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First American’s Sonia Cliffel recently “Took Five” with Ann Collins, Executive Vice President at EMC Insurance, to discuss her experience in the industry and how EMC fosters a culture of innovation for colleagues and clients alike.
Executive Vice President, EMC Insurance
Ann: Prior to joining EMC, I worked 25 years at two different P&C insurance carriers, one called GuideOne Mutual that is based here in Des Moines, and the other was a national company called WR Berkley. I was the CFO for three of their domestic affiliates. I had finance positions as well as some overall management positions with them, but my degree is in accounting, and that’s been my root of all of that. I have my Master’s of Business Administration as well.
Ann: Yes, I think Des Moines competes with Hartford, Connecticut for being known as the insurance capital of the world. For our population, we do have a well-balanced set of insurance companies here in Des Moines.
Ann: I would say that my leadership approach or strategy really combines well with EMC’s overall company culture. We truly believe that we exist to improve lives. So our mission is to improve lives by providing that financial protection for policyholders, having profitable partnerships with agencies, having an inspiring culture with team members, and then giving back to the communities that we have operations in and have business in. So what’s not to love about that?
We want to make sure that our team members understand how they can connect with that mission and how they contribute to that. I think one of the best examples is our president gives this example from the IT world. You might not be able to see how you’re impacting it, but all of the coding, all of the project management that they do that helps an underwriter who then helps to write that policy. There’s always that correlation. So we want our team members to understand how they can contribute to improving everybody’s lives.
Ann: Yes, they are domestic. And we are very intentional about making those donations through our foundation. We want to make sure that our communities can prosper, because we know that when we have good strong communities then we have good strong team members, and we have good strong businesses that we can insure. It’s just a chain reaction. In 2021, we donated over a million and a half back to our community through our foundation.
Ann: Thank you. We have won a couple different IT awards and they are very meaningful for us. We are going through a digital transformation with our systems, specifically our policy, billing, and claims systems moving to a cloud-based platform. And so that can be hard on team members. Not only IT, but everybody that uses those systems all the way to the accounting department that has to get all of the information so we can book journal entries for financial statements. So, it is really a nice boost for our team members to hear that we won those awards. Innovation is core to EMC and it was nice to see a direct correlation between all the work that we do, support we give, and our focus on innovation that has earned us that recognition.
Ann: We recognize that creating a culture of innovation is an extensive process that requires strategy, collaboration, trust, accountability and risk. Two of the many ways we foster an innovation culture at EMC are through Innovation Labs and a program called Innovation for Breakfast. The labs create hands-on opportunities for team members to explore and research new technologies or business trends and recommend solutions. Lab results and recommendations are then presented at a company meeting. EMC does one lab each quarter and this is our fourth year doing these.
Innovation for Breakfast is a monthly program open to all EMC team members on innovation topics, including pitches from insurtech companies, sharing results of our innovation labs and pilots, and hosting our senior leaders for fireside chats on our innovation priorities and successes. This program is also in its fourth year.
Ann: I would first say: stay in the industry. It might not be what you thought you were going into after college, but it is definitely very rewarding. That’s exactly why we want everyone to know about our culture and about how we exist to improve lives, because we feel that people can identify with that maybe a little bit more than just thinking about working for an insurance company, because that helps them put into perspective all the different ways that they can really impact others’ lives.