S4 EP47: Integrating in to a new brand and communicating ‘the why’ – Aimee Kilpatrick, Chief Operating Officer, Cadence Insurance

“We always have a common goal every year for the entire organization. It’s in every single employee’s goal plan, from CEO all the way to somebody in an administrative position. The same goal we’re all working towards”, says Aimee.

“You can’t expect people to rally around a goal unless you help them understand what that goal is.  You have to help connect every person’s role or every team’s role back to that goal.”

On the Insurance Coffee House Podcast this week, Aimee talks through her insurance career journey.

“My entire career in insurance has been spent in the banking space. Coming out of college, I went to a bank’s management training program.

Through all the different rotations and nothing was really resonating. That bank had actually purchased an insurance agency and were still very early on in their journey of that agency into the fold. The manager of the program said, ‘why don’t you go over there for a couple months and do a special project?’ I went and never left that space.”

She shares how being inquisitive and working for a CEO who encouraged her to take risks and fail has been key to her insurance career development.

“I’d ask a ton of questions. He would share things with me that I probably had no business asking. He was very transparent with me and helped me really to understand the business of insurance.

I spent a lot of time focusing on early career programs, bringing talent to the industry. And then he gave me a couple of departments to run and gave me a lot of freedom to do that.”

Aimee shares the road to becoming COO at Cadence Insurance, who’s inspired her along the way and how insurance has helped her find her true passions. She highlights how the business has recently transferred in to the ownership of Gallagher.

“The organization I sit in today goes all the way back to the late 1880s. The next journey in our evolution was us joining the Gallagher organization. We have come out of that bank ownership structure and now joined one of the largest brokers in the world. It’s being positioned for growth and what our organization needed to move forward.”

Aimee emphasizes the impact on the team and clients as well as Cadence’s aspirations under its new ownership.   

“When the announcement came out, the bank had been our home for 24 years. There were very strong professional and personal relationships developed there.

But the time was right for both them and us. This really was the thing that we needed for our future. Being owned by an insurance broker and having a parent company that speaks our language and lives and breathes insurance every day has been a lot of fun.  

Short-term, it’s about helping to connect our teams to the Gallagher teams. Helping to connect both our clients to the huge suite of resources that we now have access to and our teammates in terms of their career development, opportunities, that weren’t in our legacy world. Then, it’s going to be about how we best harness and leverage the power of Gallagher that we have behind us.”

Being a key player in the merger, Aimee gives insight in to her role as COO and managing the transition.

“Even the most positive change can still come with a feeling apprehension, anxiety. For us it’s helping our teams understand the changes. Helping them understand ‘the why’ behind it. It’s also helping them to see the other side. Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of a pain period to get to the better part.

We try to do our very best to be very clear about what’s coming, what to expect and what we’re going to gain on the other side. It’s been very much a collaborative conversation with our teammates, with the Gallagher teams that we’re working with.”

Aimee describes how transparent leadership is key to managing a culture of change.  

“You have to be intentional around your communication strategy. We are a very collaborative group. This stems from leadership all the way through our teams. Being an open organization is so cliched but I have teammates of all different levels of experience and roles walking in and out every day asking questions.

We’ve been able to create a culture where anybody feels like they can raise a hand or call a senior leader and ask a question.

The other part is being very intentional in your communication, sharing what we’re developing.”

In light of the merger with Gallagher, Aimee shares how they managed the situation of not being able to publicize the transaction.

“We were owned by a bank, that was publicly traded. We were not allowed to talk about it until it was announced the public. That was hard because we like to bring our people along on the journey we’re going on.

It did create a different challenge for us. We had to pivot and just think through what can we do. We had an email teed up to go out at 7.01 to our team and then invited them to a call at 8.15 that morning.

If we couldn’t do things beforehand, if we couldn’t bring people through that journey with us, we wanted to stop the train for a second, get everybody on board, talk and explain the why, explain the impact.”

Aimee gives her advice to insurance executives coming to interview at Cadence.

“We love people that think differently. We love people that have a different perspective on life. Being authentic to who you are as a person, your personality, the things that have made you successful throughout your career. That’s what we want to harness the energy of.

The other thing is, walking into a new organization is never easy. Learning the dynamics and the people, the lay of the land, so listen first. Listen to learn.”

Aimee shares her thoughts on how fellow insurance industry professionals can hire top insurance talent.

“You can find talent in all kinds of hidden spots. People don’t necessarily have to get their experience inside the workplace. We have people that are fantastic community leaders, at civic organizations, religious organizations and they have learned a skill set outside of the workplace. They’ve been able to come and deploy inside our organization.”

Aimee highlights what she looks for when working with an external search partner and what tech tools Cadence use when hiring.

And she concludes by reflecting on some bad advice she was given early in her career.   

“I wear my heart on my sleeve. Early in my I was advised that it wasn’t appropriate in the professional workplace. For the first 8 to 10 years of my career, I thought I had to be this stoic person. I wholeheartedly disagree.

Showing emotion, transparency and vulnerability as a leader is so incredibly important. It doesn’t matter your age or gender. We all are who we are. It strengthens the trust with your team and lets people see and know the real you. There’s incredible value in that.”

Connect with Aimee Kilpatrick on LinkedIn or find out more about Cadence Insurance

The Insurance Coffee House Podcast is hosted by Nick Hoadley, CEO of Insurance Search.

We are a global Insurance Executive Search Consultancy, supporting Insurance and Insurtech businesses to attract and retain the very best insurance talent.

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