Newly at the helm at Guidewire as Managing Director Asia Pacific, Roland Slee’s personal aim is to develop deep and enduring partnerships with customers in the region as they work to unlock innovation, deliver value and accelerate change.
‘These partnerships will see a gradual shift in the division of labour as Guidewire takes more responsibility for the successful deployment and ongoing operation of Guidewire InsurancePlatform™ in the cloud,’ Slee reveals.
A DIVERSE MARKET
Slee says the key characteristic of Asia Pacific is its diversity.
‘There is no one-size-fits-all insurance solution that works well across Asia Pacific and probably never will be.
‘Guidewire is working hard to reduce the total cost of ownership of its insurance solutions. This will allow us to serve a broader range of clients across the region over time.’
THE ESSENCE OF LEADERSHIP
In Slee’s view, the essence of good leadership is defining the goal, prioritising what needs to be done to reach the goal, and delegating the execution of chosen tasks to ensure the goal is achieved.
‘In business environments, where goals are often set from above, a key challenge for leaders becomes taking ownership of the goal, communicating it persuasively, identifying a path to success, and motivating others to pursue the goal with vigour,’ he contends.
In this context, effective communication becomes a crucial part of leadership.
‘In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with messages, developing the ability to cut through, to be heard, believed and followed, is a vital element in effective leadership,’ Slee says.
‘This is an area I have focused on and I’ve been privileged to teach leadership and communication in a range of business and academic contexts.’
DESIRE TO SERVE
A mechanical engineer by training, Roland Slee got started in IT when he joined Accenture straight out of university.
‘My first project was writing core banking software in London and I also spent two years in Antwerp, Belgium, on another banking project,’ he recalls.
Slee joined Oracle in 1993 having spent nearly 20 years there in roles ranging from technical to sales management and executive leadership.
‘I spent five years at Bravura Solutions, a wealth management software company, as Managing Director Asia Pacific before joining Guidewire,’ he says.
‘My path was determined by a constant desire to serve customers in the best way possible.
‘For me that often meant helping customers make strategic decisions around technology modernisation and business transformation.’
UNDER PRESSURE TO TRANSFORM
Slee observes that insurance companies, like all other financial services firms, are under increasing pressure to become more agile, transparent, and customer-focused.
‘Many insurers have pursued these objectives by surrounding their aging legacy systems with digital front-ends and big data analytics,’ he says.
‘But in this new era of Amazon, Netflix, and Uber, customer expectations have been elevated to a whole new level.
‘Nothing short of genuine transformation will allow insurers to prosper in this hyper-competitive world.
‘To truly place the customer at the heart of everything we do requires more than bolt-ons and band-aids, it requires a transformation in the way we think, innovate and operate.’
THE BEDROCK OF A ROBUST BUSINESS
Slee adds that ethics and service must be the bedrock on which any successful business is founded.
‘Sales and profits will only flow over the long-term if a business protects and sustains these foundations,’ he says.
’The Hayne Royal Commission proved the old adage that you should do nothing in business that you wouldn’t be happy to see on the front-page of the newspaper.
‘Some of Australia’s largest financial institutions were found to have placed the need for profits ahead of their obligation to act in the best interest of customers,’ he says.
‘These issues were found to be particularly concentrated in the wealth management sector, which deals with long-term financial products.’
SETTING THE BAR HIGH
Slee says while the general Insurance sector is different in that its products are generally better understood, and contract terms are shorter, insurance is still a product entirely based on trust.
‘In this era of social media, in which transparency and integrity have become universal expectations, the ground has shifted from “buyer beware” to “seller beware”.
‘Insurers must ensure their policies are fit for purpose, suitable for their customers based on need and that the promises they make are not only being kept but kept in a way that delivers a great customer experience.
‘That is a high bar for any business.’
MAKING GREAT STRIDES
Slee also argues our era is one in which innovation, transparency and customer-centricity are the key ingredients in any successful business proposition.
‘Established players are facing disruptive new entrants, unencumbered by legacy systems, processes or thinking,’ he points out.
‘In this fast-paced world, many insurers have made great strides.
‘They’ve simplified their back-office, opened up their platforms to integrate with insurtech solutions and adapted their products and processes to create strongly customer-focused propositions that deliver a superior customer experience.
‘Insurers have also improved the integration of brokers and agents into their platforms and processes, enabling these vital intermediaries to act as natural extensions of their businesses.’
A CULTURE OF TECHNOLOGY PROWESS
However, while there has been great progress, Slee says there is still a lot to do.
‘Most large insurers are still running such a complex mix of technologies and platforms that the kind of agility the disruptors boast of feels like a distant dream,’ he says.
‘Competing in this cloud-enabled world with multiple generations of on-premise, self-managed software, is simply not a recipe for success.’
Rather, Slee says it’s critical to create a culture of technology prowess.
‘I’m excited to be on board at Guidewire and look forward to serving clients across Asia Pacific, to help them achieve genuine agility and leverage strategic partnerships — elements in any successful business strategy.’
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