“I’m a firm believer in a healthy work-life balance,” smiles Matthew von Brockdorff, the new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Insurance PCC Ltd, during a Zoom interview, the format made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, indeed, this perspective informs his professional endeavours, with the firm adopting myriad initiatives to ensure its staff and clients feel valued and at ease, despite the turbulent times. It hasn’t been easy, as it hasn’t for most businesses across the globe, which have seen profits plunge and processes upended.
Yet, despite this, Mr von Brockdorff – who boasts 32 years of experience in the insurance business – is particularly well-placed to lead the company through the quagmire and, as a result, the turbulence has been navigated with a steady hand.
He started his career in the family firm, R von Brockdorff Insurance Agency Ltd, while studying for his accreditation through the Chartered Insurance Institute, progressing to fellowship.
In 1999, he took an active role in the merger of the family company, with a group of other local agencies, to form Atlas Group. He describes this as a “milestone” in his career, allowing him to get involved in the diverse facets of the insurance sector.
“This was a real learning experience, and a stepping-stone for growth since I learnt about the different aspects of the business and how to further develop the firm,” he explains.
In 2005, he was appointed Deputy Managing Director, and just a year later, Atlas Insurance evolved into a Protected Cell Company (PCC), opening the doors to foreign investment by expediting the firm’s operations in international markets.
Indeed through its status as a PCC, Atlas has been able to provide direct insurance underwriting services into Europe through its cells for third parties, Mr von Brockdorff outlines.
Today, the CEO – who stepped into the role in April of this year – is able to put all his expertise to good use, as the world readjusts to a seemingly-interminable ‘new normal’. His vision remains one of growth for the company, despite the current challenges.
And he is confident that this is achievable with the correct strategy, which prioritises the mental and physical wellness of the firm’s staff and its clients.
“It’s all about enabling growth and being able to garner a good reputation for being the workplace of choice, and the employer of choice,” he says.
Trust is key, he continues, and the firm’s strategy is to “drive an investment in digital processes as well as in our people” in order to nurture solid relationships with stakeholders including clients, distributors, intermediaries and the wider community.
To this end, this summer, Atlas signed a partnership agreement with The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. This will see the insurance firm assist with the newly established Policy Committee for Health and Wellness, which aims to bolster awareness of the pivotal role the physical and mental health of employers and staff play in a company and how they can enable resilience and competitiveness.
“Through this thematic, we’re able to contribute to the business community and, ultimately, to all the employees within that community.
“The Committee will be looking at the workplace, and work practices, with specific emphasis on mitigating the effects of stress, and encouraging employers to implement best practices,” Mr von Brockdorff asserts, going on to explain the reasoning behind the firm’s decision to jump on board the enterprise.
“Atlas is helping by providing a financial element as well as human resources. The committee is also chaired by Catherine Calleja who leads the health side of Atlas’s business,” he says.
The CEO points to the serendipity which lies between the goals of the Committee and Atlas Insurance PCC Ltd, homing in on the health insurance side of the business, but also stressing that the collaboration with The Malta Chamber simply reflects the priorities set by the company.
“Mental and physical well-being is one of the firm’s pillars, and we aim to be leaders in this respect,” he affirms. Indeed, the company has embarked on a wellness driven programme by providing psychological assistance to employees, as well as by organising morale and healthboosting activities – such as yoga, Pilates, boxercise and circuit training – to the team outside work hours.
Moreover, Atlas Healthcare has implemented the ICAS Employee Assistance Programme – an international service to enhance mental health and motivation in the workplace – as an extension of the healthcare insurance the firm provides its staff. “We’re advocates for this approach.
After all, you don’t have to work in insurance to be stressed. In fact, this is applicable to every industry and we would encourage all employers to adopt this strategy in looking after their staff,” Mr von Brockdorff encourages.
And surely, there has never been a more opportune time to do so, I say, than in the midst of a global crisis. The CEO agrees and recalls the “shock” when a National Emergency was called in the middle of March.
“The team really pulled together, and this was a catalyst to raise the bar. A lot of businesses experienced the same thing, and we were successfully able to continue providing our services, though other industries may not have been so lucky,” he admits, detailing the changes implemented at Atlas Insurance.
“On the Monday after the national emergency was triggered, we had set up most of staff to work from home and practically all staff within the next few days. The pandemic also had a big impact on our investments, and these are still recovering, with questions remaining on how long this will take.”
Seven months on, Atlas’ offices have reopened, though, the CEO is quick to underline, with an increased focus on health and safety.
“Foremost in our minds was: how can we open in a safe way, so our clients and staff feel safe? Of course, we immediately implemented standard measures such as social distancing and the wearing of masks, but we also went over and above by installing Perspex screens to separate clients and staff, and ensuring all internal meetings were held remotely.”
The pandemic has also accelerated the firm’s take-up of technological innovation – as it has for countless others. “Prior to COVID-19, we were looking at effecting a massive digital transformation, and we had embarked on the project by looking at how IT can further assist our team, as well as ease processes for our customers.
The pandemic, however, was a catalyst, confirming that digital transformation was essential, and it accelerated certain changes for us,” he asserts. These included technological solutions to enable remote working, as well as to minimise the necessity for paperwork.
“Our vision is a paperless one. We’ve already launched our new insurance platform which enables customers to purchase motor and home insurance policies online, and we’re now working on introducing other products and services on our customer online portal. The future is paperless.
“There’s no turning the clock back, but meanwhile we still have many customers who may not be so digitally savvy, so we will continue to cater for them through our main offices, branches and intermediaries network.”
Looking ahead, the customer will remain at the heart of Atlas Insurance’s operations and strategy.
“We are striving towards being known as the leader in customer experience and we are also driven to cementing long-standing relationships and solidifying innovation. We want to continue strengthening our good reputation, as this is what will drive the company’s growth,” Mr von Brockdorff concludes.
This interview was first carried in the October/November edition of the Commercial Courier