Emerging from a catastrophe stronger, smarter and more powerful
It's not easy weathering the clouds of the pandemic. But the team managed to get through it. Stronger, better and more solid.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” — Kahlil Gibran
Like a phoenix, the Team of the Year 2022 rose from a bad year in 2020 and 2021 to stellar performance in 2022. How did they do it and what did they learn from this experience?
John Caguioa, AVP/Team Head in charge of the Travel business, knows more about travel insurance than other non-life products. Managing some 400 travel agencies nationwide, his distribution network focused on organizing trip packages for individuals, families, and corporations.
When the pandemic hit hard on travel, these travel agents were distressed by the lack of business and income. John’s team was likewise affected by the setback. Afterall, the travel team had robust and consistent growth in the years that passed. Realizing there was no clear indication when the pandemic (or the lockdown) would end, the team thought of learning how other non-life lines were sold.
Losing no time waiting for a recovery, John and his team started orienting their agents with Standard Insurance’s other product lines. Afterall, by doing so, they retain the relationship. After a while, some agents started referring businesses for car, house, and even pet insurance to existing customers.
In 2021, SVP and Head of Corporate Sales, Ms. Kat Lleander, organized a 58-day Corporate Sales In-House Training program. The idea was to use time productively. The Corporate Sales Group attended sessions to learn. It was an initiative that served as the fulcrum that will catapult the travel team to success. Those sessions inspired confidence and sparked new ideas. It boosted morale and lifted spirits. It did its job of keeping the team productive and updated.
Until early 2021, the prediction was that the travel industry worldwide would not return to its former level until 2024. This meant extended challenges for the team and the travel agents they support. This was when Zoom meetings, even if just for “kamustahan” did wonders.
Many travel agents appreciated that someone boosted their spirits. Others were beginning to drift away but when they learned what Standard Insurance was doing, they gave the team some time. The effort was very much appreciated, so much so that when the business started to pick up in the 4Q of 2021, they remained partners on the path to recovery.
In April 2022, sensing some recovery in the travel sector, the Travel team started preparing for a comeback. They enhanced the travel insurance line to make it more competitive in the market. The product embedded COVID coverage as part of the benefits and extended the issue age to 75. In addition, the IT team also enhanced the travel portal provided to partners for a seamless policy issuance and collection process.
Armed with new ammunition, the team revisited their travel agency partners, rejoined the meetings by the travel agency associations, and attended travel fairs to regain market share.
Asked how it was like lifting the spirits of a chap-fallen team, John had this to share:
“It was very challenging, considering I was also feeling down. There seemed to be no end to the pandemic, and three of my team members, including myself, contracted COVID. Like others during that time, we all had our own personal struggles. We decided to keep lifting each other’s spirits because we knew no one else would. We were thankful we were gainfully employed, but we needed to conserve our strength by creating an atmosphere of positivity to get through it. We found that by accepting our circumstances, setting new goals aligned with the current environment, and taking pride in each baby step, we will get through it. It helped that Top Management was there to provide security and support.“
And so, the team did regular check-ins to ensure everyone was on the same page, celebrate small wins, and foster a positive atmosphere by encouraging one another. This sense of “malasakit” was beneficial; each became the other’s supporter. The team also had to accept the tough decision of the Management to re-assign some of its members to other teams, where they stayed until the 2nd half of 2022. They only started rejoining the team in July 2022 when the business started picking up.
Now that travel is back; the team faces the challenges of growth and expansion. More business meant more work, straining existing resources and testing limits. Like the proverbial phoenix, which dies to itself and is reborn to become a better, more vital being, the travel team’s investment in time, energy, and effort when times were hard is now paying off. They discovered they had more capacity for work and were more efficient than before.
The current challenge is to grow the business exponentially while delivering the same type of care and efficiency with the same resources. Prompt servicing is a concern considering more travel agents want to partner with Standard Insurance. Rapid claims processing has become challenging, and competition is also on guard. Exhausting the team is tempting, but John also knows that doing so will not last. Instead, he espouses a balanced life with time for work and time to pause, rest and recharge. He sees things have gone full circle – from a pandemic that has slowed down business dramatically into a recovery that tests their new limits. His one basic formula stands through it all – "malasakit for the team members as a way to unite them."
The future of business for the travel team is very bright indeed. The brilliance was possible because they stood the test of the pandemic and rose from its ashes.