Paul Johnson, CIO and COO, explains how professionalisation, data and automation has allowed the company to drive a significant expansion campaign...
It’s a rare accomplishment when a new company is able to make a bold impression on the market within its first few years, yet this is exactly what PIB Group (‘PIB’) has done. Founded in 2015, the organisation’s strategy has been marked by a dynamic and fresh approach to insurance which has already seen it summit the UK market and become a genuine leader. Combining the latest data insights with years of industry experience, it is able to offer customers a superlative and comprehensive service. Receiving financial backing from multinational equity corporation The Carlyle Group, PIB’s campaign for growth, both through acquisition and organically, has so far seen 30 businesses brought under its umbrella from nearly every corner of the UK since 2016.
Prior to beginning his journey with PIB Group in 2018, Paul Johnson, COO and CIO, claims that a conversation with Brendan McManus (PIB Group CEO) convinced him that the company was an exciting prospect he had to get involved with. “I was consulting for a new startup blockchain bank at the time,” he recalls. “But, after speaking to Brendan and listening to the PIB Group story, I became genuinely excited about the company and felt a real ‘click’ with the executive vision.” Bringing a diverse range of skills accrued in tech firms, financial institutions and even the Royal Navy, Johnson says that knowing many aspects of the sector has allowed him to adopt the agile, flexible work ethic required in such a fast-moving company. “My experience has been very varied, including the acquisition of organisations, international growth and then suddenly having to switch to cost optimisation. That teaches you a lot in terms of how to lead in the most optimal and professional way for your employees.”
In fact, when asked to describe the workplace culture at PIB Group, Johnson easily summarises it as ‘engaged’ and ‘collaborative’. “One of the things I enjoy most about PIB Group is the culture,” he adds. “The COVID-19 period has emphasised even more that our employees are the engine of the company.” Maintaining a corporate yet entrepreneurial spirit, wherein everyone feels that they can contribute, underpins PIB’s need to stay nimble, particularly as technology continues to disrupt the traditional norms of insurance. The developing application of smart automation is one aspect which particularly interests Johnson: “I'm always interested in how we can provide a much better service to our customers, and artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and bots can provide that. I want the company to ensure that our people can focus on servicing our customers rather than simply on processes.” That AI-powered analytics will be at the forefront of the industry in the near future is beyond doubt for him: with AI algorithms capable of building highly accurate customer data profiles and sophisticated understanding of the market, insurers will be able to provide better advice and suggest the best products for their customers’ needs.
Customer-centrism is key for PIB Group because it is the company’s outstanding reputation in the market which has enabled it to expand so rapidly, including new locations in mainland Europe. It is a respect, Johnson goes on to say, which is only deepening as time goes by: “One of the keys to our success has been through professionalising the way in which we integrate new acquisitions from a business operational perspective, a technological perspective and absolutely from a governance compliance perspective. We have to be very considerate of how we work for the interests of our customers.” However, as more companies are onboarded, the issue of mixed progress on the journey towards digital transformation becomes unavoidable. Establishing a strong baseline technology level across PIB was an important step in levelling-out the playing field. This was accomplished by utilising cloud to provide an easily scalable tech framework that could be deployed from the smallest to the largest new acquisition. “I'm currently building a new data set that we can use to provide better customer service, propositions and advice to our growing customer base,” Johnson adds.
However, although he has set out a clear vision for digital transformation, Johnson says that it hasn’t been without difficulty. “One of the biggest challenges is actually maintaining that data and retaining visibility over a very long period of time.” Building a large archive of policies for the contingency that they may need to be accessed in the future, PIB Group holds some information which is over 40 years old. Another obstacle has been achieving cultural unity across the company’s myriad enterprises in an effort to avoid a siloed community, underscoring the reason why collaboration is placed at the heart of everything. “A lot of those brands have had value in their own right in the past, but what they realise now is that, if we can bring them all together, the power of one entity is greater than a disparate group,” he says. Sharing PIB Group’s customer-centric ethos has been pivotal in creating this cross-party consensus, which, in turn, augments services, overcomes technological barriers and promotes a quality experience regardless of which aspect of PIB Group interacts with.
Although visionary leadership is an important aspect of PIB’s success, Johnson emphasises that partnerships with select companies are also critical to its everyday operations. Seeking truly synergistic relationships which will uphold the tenets of engagement and collaboration which PIB Group encourages amongst its own people, the company values openness, clear communication and transparency above all else, something which has been accomplished with companies such as Websure, Applied, Mimacast and Egnyte to name a few. Regarding the latter, a software company that provides a cloud platform for enterprise systems, Johnson said, “The great thing about Egnyte is that it provides an integrated system that is also data-secure. It’s flexible too, so we can conduct scenario analyses and adjust products for customer optimisation much faster.” Littlefish, a UK-based managed IT solutions provider, is another partner in this vein. An energetic disruptor in its sphere, Littlefish prides itself in succeeding where larger ‘usual suspect’ alternatives usually fail. Able to tailor solutions to the precise needs of its customers, it is also a company which believes in straightforward language to explain its services. “Littlefish is a relatively new incumbent, but it’s been a valuable conduit between PIB Group and a number of other partners,” Johnson explains. “Our relationship has been absolutely excellent: it isn’t just a supplier; it's a real collaboration. It's genuinely been a joy to work with Littlefish.”
Reflecting on the company’s progress throughout 2020, Johnson remarks that, despite the incredibly challenging economic climate, expansion for PIB Group has carried on unabated. In fact, in certain areas, it has even accelerated. “Our focus at the beginning of the year was centred on growth. Obviously protecting our employees has become an even greater priority, but we’re still in a position to keep serving our customers in the very best way possible.” This hints at the reason why, perhaps, PIB Group continues to be successful: if customers are kept satisfied, growth will naturally occur. Even more excitingly, Johnson says that the 2021 strategy intends to maintain this remarkable pace, with plenty more acquisitions in the pipeline. With a solid customer base, unified corporate culture and new data-based tech taking the company to even greater heights, it appears that PIB Group has developed a winning formula.