The other significant and often over-looked opportunity, is in the value of networking – widening your business and social connectivity across the business community.
Whether it is WIRE, Girls in Tech, Protégé, these are all fantastic networking and kindred spirited communities, specifically supporting women in the workplace.
They are all structured, focused and very well run, and offer fantastic opportunities to meet people, learn and engage with a wider business community.
CEO Asia Pacific & MENA
An Interview with Mr. Mark Newman
by ANGELINE LEONG | JUNE 2020
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am passionate about and believe in one critical thing in any business - people. It is simply all about the people and the quality of the team you have, and then trusting and empowering them to get on with what you have hired them to do. Therefore I hope people would describe my leadership style as empowering and committed to talent.
What’s one important leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
I believe that we all have more within us than we think possible. Having mentors and leaders who encourage, motivate, support or simply challenge, always positively, makes us realise we can all push ourselves further and to do more. That support and encouragement, however it is dispensed, can have a huge impact on people’s achievements.
I have been very fortunate to have worked directly for, and connected to, some of the best people managers and mentors I believe our industry has had in the last 20 years – it is now my turn to share that experience.
What are some important things that you have undertaken and have contributed to your success?
I have always learned the most about myself, about our industry, and about people, when I have significantly stepped out of my comfort zone. Taking on new challenges, a new role, in a new geographical area, or even the same industry but on the other side of the broking and underwriting desk – these are what have supported me in my need for new challenges, and motivated me too. I would not deny there have been sleepless nights, self-confidence doubts, and support and encouragement needed from others along the way, but when I look back, these periods of learning have been the most important in my career, and the times I have enjoyed the most.
As human beings I believe we are all at our best when we continuously learn, read and try new things. I would encourage everyone, especially your members of WiRE, to reflect upon that and ask themselves if they are actively learning and challenged today.
What are the biggest opportunities you think are available to women today?
I believe that today, broad society is more positively inclined towards women in the workplace than ever before. There may never be a better time for women to achieve their career aspirations and goals, especially whilst organisations are openly encouraging more women throughout their businesses and especially in leadership roles. Now is the time.
I have mentored quite a few professional women in Singapore through the excellent Protégé programme, and I have observed some broad behavioural differences between men and women. Men will more readily ask for, push for, and justify promotions or access to new opportunities than many women do. The greatest driver of this difference being, in my opinion, an internal belief, or lack of, that “I am worthy, I am ready, and what I don’t know I can work out and learn along the way”. Clearly this is a generalization of my personal experiences, but having that external mentor support, or internal self -belief, of taking a step out of your comfort zone, goes a long long way to filling those “self - perceived” readiness and skills gaps.
The opportunities are right there, the career progression door is wide open - women may have to back themselves a little more and just apply for those roles with conviction and real belief.
The other significant and often over-looked opportunity, is in the value of networking – widening your business and social connectivity across the business community. Whether it is WIRE, Girls in Tech, Protégé, these are all fantastic networking and kindred spirited communities, specifically supporting women in the workplace. They are all structured, focused and very well run, and offer fantastic opportunities to meet people, learn and engage with a wider business community.
Careers are often created from unique opportunities taken, chance meetings, and people connections. If career promotion and progression are built around performance, image and exposure, it is that external networking and connectivity, the exposure, that has the greatest influence.
What does diversity mean to you in a practical sense?
Diversity to me, in a business context and especially as a leader, means having a very broad and healthy balance of alternative and different ideas and voices around the business. Again, it comes back to people and to having the widest range of backgrounds, experience, expertise and often opposing views on how to proceed. No leader knows it all or has all the skills, and hiring specialists who know much more than you is the diversity I want.
The skill of leadership to me is then to encourage, hear and validate all those opinions and to blend the best of those views into a coherent decision. On most occasions there is agreement on the right thing to do – only occasionally you need to intervene and decide. That recipe of expertise, background, opinion, and debate is what I value about diversity.
Every successful leadership team that I have been part of, or have witnessed, has had that healthy diversity mix at its core. At Canopius, we have very carefully hand-picked our regional leadership team for exactly the unique characteristics that each one of them brings, way beyond just gender, nationality or education.
What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included?
I am passionate that we have an open culture in Canopius. By that I mean that everyone knows that their ideas and input are important to help make the business more successful and that equally, we are always striving to be a better employer of choice.
We actively encourage feedback, challenge, and ideas on things we can do differently and better. Everyone recognizes that we all have an opportunity and a responsibility, to shape Canopius and our further evolution.
We openly share as much information as we can throughout the entire region, with everyone, and always think of APAC as one region, never separate offices, recognizing that our collective results impact us all in the same way. That approach also allows us more growth and learning opportunities, and recognizes that with responsibility also comes accountability also.
Our work from home practices and social activities have, I believe actually strengthened our team inclusivity since Covid 19 began. Examples would include our online yoga practices, our regular social activities led by volunteers from across the business, and just the small ways we have of checking in, listening, and saying thank you on a regular basis. Again, many of those ideas are not mine or of the leadership group – they come from our broader team who want to work hard, have fun and be part of something different, perhaps even something special?
Germinating that inclusive environment, where you are encouraged to contribute, challenge and be creative, is only one part of it – hiring the right people again, who thrive in that environment, is when the magic starts.
How do you get your leadership team on board with diversity and inclusion initiatives?
I don’t have to get anyone on board - if they don’t believe that D&I is just an unwritten and obvious essential, they would never get close to being on the leadership team, or even be or remain in the company.
What would the person you are today say to the person you were on your first day at work?
Wow, what a great question! – I would just reiterate that it is absolutely OK and in fact encouraged, to take a chance. If you try and fail, don’t worry, you will learn many things in that process.Just grab every opportunity that presents itself, and go for it.
How do you handle stress and pressure?
I exercise regularly, try to avoid much alcohol, and focus on the key things I want to get done. I am experimenting with “Thinking Thursdays” – a regular day (in normal, non Covid 19 times) out of the office, which allows me to focus on the bigger opportunities and challenges of our industry – it allows me to read, research and think. I find a combination of all these activities help me to sleep pretty well.
What is one interesting fact that we will be surprised to know about you?
It is less an interesting fact, rather a mantra I try to observe.
Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”
More about Mark:
Mark has 30 years experience in insurance and reinsurance and has lived in Asia for the past 20 years. Having begun his career in London with Sedgwick, Johnson & Higgins and into Marsh following the acquisition, Mark became leader of the international property team based in London.
In 1999 he moved to Tokyo Japan, as Head of Guy Carpenter Fac Japan before relocating to Singapore in 2003 as head of GC Fac Asia Pacific, ultimately becoming COO for Guy Carpenter Asia Pacific in 2007.
From 2008 to 2015 Mark was CEO of Catlin Asia Pacific, based in Singapore, leading the business through significant change, growth and enhanced profitability, before becoming Head of Asia & Deputy CEO Asia Pacific XL Catlin, following the acquisition by XL Group in
Mark joined Canopius in August 2016, as CEO APAC & MENA and is currently building out another diversified and strategic business, centered around the quality of its fully empowered team.