitiser, face masks, toilet paper and gift cards.
It also meant creating telecommuting opportunities and handing out headsets, webcams and computers within weeks. In a way, we communicated more than ever after we moved away. Departments started with daily/weekly check-ins, we had weekly company-wide meetings and used new technologies to stay connected.