Michael Hansen, Head of the Swiss Life Network since March 1st, describes his responsibilities, wishes and expectations in his new role.
Why did you want to return to Swiss Life?
I was originally with Swiss life from 2002 to 2012, then left to head up International at Danica Pension, but I have wanted to come “back home” for a while. Why? It is because I believe that the Swiss Life Network can do so much better. It is always easy to stand watching from the side-lines, criticizing decisions and the way a team is managed. But nothing usually happens until you throw yourself into the game.
One of my strengths is to help the players on a team achieve their full potential. The Swiss Life Network team consists of both my own colleagues at Swiss Life as well as our Network Partners. By leveraging their strengths and putting skills (and resources) where they are needed, we will offer even better services to our clients – and by doing so, beat our competitors.
What are your priorities?
People who know me will agree that I prioritize people and relationships more than strategy. That said, we still have a huge responsibility to implement a strategy that can make the Swiss Life Network and our Network Partners grow.
We have great people and great Network Partners, but we need to make sure that we are growing the Network in business areas and markets where it makes sense, both today and in future. Part of my responsibility will be to maintain and increase the engagement of our clients and Network Partners. This has to be done through transparency and better communication to begin with, and as a next step by improving services and solutions. After all, we need input from engaged Network Partners and clients in order to create and supply the right services and solutions.
No geographical expansion of the Network?
Absolutely, but we need to do our homework and analysis first. There are many ways to expand a network. If it is just to become bigger and beat the competition on geographic reach, it will not have my support. If it makes sense in terms of making the Network stronger and securing great Network Partners in important future markets, it will have my full attention.
I also want to add that my vision is not for the Swiss Life Network to be the world’s leading global employee benefit network in terms of premiums, pools, or other traditional measurements. I want us to be the leading network in those areas of employee benefits where we, together with our Network Partners, have chosen to invest our resources.
What can our clients and Network Partners expect from the new Head of the Swiss Life Network?
They can expect to become more involved in building the future of the Network, and to be truly listened to. I want them to share their successes and celebrate the people who achieve results. I do not want to be the one sharing success stories on behalf of others. My ultimate goal is to create a platform where clients share experience with other clients, and Network Partners with other Network Partners. There is so much know-how and expertise within our Network; we need to make the most of it.
In our communication during 2016 we will be much more specific about how we are going to make this happen. But I can already say that I have very high expectations of our digitalization project, headed by Vital Schwander.
What are your views on events and conferences?
Network conferences are one of the best ways to be visible as a network, and even more important, these are the very best foundation on which to build and maintain relationships. We will keep our Network Partner Conference as planned at the end of September. The conference will take place in Zurich, as this has already been planned for a while. However, there is a fair chance that the location will change in the coming years, with future conferences co-hosted with our Network Partners.
Regarding client conferences, it was difficult for employee benefit networks to attract clients to conferences last year, but I am eager to find a solution to this. We definitely need client conferences – global and/or regional – and I expect the first of a new generation of conferences to take place in 2017.
Being so much “on the road”, how will you manage your private life?
Travelling has been a large part of my job for many years. So let’s put it this way: my family has never known anything else. I get huge support from my wife and two boys, and they fully understand our priorities as a family. I think it is all about being present when you are together as family. It should not be about the number of hours or days, but rather about the quality of your presence. This means limited use of iPads and iPhones when we are together, which seems to be more difficult for my boys than for me.
When I am on the road, I always bring along my running shoes. Running is a great way to see and experience the world. So let me use this as an invitation to all our Network Partners and clients: come for a run with me when I visit. I’m looking forward to it.