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S4 EP41: Town halls, camaraderie and celebrating insurance expertise - with Eric Haller, CEO and Ashlie Keeling, HR Director, Fleming Insurance Holdings
Episode 416th February 2024 • The Insurance Coffee House • Insurance Search
00:00:00 00:27:24

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“Having events like the town hall is incredibly important. For everyone to get together and be able to celebrate what we're building”, says Eric.

“It gives us a forum to talk about what's going on, what the strategy is. It’s a time for anyone to ask questions so they can get a better understanding of what everyone does.

We don't want everything to be just work. We also have fun things, that people normally aren't used to, so they also get a sense of accomplishment. It builds a lot of camaraderie.”

On the Insurance Coffee House Podcast this week, Eric Haller and HR Director, Ashlie Keeling talk about the journey to launching and joining Bermuda-based Fleming Insurance Holdings.

“Stephen Minor approached me in 2018 and said, ‘Do you think there's room for another legacy carrier in the market?’ We decided there was but we really wanted to change the paradigm in terms of how it was done.

We wanted to focus more on capital solutions versus exposure solutions. What we mean by that is instead of simply taking away bad liabilities, allowing our counter parties to recycle capital back into the front end of the business, so they can provide a legacy solution on an ongoing basis.”

Eric discusses navigating the early days of running the business.  

“When you're in start-up mode, it was getting the regulatory side, getting the capital side sorted, mapping out that strategy, how to achieve all those individual goals to get where we wanted to be today.

The good thing is we had a great core team. We were able to close our first transaction at the end of 2018. The most challenging thing about the early days, is every counter party you talk to, the first question is, ‘Have you done a deal yet? Within two months of starting the company, we were able to answer that ‘Yes’.

Eric discusses working through Fleming’s strategic plan and the interim goal of securing institutional funding from Altamont Capital Partners in May 2022 and the acquisition of JRG Reinsurance.

With team based in Bermuda and spread across the US, employees are Fleming Insurance Holdings’ biggest asset.  

Ashlie highlights her role in attracting and retaining the best insurance talent, as the business eyes European expansion.

“One of the first things I did when I came was, I planned a town hall meeting. That was a pivotal week for us. We just got to know one another.  With us being remote, being able to do that and see us grow as people, colleagues and as a collaborative supportive culture has been the most amazing transformation.”

Discussing the outcomes of these in-person collaborative events, Ashlie emphasizes the excitement to be on the team, for what the business is doing and for each other.

“One of our values is that we recognize the expertise of each other and we celebrate it. It’s got us excited to learn more about them as people but also things they have published. We want to have a repository where people can upload white papers or articles.

We want to celebrate each other, a culture of collaboration and support. No matter where you turn you get that support. You get help and make friends out of it. It is so important as we build businesses in a virtual or hybrid world.”

Eric shares the benefit of having an insurance people leader like Ashlie

“Bringing Ashlie on board and focusing on the people aspect has been great. Making sure employees needs are being sought or being looked after is positive.

Soon after Ashlie was hired she came to me and said, ‘What about unlimited PTO?’

I said, ‘What are you talking about? That's crazy'. But the more we talked about it and all the detailed benefits, it provides a mechanism to allow the employees a little bit of flexibility.”  It's that type of input. Having her in the role is incredibly beneficial. Our goal is to make Fleming a better place to be for its employees.”

When looking to attract senior insurance leaders to Fleming, Eric encourages insurance executives to “Demonstrate how you may able to make a positive impact to the company. And do your research.”

And on whether he looks for start-up or more corporate insurance experience, Eric says, “It's challenging. It's on a case-by-case basis. It's really identifying if that person has shared values and if they're willing to get their hands dirty to be able to build something. It's around the enthusiasm that they have in terms of our shared strategic vision.”

As for advice for fellow insurance talent acquisition leaders, Ashlie says modelling your interview questions around your culture is the best approach.

“Most people can learn new skills but you can't teach a culture fit. Advocate for your candidates. Be open to gaps in resumes by taking in the current job market. People are human. Layoffs are abundant, especially the last two years.

Support your hiring managers. Encourage them to keep an open mind for things like resume gaps. Life happens. Maybe they had to take care of someone or they were laid off three times. Your best person may have just had some bad luck.”

Ashlie highlights the critical factors she looks for when working with an external insurance executive search partner.  

“Are they engaged with the type of role we're looking? Or are they going to send resumes over just to fill a quota? It's not to say that every candidate will be perfect, but are they going to take the time to get to know our culture, the type of person, the traits, the characteristics and the experience to fit in that role?”

As closing advice, Eric and Ashlie highlight the one lesson they’ve learned in their careers, they think everyone should learn at some point.

“People are just that, people. No matter the money someone makes, the skills they have, the company they own or run or manage. They are a person just like you, me and everyone else. It's detrimental to your development, to doubt yourself, to be self-conscious or not take development opportunities because you feel intimidated, unworthy or anxious”, says Ashlie.

Eric concludes, “Don't shy away from any experiences whether personally or professionally. It gives you a greater basis to relate to other individuals and situations.

My background in insurance is not a traditional one. One piece of advice was that I needed to find a specific focus because I'm going to find it very challenging to be successful if I didn’t pick an avenue.

Looking back, that was bad advice. I wanted to be able to gain a broad perspective”

Connect with Eric Haller and Ashlie Keeling on LinkedIn or find out more about Fleming Insurance Holdings

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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