What have been some of the key learnings for you since the UK fully re-opened over the summer?
We can make hybrid work well, and few of our people want to go back to how it was. There are plenty more twists and turns in this saga, as shown by the current worker shortages and supply chain problems. And finally, we can’t get complacent – last week we tragically lost a colleague in his 20’s to Covid – this is not over yet.
As we move forward from the pandemic and look to the future, what business opportunity most excites you?
In the past 18 months we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of Digital and at-home healthcare – from our 24/7 Video GP service, to diagnosing heart issues and delivering treatments like cancer chemotherapy at home. The pandemic has unlocked a big behaviour change in both patients and doctors. Digital and at-home healthcare will revolutionise what we can offer over the next few years – wearables, smartphones and new diagnostic tests are opening up fantastic possibilities in supporting behaviour change and greater ability to prevent illness – the holy grail for healthcare.
Given the important part that technology has played in all sectors during the pandemic, how do you envisage technology developing in your organisation going forward?
Aside from digital healthcare and at-home diagnostics, the other big area we are pushing on is the use of Artificial Intelligence, for example to support diagnosis and identification of customers who need support. The use of AI will also deliver much more personalised treatments for conditions like cancer and even mental health, improving outcomes and patient experience. The potential is huge.
With sustainability and ESG being more prevalent on the Board agenda, what is your business doing to meet net zero carbon emission targets by 2050, if not earlier?
This is clearly a big deal, with nowhere near enough action happening. Greta Thunberg’s ‘Blah, blah, blah’ speech last week was confronting. This is right at the top of Bupa’s agenda, for its own sake and because of the immense health impacts of things like pollution. I am on the board of the Association of British Insurers and was proud that this year we all signed up to industry-wide targets. But it’s action we all need. Bupa Insurance went carbon neutral from our direct operations in insurance in 2019, and we have zero waste going to landfill. Our focus has now shifted to ‘Scope 3’ emissions, those indirect emissions that are generated by the activities we fund, such as medical care. Healthcare produces between 4 and 5 per cent of global carbon emissions and as an industry we have a big job to do. As well avoiding disaster, there will be other positives like cleaner air and better health for many people.
How has your business changed in its approach to employee wellbeing during the pandemic and what will it continue to do more of in the future?
It’s been known for ages that one of the biggest drivers of wellbeing at work is flexible working, and it’s been one of the few positives from this terrible pandemic. Another big development has been the popularisation of the webinar which has allowed us to reach far more people with health and wellbeing information and advice. We have made the most of this with our own people, our customers and brokers on topics from Mental Health to the Menopause.
One other important area we have pushed on is women’s health – organisations that are serious about gender diversity, need to get serious about women’s health. Too many women aged 40-60 are leaving the workforce because of the menopause, which is a tragic loss of talent. We’ve also been putting in place the right support and medical care for our clients and our own people, as still too often women don’t get the care they need from the wider health system.
Who or what has inspired you recently? (They don’t need to be famous)
I get bits of inspiration from lots of the people I talk to. I love spending time with our cross-functional agile teams who have been showing incredible creativity, resourcefulness and results over the past months – delivering great improvements in service, productivity and growth. We’ve also recently been running an initiative called Eco-Disruptive, with agile teams from Bupa working with sustainability start-ups on ideas from upcycling medical waste to planting trees in cities. That has been fantastic to see develop.
Hopefully you managed to have break over the summer, either abroad or a ‘stay cation’ – what was the highlight?
We got abroad by car to France and then the Netherlands with my wife’s family – the first time we’d seen them since the start of the pandemic. That was a big highlight.
Which book have you read recently and why would you recommend it?
‘Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin. A huge lesson in good leadership, with Lincoln’s humility, and his determination to build a team of the best, even if they had serious designs on his job. It’s a book that’s said to have inspired President Obama.
What are you most looking forward to doing in 2022?
Spending more time with friends than we could this year. Getting really fit (it always seems to be next year….).
Any words of wisdom?
‘Eighty per cent of success is showing up’ (Woody Allen). I use that with the kids quite a lot. They just roll their eyes…