As the host of a recent episode on Risky Women Radio, a podcast series, I had the pleasure to speak with Sophie Krynauw, Director of Transformation at Zurich Insurance company. Ms. Krynauw is responsible for designing Zurich’s future audit strategy, focusing on the interplay between customer outcomes and science-based methods, while balancing the need to digitalize and transform skills within the function. Ms. Krynauw described her passion for building a growth mindset and generating change from within to build an innovative, passionate, collaborative and global team.
Ms. Krynauw sees the pandemic as an opportunity to challenge assumptions and change the way we work for a more sustainable, inclusive future. She joined Zurich at the start of the pandemic, and fully embraced the value of a digital and collaborative work environment. “[March 2020] was an amazing time to start a new job, especially for someone who has been brought in to transform a function… In theory, the internal audit world can be quite traditional. But everybody [kept an] amazing mindset of ‘we have to survive, we have to do something differently’” she recalled. “Professionally, it was a great time, because we made large steps forward that might have taken two or three years… Personally, I’ve never done anything harder.”
Speaking of her personal response, Ms. Krynauw added, “It comes down to knowing what your personal resilience is about, and digging deep. When I reflected at the end of the year, I was thinking that it was exceptionally hard. But it was one of those moments when you test what you are about and come away thinking ‘I’m much clearer on who I am as a person and what I can deliver.’”
At Zurich, Ms. Krynauw is responsible for defining the future of audit. She said the role exists because the company recognizes that the world is changing and the pace of that change is accelerating. “To remain completely relevant, [risk professionals] need to think differently about how we want the future to look.” She described four pillars — principles with which to approach the future:
- Focus on outcomes, not processes. Processes alone don’t always mitigate risk.
- Introduce scientific methods to bring greater rigor to audit processes.
- Digitalize the audit value chain to stay effective and efficient.
- Build a culture that fosters professional development, because “digital transformation is not just about implementing the tech, but bringing the people who could make… decisions off the back of it.”
Ms. Krynauw described her principal areas of focus at Zurich. First, she’s building competency networks. The department acknowledged it had all the skills needed to mitigate risk — but the skills weren’t always located where they were needed. In response, the department built global collaborative teams based around skills — and matches skills to needs and growth opportunities, regardless of location. The approach accelerates skill development and enables fluid targeting of expertise to mitigate risks wherever they occur. In addition, she’s creating an environment and a mechanism for gathering ideas from her entire team, instead of always driving change down from the top. Acting quickly on ideas from all sources improves the environment continually, she explained, instead of relying on periodic “big bang” changes.
So, what do these approaches have in common? “Both of those activities have been around mindset change. Everybody was committed to implementing a digital mindset change and shift [as the pandemic began]. So that’s what I’ve been trying to harbor, that energy to keep flowing into continual change, and making sure people don’t see the effort around 2020 as a one-off, but as something that’s incredibly essential to keep doing for the next, well — forever, really — because the environment is going to continue to change… Addressing those structural changes will enable this future digital world really to come alive.”
Workforce sustainability — a core mandate for Zurich — is just 0ne of the things that lured Ms. Krynauw to the organization. It’s an approach leading organizations take to adapt to a new way of thinking: putting new structures in place to support the new, post-pandemic environment. “We need to think differently about how to [set up] new ways of working… it’s about picking and choosing which [structures] work well for your organization, and being comfortable blending them. The networked organization you see in the tech industry works really well; traditional governance structures work really well too… it’s knowing when to say ‘this is a more hierarchical outcome we need to employ,’ or ‘there’s a more networked outcome we need to apply.’ But I don’t think it has to be as binary as being on either end of the spectrum, it can be a bit of both.”
Risky Women Radio connects, celebrates and champions women in risk, regulation and compliance. The series shares insight and perspectives from members of the global Risky Women network and brings together hundreds of senior women professionals with a new emerging group of leading women and men. Risky Women Radio is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and RSS feeds. You can listen to the full audio of our conversation here. You can also learn more about Risky Women by visiting their website.