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Alberto Schiavon – SPARK program to CEO of Elephant Insurance

After graduating as a civil engineer in 2007, Alberto worked in engineering in Luxembourg and for a hedge fund in London, before pursuing his MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School. He joined Admiral in 2012 as an International Pricing Manager on the SPARK program and is now CEO of Elephant.com, our US operation. 

What attracted you to Admiral?

During the MBA I had the opportunity to do a project with Admiral. With a team of MBAs, we explored whether Admiral should expand into home insurance. It was a fascinating project during which I worked with some very intelligent and interesting people. The more I learned about the company and, in particular, about the people, the more I was intrigued. 

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure about insurance back then. But the culture and the people stood out as something special. When I saw the SPARK program, I felt that my analytical skills would be a good fit for the International Pricing Manager role, so I applied and got the job.  

How did you find the International Pricing Manager role?  

I was the first ever International Pricing Manager to join Admiral. Part of the fun, therefore, was having the chance to really shape the way the role looked. I influenced the responsibilities of the International Pricing Manager position and helped decide where best to add value to the business. Having an impact on the bottom line was important to me and I felt incredibly lucky to join such a collaborative and open-minded team that helped me do this.

I was positively surprised by the level of interaction with the wider business. Understanding the core competencies of Admiral was key and I was able to do this when I joined, with the level of exposure that came with the role. It was a great place to start my Admiral career and I didn’t once look back.  

Where did your career take you from International Pricing?

After a few years in International Pricing, having worked on some interesting projects with other areas of the business, I felt ready to broaden my scope. So, I applied for a role that would really stretch me: Head of Renewals. I knew very little about operations management and had never held responsibility for such a large number of people, but I was up for the challenge! Thanks to the skills I had gained as an International Pricing Manager, I got the job.

It was hugely educational. During my time as Head of Renewals I really learned the power of diversity. Bringing together talented individuals with varied strengths created a high-performing team and exciting results. I loved having the chance to add value with the decisions that I made. We worked very hard and had a lot of fun.

After that I moved to Sales, which presented new challenges again, along with a healthy dose of Admiral fun. I was able to learn from some very strong people managers in the business about how to drive performance and take teams from strength to strength.  

I then flew to the US with our founder Henry Engelhardt, who was the interim CEO of our American operations, Elephant. I gained so much from the exposure to his management style and leadership ability. In November 2017, when Henry stepped down from the role, I was well-positioned to step-up and become CEO of Elephant, which I have been ever since.

How did the SPARK program equip for you a CEO position?

In the International Pricing team, and in Pricing generally, there is a very high degree of precision. It is all about evidence-based decisions. The intellectual rigour that I developed during my time as an International Pricing Manager was incredibly powerful and has helped me in every role since.   

Additionally, pricing remains one of our key competitive advantages as a business. Understanding exactly how it works gave me a strong edge as a leader and has helped me make good, data-informed decisions. 

How did you find the US compared to the UK?

I think the Admiral culture translates well internationally. Of course, it is lived and interpreted in slightly different ways, but the principles of teamwork, collaboration, and continually striving for strong results remain consistent across our operations.

One difference I noticed when moving to the US was the way in which Elephant is still, comparatively young. While Admiral still operates in a very agile way, our US operations have even more pressure to prove themselves in the market, at a fast pace. This element of adrenaline has been incredibly energising for me as CEO.

What has been your biggest learning curve since joining Admiral?

The biggest learning curve for me was understanding the US market. I am Italian and lived in the UK for a long time, so was naïve enough to think I could grasp cultural differences with ease. I imagined that the American market would not be too dissimilar to the UK and European markets, and that customer attitudes would be alike. But I was wrong. I learned and experienced how the American consumer behaves and how this was unique to the market. It took me some years to truly understand how Elephant can be successful in this environment.

What advice would you give to MBAs joining Admiral?

Be humble.

There is a lot of talent in the business and people with different backgrounds who bring unique lessons to the table, often things that cannot be taught at an MBA class. I discovered the importance of coming to work with open eyes and seeking diverse points of view and have seen the strong results that come from this collaboration. In many ways, some of the most profound learning begins after the MBA, once you step back into the workplace.

You can find out more about the journeys our MBAs have taken or alternatively, follow our MBA Leadership page on LinkedIn.

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