S4 EP21: Innovation, courage and creating psychological safety – with Erica Wood, Chief People Officer, Cover Whale

“We have incredible people across the organization at all levels and it matters that the leadership really cultivates the kind of space where people can say, ‘I didn’t actually like the way you spoke to me. I want to work through this’. This is going to happen, it’s an insure-tech, the two are different, trying to hold hands and partner. If you don’t feel safe, you’re not going to get the best out of our people.”

Erica discusses her career progression route and fascination with organizational psychology and her first meeting with Cover Whale President, Kevin Abramson.

“It takes one conversation to get a sense of the culture of a company. And in that conversation, the rapport was there. Kevin is refreshingly transparent. He’s very direct, very clear. What you see is what you get and I really felt drawn to that.”

Headquartered in New York City with an office in California and team spread across the US, Cover Whale has grown rapidly to over 120 team members and surpassed $500m in premiums.

“Our raison d’etre is safety, safety, safety, using technology to make the world safer And our loss ratios are very low, very low in the 50s.”

Erica highlights how the business is investing in talent through Learning Labs & Cover Whale University and the scientific approach to the interview process.

“We’ve talked about interviewing, not just what to ask, but how to ask and how to really engage somebody authentically because anybody can have a very standard answer.

“The implications of becoming excellent at interviewing, that goes into coaching, into insatiable curiosity and building the kind of culture where people feel safe and they feel a sense of belonging.”

She shares her advice for hiring exceptional talent and encourages senior candidates coming for interview to be able to share sophisticated ideas clearly.

“Gen Z are going to be dominating the workforce in the next 10, 15, 20 years. So, how do you engage with a diverse workforce and have them understand sophisticated ideas in layman’s terms and how do you convey your world in a cogent way.”

Erica emphasizes the importance of communication, staying connected and having fun as the business continues to scale rapidly as well as creating an open culture, where people can speak candidly.

“You do want some tension and debate. Our senior leadership don’t just allow it like they partake and encourage it. It creates a richness of ideas.”

Connect with Erica Wood on LinkedIn, find out more about Cover Whale or the latest job opportunities, email hr@coverwhale.com

The Insurance Coffee House Podcast is hosted by Nick Hoadley, CEO, Insurance Search, the Executive Search Consultancy for growing Insurance and Insurtech businesses around the globe.

To discuss identifying & attracting the very best talent to your team or being a podcast guest, reach out to Nick via nick.hoadley@insurance-search.com

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