Original article by the German medium www.handelsblatt.com as of January 17, 2023
The insurer Talanx has set itself ambitious goals for the coming years. Group CEO Torsten Leue wants to significantly increase both its profit and dividend by 2025. This also places more exacting demands on the workforce. "The ongoing development of staff to tackle the tasks they will face going forward is one of our greatest challenges", Talanx Board member Caroline Schlienkamp commented in conversation with Handelsblatt.
The 48-year-old joined the Talanx Board in May 2022 as its only female member, taking responsibility for compliance, legal affairs, data protection, procurement and internal services. Since July she has also taken charge of human resources in the role of Director of Labour Relations.
For the insurance industry the current environment – with inflation, rising interest rates, natural disasters and cyber risks – is anything but straightforward. Not only that, corporations are having to press ahead with the digital transformation towards greater automation and standardisation. Setting even loftier goals in this generally difficult situation seems ambitious.
On Capital Markets Day CEO Leue had announced an envisaged increase in the dividend to EUR 2.50 per share in the years through to 2025. A dividend of two euros will likely be paid out for the 2022 financial year. In addition, Group net income is to be boosted to EUR 1.6 billion. Estimates put the figure for the year just ended at the upper end of the range from EUR 1.05 to 1.15 billion. That would be a gain of more than 50 percent at the peak number.
Talanx intends to achieve the three-year targets in part with the support of a new personnel strategy, which the group unveiled to its workforce at an annual kick-off event held this Tuesday. The MDax-listed Talanx Group, which includes among others the insurer HDI and reinsurer Hannover Re, employs some 24,000 people worldwide.
In common with many other insurers, Talanx is facing the very real challenge that the demands placed on workers are changing substantially due to digitalisation. When simple claims can be reported online by insureds and adjusted by an algorithm, there is less need for clerical staff. Instead, insurers are looking around desperately for specialists.
New integrated degree programmes
"We need more data analysts going forward. Not only that, it is already becoming more difficult to attract lawyers, computer scientists or underwriters", Schlienkamp explains. Insurers are also competing here with other industries. Schlienkamp therefore describes as very challenging the task of continuing "to attract highly skilled employees in a market that is growing ever tighter".
In the future, with the offer of three new integrated degree programmes in business IT with a concentration in data science, IT security as well as business mathematics and actuarial sciences, Talanx is increasingly looking to take responsibility into its hands for training personnel who are difficult to recruit on the open market.
Offering young people study opportunities is one thing. As is often typical of insurance companies, however, many employees have already been with Talanx for a very long time – even over 40 years in some instances, according to Schlienkamp.
The average length of service in Germany – excluding Hannover Re – is currently 15 years. The average age is 45.8 years, a figure higher than the national average. The Federal Statistical Office put the average age of workers in Germany at 42.6 years in 2021.
Schlienkamp evidently has no concerns that change processes could leave some veteran employees feeling excluded: "Many of our specialists have already experienced several transformations and with all their knowledge they are more than able to engage with changes." Nevertheless, it is important to let in a breath of fresh air now and again – in part also because some long-standing Talanx staff will be retiring shortly: "With an eye to demographic changes it's not going to be easy to replace them", Schlienkamp notes.
Proportion of women in leadership positions rising slowly
Even though Talanx is reliant on recruiting new personnel externally over the coming years and stepping up its active cultivation of candidates as well as its social media presence, Schlienkamp wants above all to open up opportunities for existing staff.
She promises to fill many leadership positions internally. Talanx has not yet quite achieved its goal of promoting a woman to every other managerial vacancy, admits Schlienkamp: "But we are constantly working to boost the proportion of women in leadership roles."
At Talanx in Germany this increased on the first to third level of management from 21.3 percent to 24.3 percent between the end of 2020 and end of 2022. What matters to Schlienkamp, however, is that under its diversity strategy the group wants to advance not only women, but also people from a wide variety of backgrounds: "We are convinced that work results improve when people at the company do not have to check parts of who they are at the door."
Schlienkamp has a positive take on the trend towards working from home: "Mobile working and performance are not mutually exclusive." There has been no evidence so far of performance shortfalls among those working out of their home office. Still, she is a firm believer that "we are more creative and innovative when we come together purposefully at the office". She explains that the group has reached an agreement with the Employee Council that members of staff can work on a mobile basis from zero to 60 percent – spread across a quarter.
This news release contains forward-looking statements which are based on certain assumptions, expectations and opinions of the Talanx AG management. These statements are, therefore, subject to certain known or unknown risks and uncertainties. A variety of factors, many of which are beyond Talanx AG’s control, affect Talanx AG’s business activities, business strategy, results, performance and achievements. Should one or more of these factors or risks or uncertainties materialise, actual results, performance or achievements of Talanx AG may vary materially from those expressed or implied in the relevant forward-looking statement. Talanx AG does not guarantee that the assumptions underlying such forward-looking statements are free from errors nor does Talanx AG accept any responsibility for the actual occurrence of the forecasted developments. Talanx AG neither intends, nor assumes any obligation, to update or revise these forward-looking statements in light of developments which differ from those anticipated.