Matthew von Brockdorff rose through the ranks of the insurance sector to become CEO of one of Malta’s most recognised brands in 2020 – a responsibility he takes extremely seriously. “I see it as my job to lead our super team to achieve great things, and to enable Atlas to grow and move to the next stage of its evolution,” he says succinctly.
Matthew absolutely relishes this position. As he takes a moment to reflect on his journey so far, he says that “every step has been an interesting challenge and learning opportunity. I have no regrets and appreciate the process that led me to my role today,” he smiles.
Asked to pinpoint some of the milestone moments, Matthew immediately thinks of his early qualifications – completing his Associateship of the Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII) at 20, followed by his Fellowship (FCII) at 25, all the while working in stints in practically all the departments of his family’s insurance business, which was then called R von Brockdorff Insurance Agency Ltd. “This definitely helped me to gain a good foundation for the later stages of my career,” he says with confidence.
Then, in 1999, the merger with other insurance agencies led to the formation of Atlas, which eventually evolved into a local insurance company in 2004. Having played a key role in that merger allowed Matthew to widen his exposure and experience in new ways and he was then, in 2005, appointed Deputy Managing Director of the new Atlas Insurance company. That’s when he took on key areas of responsibility that enabled him to specialise and focus on particular aspects of the business. “Finally, of course, it was very exciting to be appointed Managing Director and CEO early in 2020. The role carries great responsibilities for all stakeholders of the business.”
Good leadership is critical to Matthew and, for him, it all comes down to one’s ability to inspire and empower others to achieve and be credited for the goals they successfully attain. “A leader has to balance all available resources and motivate their team to achieve business and personal objectives,” he says. “Effective communication and maintaining good relationships are key to success.”
It’s with this in mind that Matthew says customer experience is an absolutely critical pillar of Atlas’ achievements. “Our customers put their minds at rest and trust us for our great reputation, for our quality insurance products, and for our no-nonsense and prompt claims settlement,” he continues. “We truly are leaders in customer experience on the island because of our dedicated and caring staff, who are known to go beyond the call of duty to assist our clients. We are a company with a soul and a purpose beyond profit.”
‘Purpose beyond profit’ is actually an ethos that’s very important to Matthew and his wider team. In fact, for many years Atlas, has been contributing to the community as part of its CSR initiatives, which are mainly focused on three areas – the company’s contribution to the nation’s health and fitness, to its heritage, and to children’s charities. “We are now taking a very active approach to environmental social governance,” the CEO continues, “starting with our tree nursery planting initiative with Saggar this year, and there are others to be planned in the future. We will also carry out a sustainability audit of our office operations. We know it’s key to include our stakeholders in this part of the business, so we always try to involve our staff and clients in these CSR initiatives.”
One important project to come out of those initiatives is the company’s wellness programme, which hosts activities that range from varied talks on health and wellness topics to exercise classes in circuit training, boxercise, Pilates, yoga and Zumba. “Beyond that, our ICAS Employee Assistance Programme for staff then includes not just psychological support but also legal, financial and management support, in a totally confidential manner, for our teams and even their family members. We like to support our people when they need it most,” he says adamantly.
It’s this tireless dedication to its stakeholders that has no doubt stood Atlas in such good stead over the last year – a year that could have been far more challenging for the organisation than it turned out to be. “While it’s true we didn’t achieve our targeted growth in 2020, there have been many positive moments,” he continues. “Our super team actually kept the business going reasonably well.”
To facilitate this, Matthew himself had to quickly adapt to his new role as CEO and put ‘Team Atlas’ very much in focus. “Clear, transparent, and frequent communication to all our staff was essential for this to work,” he stresses. “And it was worth it because it did work. I was thrilled to see certain individuals stand out and rise to the challenges faced, despite adversity. I was pleased to see that we managed to exceed customer expectations on so many occasions and, in fact, our Net Promoter Score actually increased during 2020. Most of all, though, I was surprised to see the speed with which we adopted – and have now adapted to – remote working and a flexible-hours working environment.”
Further digitalisation along these lines will no doubt become a cornerstone of the industry’s development in the years to come. In this respect, the rate of change we are witnessing during the current pandemic is unprecedented as the world adapts to the “new normal. The nature of the business will continue to evolve rapidly,” he adds, “and one will be looking back at this time as a period of great transformation in the way we operate and do things.
“As with any crisis, there are opportunities for growth in specific lines of business, such as health insurance, and life and pensions. We are also seeing increased opportunity for growth in our international business through our cells.” Now Matthew remains confident that Atlas’ decision to keep investing in its digital transformation will benefit the company in the coming years and ensure it retains its leading position when it comes to customer experience and innovation. “There is no doubt that uncertainty lies ahead, and it is difficult to predict what might happen next,” he says. “But, having seen how Atlas managed to overcome the challenges of 2020, I would like to see the company in an even stronger position to support our staff and to serve our customers under any eventualities at the end of 2021.”
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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