On 1 January 2018, Mirjana Krolo joined the Board Team of Allianz-Tiriac insurance company as the Chief Operating Officer (COO). She is the second woman in the team, bringing more gender balance. Mirjana came with a fresh approach, an opened mind and the willingness to make her opinion heard no matter what. She is a “dare to” person, and this new challenge was very exciting for her. She dared to accept leading a new team, tenth times bigger than the one she was coordinating for more than four years as Head of the IT Division (CIO).
Mirjana sees all the new challenges as an opportunity for personal growth.
“Each time, I dare to challenge my personal limits. In most of the cases, limits are just the barriers we put in front of ourselves. It’s all about the mindset and the attitude towards change. I left my home country, Croatia, my entire personal and professional universe. I knew no one in Romania. It was only a strong wish to try something new, to learn new things, to bring novelty in my life and to test if I can do it or not. Ironically, today I am even more in contact with my friends and family than I used to be because I do my best to find some time that belongs only to them, quality time. I wanted very much to stay in Europe, so I can go home whenever I want. I have been in Romania for more than six years and I feel that my local experience becomes every day more interesting.”
Regarding her status of woman in the Board Team of a big company, she had no concern, on the contrary.
“I already knew that in Allianz-Tiriac women are respected, that their opinion matters as much as that of men. I also knew very well the colleagues in the Board Team. They have a great respect for the values that matter and appreciate a different approach and energy. At the level of Allianz Group, the diversity and the equality between genders are very much promoted. In Allianz-Tiriac the number of woman and men are quite equal and there are women at all professional levels. So, there is a ‘woman in power’ spirit here, in Allianz-Tiriac.”
Q: You are specialized in IT and Sales. How do you perceive the challenges that the insurance industry faces today, especially on the digitalization side?
Mirjana Krolo: Digitalization is important, and it will expand pervasively in every segment of our lives – on the personal and professional side. Even so, in this digital world, the most important asset are the people, and we need to take care of the people today for tomorrow. The human interaction remains important and will remain important also in the future. Indeed, there are a lot of disruptive elements, but we will need to interact with each other. Any kind of technology will be developed for the people by the people.
Q: How important is the new technology for customer interaction?
Mirjana Krolo: Technology help us to be there for our customers at any time, everywhere. At the same time, it helps us reach out to our customers faster, bringing them closer to our company and our products, making us communicated easier, having a more frequent interaction in clients’ preferred channel of communication. Insurance is about people, about life and protection, family, business, about caring for each other, about taking responsibility and ensuring a future for those who’ll remain after us. The world, as we see it today, is about to change. It is changing every day in front of our eyes. It is important for our company to be open and try to adapt to the new reality, to the new needs that emerge from our customer’s new lifestyle.
Q: How do you think that Allianz-Tiriac can make the difference within the industry?
Mirjana Krolo: Allianz-Tiriac has always been a benchmark for the insurance industry, even on the digital side.
But, beside the digital side, bringing the insurance closer to the people, in a friendly manner, in an easy to understand way, stress-free to buy or to interact with our brand, teams, products – could make the difference for our customers. Insurance should be perceived as a service, not a product. Something you are convinced you to need to have to ensure you are protected from a financial point of view. And it’s all about trust in your partner – a solid insurance company – that is there to provide you with professional expertise, support, and guidance when it’s needed.
Q: Which are the biggest challenges that you faced in your first year as a COO?
Mirjana Krolo: The fast shift of focus from the development of the IT system towards processes optimization aiming to provide new services and improve the existing ones. The shift from a more operational role towards strategic thinking. For me, claims management and policy administration including customer care were the areas of insurance business that I still had to discover. A lot of new things to deal with and absorb them on a fast track.
But luckily for me, in my previous role, I used to work together with colleagues from my new team and had a lot of interactions. So, I already knew I can fully rely on my entire team and count on them. I started learning from them all the specific activities of the daily tasks, while at the same time trying to help them to do their job efficiently and effectively. It is the kind of transformation journey that we have started and planned to continue together.
Q: How do you prepare yourself to be a better leader? How do you balance your professional life with your personal life?
Mirjana Krolo: No matter how long you have been in your role or how the journey was to get there — your task is always the same: bring out the best in your employees and build a relationship that is fully based on trust. You are merely overhead unless you’re bringing out the best in your employees. The part I like the most is to have a possibility to detect the “unpolished diamonds” among my colleagues and helping them to develop professionally and grow in their roles. Coaching and mentoring are a significant part of my role.
Authenticity is essential for me. I don’t believe in the personal brand, something you develop over night with some make-up on. I let the people know me as I am, with good and bad. I believe in leading by example. It’s important to show to your team they can rely on you, in good and difficult times.
I don’t believe in titles – I believe in people. I challenge my colleagues to constantly learn, to challenge their limits as much as possible, to learn from mistakes and failure. And at the same time, I encourage them to challenge me all the time. We are growing together. You can go forward only if you dare to leave your comfort zone which is quite often a nice and peaceful place, but without real challenges.
Balance, what a word. I like to use my free time traveling and being surrounded by friends and family. I like it a lot when I get to travel back home.
Our professional and personal life are quite often interfering with each other. We are not in the office only because “it is a must” to be at work. We are there because of the people as well. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of great people that I start to consider my friends in Allianz-Tiriac and in the entire Allianz Group and I am thankful for that.
Q: What are your advices for 2019?
Mirjana Krolo: Put your customers on top of your priorities at all levels. Take care of your customer data. They share it with you with the full trust. Be focus on simplification of your internal and external processes, implementation of new technologies without simplification of processes will not bring any kind of benefits – nor for the employees and neither for the customers. Life is not only in white and grey. Is within our power to put some colour in. Try to have a bit more fun and take care of each other.