Rachel Bevans from The Healthy Brand Company interviewed Wayne Tower, Chief Commercial Officer and Sophie Arkelidis, Head of Brand and Marketing at IQumulate Premium Funding, to understand what they’re doing differently in response to Covid-19. This case study was written for First5000, Australia’s professional network for mid-sized business
IQumulate Premium Funding provides short term loans to business customers that covers the cost of their insurance premiums. This allows owners and management of those businesses to smooth out cash flow and / or invest those funds into other areas of their business.
The new situation
Describe a little about your situation and how you’re balancing work and life in COVID-19?
We have had our entire team working remotely for almost two months which, with many of our team having school aged children, creates challenges of juggling and balancing different demands. Fortunately, though our business promoted flexible working for a long time so we could move quite quickly to support that on a full-time basis when the COVID situation escalated in March.
What do you think you – as an individual and leader – will do differently post COVID-19 because of COVID-19?
The world around us continues to change at a remarkable pace so it’s important as a leader to:
- Remain educated about the situation and cut through the noise. With social media so prevalent these days there is so much information to digest so find a few reliable sources of information and keep updated with any developments. Governments are communicating every day about the plan to progress through COVID so we continue to monitor those announcements
- Ensure your team feels safe and supported – this includes ensuring they remain informed through regular and clear communication.
Post COVID I think a few leaders may be contemplating:
- What return to work looks like
- What working flexibility that business will provide ongoing. From my perspective the last few months have accelerated some things that would have logically occurred anyway
- And that obviously has wider implications for things like requirements for offices and travel
How the business is impacted
Describe a little about your business and stakeholders, and how you’ve been impacted by COVID-19.
We are an intermediated business where we distribute our product through insurance brokers across Australia and NZ. Our key stakeholders are our Broker partners. They play a critical role (and one could argue more so now than ever) in ensuring that businesses have the right insurance cover to protect their assets and manage risk.
We’ve seen that, since COVID really hit Australia & NZ that there is an overall increase in the demand for our services as more people look to find ways to preserve cash. Spreading out their payments over a longer period is a sensible option that more people are clearly considering.
In terms of impacts, we front all sectors of the economy and have been working through a number of requests for assistance due to hardship. This obviously puts a heavy burden on different departments within our business, but I am so proud of the way that the entire team has banded together in the last 2 months to support our customers, and each other.
Are you still trading and in what way?
Yes, it has very much been BAU for us. As mentioned earlier we moved to remote working for the entire business in mid-March and given that we have supported (in fact, promoted) flexible working for some time we were extremely well positioned from a tech & infrastructure perspective to scale this up quite quickly.
We have kept up contact with customers using virtual channels, maintained extra check ins with our teams and have more frequent dialogue as a leadership team to respond to matters as they arise. I am pleased to say we are continuing to deliver our services as effectively as we were pre-COVID.
What are your main KPIS and how have they been impacted by COVID-19?
We are a customer centric business and therefore how we are able to service those customers is a key indicator of how we are performing.
The largest impact has been the amount of time we are spending in working with customers who need some financial assistance. We are fortunate that we have an experienced and empowered team that have been working really well over the last few months despite the extra volumes they have been asked to handle. We are working hard to ensure we have dialogue with all of our impacted customers and their insurance brokers to support them in any way that we can.
From a distribution perspective our product is a critical support to small & medium business and we have had a positive response by our existing brokers in the last few months as it can be a good tool to help preserve cash which is critically important in these times.
How long do you think it will take your business to overcome and make up for any negative impact of COVID-19?
The reality is that we know we will be working with some impacted clients for some time. Whilst its pleasing that governments have announced roadmaps to re-open the economy in phases (due to the great work being done by the community in working to social distancing requirements), we will see some industries that are impacted harder and for longer than others. It’s difficult to put a timeframe on when we will be through this so the key is to remain agile and adapt to new information as it comes to hand.
Current phase and initiatives
Across the board, there are three key phases to which people are referring: Survive, Recover & Thrive. Where is your business currently?
We have been able to seamlessly move to remote working and have continued to support our brokers and their clients with no disruptions.
Like most lending organisations we responded to the rapidly changing environment by making a few essential adjustments to our credit criteria, but importantly those changes were designed to build in some flexibility to our product so we could respond quickly if customers called for help. Those changes have been well received by our partners due to proactively communicating what we were changing, and importantly why. We have great relationships across our entire broker network and the strength of those relationships really shines through in times like these.
What are some of the key initiatives you’ve done/are planning to do in each stage?
Externally, we’ve been proactively communicating with our key partners as it’s important that they are kept updated. We’ve maintained regular meetings, but virtually with our clients and key partners. And we’ve continued to work through new business and growth initiatives that build the business.
Internally, our focus has been on the wellbeing of our team. For me this is extremely important. We have 75 people in our business and everyone’s circumstances are different so we can’t assume that what works for you is going to work for everyone.
It is important that we stay connected formally which we are doing through town halls, virtual team meetings and newsletters. They are great forums to call out all the awesome work the team is doing right now and the recognition is appreciated.
Feedback is equally important, so we undertake pulse checks which involves everyone which provides a great opportunity to have their say.
We still need to have fun. I have always worked with a view that you need to have fun along the way so in these times of isolation we are trying a few things to bring the business together and enjoy ourselves like we always have done.
What has been important during the initial stages of COVID-19?
The environment was changing so quickly a few months ago and with so much information coming from everywhere you could quickly get overwhelmed which had real potential to impact and slow decision making. We quickly disseminated our focus to:
- What we need to do in support of our teams?,
- What do we need to do to support customers who might require assistance due to hardship?; and
- What rhythm do we need embed in order to effectively and efficiently manage the business remotely?
The opportunity moving forwards
How is your business going to do things differently post COVID-19?
The most obvious question is what does the workplace of the future look like. We have been successfully operating for almost 2 months with 100% of the team remote so there will obviously be some thinking about what the new normal might look like.
Remote working requires trust, empowerment and accountability to ensure that the business and the team is clear and aligned with expectations. Our entire team has been amazing in their response to the last few months which really highlights the quality of the people at IQumulate.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for you coming out of COVID-19?
We need to continue to be providing a consistent and reliable service to our brokers and their clients, now more than ever. We will be remembered for what we did and how we did it and I’m confident we have the right balance to ensure that we continue to build a sustainable business for the benefit of our people, our brokers, our clients and our shareholders.
We also have an opportunity to continue to support a significant amount of small & medium business through this crisis and we are proud to do what we can to support.
What are your tips for other leaders?
Look after yourself & stay balanced. Work demands now are heightened and the team needs strong leadership, good communication and a sense of resilience from all leaders across the business. But you need to make time for family and friends who equally need our attention in these challenging times.
How is your business going to do things differently post COVID-19?