Gary Hoffman was appointed to the Chairman role of Hastings Direct in 2018 having led the business as Chief Executive since 2012. A multi-award winning FTSE 250 business, Hastings has more than 2.2 million customers and over 2,700 colleagues. It is an insurance provider providing services to the UK car, van, bike and home insurance market.
In this interview, Gary’s passion for being open with colleagues, customers and communities comes through strongly.
On the importance of trust:
“In our business trust has to be at the top of the agenda. Our customers trust us to cover their insurance needs and to pay out when they have to make a claim. Equally, they trust us not to pay out on fraudulent claims, and establishing trust in a market where on average 15% of applications are less than accurate, can be difficult in these circumstances.”
On the role of trust with different stakeholders:
“Five star independent, objective ratings of our products helps us to establish high levels of trust with our customers, as does delivering on our promises to them and to our shareholders. We do everything our regulators expect from us and we are very transparent in all our dealings which is vital in our industry.
Examples of this transparency are that 4 years ago we swept away all commission-based payments as rewards for selling. And 2 years ago we reduced our fees, not because we had to but because we chose to forego short term income in order to future proof our business for the long term.”
On building a high trust culture:
“It’s really simple. Trust is the oxygen of leaders. If you lose that as a leader, then you lose everything. We have a model that is easy to say, but difficult to live out every day. It is our job as leaders to give our colleagues at Hastings the right tools to do the job. For example, the right products, the right systems, the right data, the right chair, the right food in the canteen, and the right shifts that don’t finish 3 minutes before their train is due to leave the station.”
“Critically it means communicating the right information about where they fit in, where the company is going, how they are doing, and paying attention to how they are feeling so that they can do a better job for our customers. Those customers buy more from us so that we can make more money and invest in the communities we serve. And that’s what we do every day.”
On giving back to the community:
“Over the years, I’ve been involved in many community schemes and I can honestly say that our programme with school kids is the best I have experienced. 80 of our people, including myself, spend 4 days with them where we listen to what it is in their lives that is making them feel the way they do. We spend time mentoring them, and they spend time in our workplace getting to know what it’s like. Then we spend time with them back in the school.”
“Every month I do a “Welcome to Hastings” session for the new people who join us, and regularly they say they joined because of our reputation for delivering our promises and the authentic relationships we have with our colleagues.”
The Nine Habits
Throughout the interview Gary emphasised the importance of being open in order to build trust. This is Habit No. 5 in our trust model and a key component of the pillar of integrity. Being open is the hallmark of Hastings’ relationships with its colleagues, customers, company shareholders and regulators. It is this transparency in its relationships that serves Hastings so well in terms of their outstanding results and reputation.
Interestingly, Gary referred to Habit No. 7, choosing to evangelise, as something that Hastings don’t do so much of, perhaps being more likely to adopt Habit No. 6, being humble. Given the nature of Hastings’ business it is understandable, but evangelising means ‘bringing the good news’ and Hastings has a lot of good news to share in the way that their leaders build trust by authentically living out their 4 C’s model of looking after colleagues, customers, company and communities every day.
Our thanks to Gary for his time and for allowing us to share his insights from the interview.
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