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Searching For Mana Podcast: Innovation Delivered | Lukasz Marczyk, Accenture

 

This week, Mana Labs co-founder Mimi Nguyen speaks with Lukasz Marczyk from Accenture‘s Warsaw office.  As an innovation leader and part of Accenture’s leadership team in Poland, Lukasz discusses his experience within innovation management and his journey towards becoming Managing Director and Partner at Accenture.  This episode also does a deep dive into the rise of insurtech and the current innovative trends of the industry. 

Lukasz tells Mimi about the company’s game-changing work on cloud, automation and robotics, why management consulting needs to incorporate design thinking and why talent is the main asset of any company. Plus, he fills us in on why excelling in leadership skills at Stanford University can help senior-level managers advance faster and collaborate better on innovation ideas.

Episode Highlights:

01:30: The Rise of insurtech

05:50: Design thinking in management consulting

13:20: Skillsets and the job market

18:15: Startups and their competitive advantage

22:38: Stanford University experience

35:29: Journey to becoming Managing Director at Accenture

37:45: Lukasz’s Mana – the human side of a leader

Transcript:

Mimi Nguyen 

Lukasz Marczyk is an innovation leader with almost two decades of experience at one of the biggest world’s firms. As part of Accenture’s leadership team in Poland, he launched a digital innovation centre that now boasts a 25% market share on most insurers. Since then he’s become a managing director and partner of Accenture’s Warsaw office. Lukasz, welcome to the show.

Lukasz Marczyk 

Hello Mimi. Hello everyone.

Mimi Nguyen 

Lukasz also happened to be my first ever boss in my professional career when I joined Accenture almost 10 years ago. So fast forward to today, we have insurtech. What have been the biggest changes and how did they disrupt the industry?

Lukasz Marczyk 

Something like ten years ago, I was given the opportunity to grow the insurance business, I was looking for some biggest problems and biggest cost factors that were affecting the insurance industry at that time. At the beginning, I found that actually, the cost of claims of repairing cars or processing planes are extremely high compared to the real costs. What was the reason is that there was no trust on the market, no some kind of ecosystem of cooperation between workshops, claim handlers, insurers and the clients that will allow actually to select the best workshops, the ones that really want to cooperate, want to well repair the car in exchange for some good but also, I would say proper money for this. There were a lot of frauds. There was a lot of cheating on the market, so I decided how we can actually apply technology in order to solve this issue. We figured out that actually applying a kind of a platform that would connect all those parties where all the ecosystem partners would work on one platform that actually stores the data of all of the transactions in one place. But of course, storing the data doesn’t bring the immediate business result. Leveraging those data is something that really matters so we applied analytics in order to score all the partners in the ecosystem based on several criteria, like customer experience, speed of delivering the service, cost of these claims, number of errors, customer complaints, and so on and so forth. In order to actually identify, based on 5000 different partners that we had in our ecosystem, which ones are really the best, which ones are the ones that really want to deliver exceptional service in a very price competitive way. Once we score them, each of a customer when they are calling insurers in real-time we are selecting the best partner based on the scoring as well as proximity, as well as some specific client expectations, as well as their specific situation regarding the claim and the car in order to dynamically link these best partners with this customer. In this way, we actually dramatically decrease the cost of processing claims because we were able to identify the best workshops in the whole country. We decreased the length of delivering the service because we were able to automatically identify which workshops are having the right capacity, the right number of people and the right attention to the claims. We’ve increased dramatically the customer experience, because they didn’t have to wait. Everything was very quick. It was kind of additional services that we deliver to those clients. In this way, we actually completely disrupted the claims and insurance market. I’m laughing a little bit that we actually put a policeman in every workshop in order to really concentrate on their processes. On the other hand, we actually have brought the data on workshops, claims and insurers all together in order to really improve the cooperation between those parties. This was a really nice example of how technology, an IT platform, together with AI and some business processes around can really change the whole segment of the whole industry.

Mimi Nguyen 

You’ve mentioned customer experience. There’s a rise of design thinking, nowadays, in consultancy. So customer experience was a major area of focus in insurance over the past years, what have you done at Accenture to help your clients lead in this area?

Lukasz Marczyk 

Especially the recent COVID outbreak was kind of an ignite, push on insurers in order to go into the customer experience because at the moment customers actually have changed their customer journeys and instead of contacting some kind of an agent or a person, they had to move into the internet and look for some information. We call this kind of situation ROPO, research online – purchase offline. They were looking for information in a different way, the customer journeys changed and insurers had to quickly understand what really has happened. We launched several initiatives, together with insurers, where the way they are connecting to the customer, the way they are building the insurance products and want to be operated, both in claims as well as back-office, processes had to change. We investigated and researched together with the end customer, what are their preferences, how they want to be contacted, what are the channels they want to use. This was really eye-opening for several insurers because initially, before this happened, many of them were developing these kinds of experiences based on their own idea of what the customer wants. This, of course, ended up with several failures in projects, because it turned out that the expectation and the imagination of the experts in insurance companies differ significantly from the ones that the customers have. Another aspect of this is the impact of digital leaders, something what we call the gaffa like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and these kind of companies that also push to all segments on the market with their superior customer experience. Customers right now expect every company, every segment, not only insurance but also some other ones like product and financial services in general, to provide a similar level of service. This also impacted that. So how did we support it? We developed together with a client methodology, a way of cooperating with clients, both doing the research, as well as quickly developing prototypes, that can be also tested with end customers before a significant investment is even made and that can be quickly adjusted to the expectations of the clients. What we believe is extremely important is that you also need to develop a business case, a business justification for this specific change together with a client so that once you implement this product on the market, you already know what kind of business value you can get from this. Second element is also based on these prototypes. You can very quickly jump from the ideation stage, the prototyping and testing into the implementation because you have a backlog, as we call it, of functionalities. They need to develop and they are prioritized based on the customer, not the insurer view so you are actually incorporating the customer expectations into the whole process from ideation through valuation up to implementation. I really think that this is an extremely interesting approach that changes the way insurers work. What I think is extremely important as well is that it’s so much fun, because most of the insurers, and this is our experience from real projects say, “Wow, I never knew that this kind of expectations from the client arises, that this kind of new segment of clients is available on the market, that this is something that they expect”. They have a new way of cooperating, collaborating, and exchanging information with a client and this makes a lot of fun.

Mimi Nguyen 

How do you incorporate customers in that process? When does this happen?

Lukasz Marczyk

From the very beginning, we do customer research, in terms of which segment of a customer is actually the best one to approach. How is this segment actually divided? What is the volume of people in this segment after that? So we carefully select which segment we want to attract. Based on this segment, we carefully select the number of people and the group of customers that we want to make a research with. We put a survey with them on what their expectations are. We allow them to play with some of our initial concepts. Based on this, we collect all those information so we are present with the clients on various focus groups and various meetings and we develop an initial prototype, and this prototype is tested with the client. How does it look like? Sometimes it is very funny. Sometimes we, for instance, draw a mobile phone, and we show how the screen would look like. Is it something that is somehow aligned with the customer expectations? Should something change? We immediately get the feedback from the client and we incorporate it in new prototypes and we want more tests. Then later on, we get a more complicated prototype with already quick-and-dirty screens, applications feel, so that the client, before the product is even launched on the services, can actually play with this, and can give some feedback on it. So later on when this product or service is moved into production, they already have something that they really like, and that is really adjusted to their needs. 

Mimi Nguyen

We’re talking about cloud computing, design thinking, this sounds like a new skill set that we need. How does the job market change? What type of talents do you guys are looking for right now? And how do you retrain people if there are not enough people, for example with cloud skillset?

Lukasz Marczyk 

This question about the talent is the constant problem that we are facing on the market. Together with innovation that we are looking for, there are new technologies. For new technologies you need to have people who command, who have a good understanding of these technologies. On one hand, it’s a chance for such a company like Accenture, and that’s also a reason why I started at Accenture because we are constantly looking for new technologies, three to five years ahead of us. Even before this technology is coming into a main stage we are already in our research labs, in our innovations labs looking for and training our people how to leverage these technologies. On the other hand, of course, you need to also have specific skills on your specific markets versus in Poland. We are doing several things. First of all, we are supporting universities in digital programs, where Accenture is together with the university, trying to establish such a curriculum and such a program that actually is training the people coming out of universities already with specific skills. On the second level, we are recruiting very ambitious and clever people from the universities so that we can train them very quickly on the job together with clients, as well as with some specific trainings that we are having, and then certificate. Last but not least, we are constantly looking for experts on the market. We are hiring some of the best experts from other companies from the market, as well as leveraging our innovation centres from around the world so we can very quickly combine a team of innovative skills in a country where this technology is not even known because we are sourcing this talent from around the world. As you mentioned, we sometimes call it the war of talent because many companies are looking for the same people and you need to provide really innovative projects for these people in order to attract them. I think this is something that’s changed dramatically. When I started in Accenture, it was very interesting for me, I was very motivated and like, “Wow, such a great company”. Right now, young people need to be attracted all the time. Even if they start working in our company I need to bring them with the newest projects, newest innovative elements to work with. Otherwise, they will move to some other companies. That’s also quite of a challenge right now.

Mimi Nguyen 

So that’s talent acquisition and talent retention, right? 

Lukasz Marczyk 

Exactly. This is something that’s also difficult for companies that we work with because as Accenture, we are constantly working with these technologies through various clients and markets. For the insurer, for instance, to attract and then retain those people they have to be very efficient in managing these kinds of projects. This has become apparent, especially with recent robotic process automation trends. That happened two years ago, when insurers started to develop these skills together with us but later on had quite a lot of issues with keeping these people who were moving to other jobs. They were having difficulties to scale this robotic process automation capabilities within the company. Because these are short projects, you need to constantly have new ideas, you have to give them ambitious work to work with, otherwise, they just move to other companies. This is also a challenge for our clients. 

Mimi Nguyen 

You’ve also played a major role in fostering some of the country’s most innovative startups. Briefly, tell us about some of the companies you’ve worked with. 

Lukasz Marczyk 

I’m always laughing that actually, I have by myself started three or four startups within Accenture because I had to come up with a new idea of new services like the ones that I described with claims. It was a similar one with fraud analytics, with Robotic Process Automation or with AI where we had to understand where are the areas of improvement just like the startups do. Later on we had to search for technology and apply those concepts in order to solve this business problem, do some prototyping, some POCs and then scale it so that it actually brings the value to Accenture at this moment, but also to insurance companies in Poland. Apart from these initial four or five startups that I created within Accenture, we also cooperate with startups on the market, both in terms of the insurance market in Poland. Recently I was together with my team involved in creating a very innovative company on the Polish insurance market that actually allows you to disrupt the way you are pricing the insurance. It’s possible in just three steps and also disrupts the way you interact with the client because it’s fully digital with cloud-native technology that allows to very quickly bring new customer journeys, new services, new products to the market with some data component AI that actually automates the whole process. It was really an interesting initiative and what was, for me especially, interesting that we also brought the best concept of digital marketing. The way you should attract the customer in this new era that we have right now is leveraging social channels, like Facebook, and so on, leveraging new ways of communicating with the client, by YouTube, by some movies in various channels. So how to attract those clients? Sometimes the market that you believe in is saturated, because insurance has existed for the last 100 years so how can you actually attract new clients, new customers? On the other hand side the new channels that normally the insurers are not so familiar with, and also some new content that is actually fun is different from the one most of the young and middle-aged people think about and it is bringing some kind of ecosystem components or some additional services. This was a really interesting journey, where we leverage some of our Milan experts in newest customer communication strategies, together with some London colleagues, on how to apply those to insurance companies, as well as some local expertise in creating graphical and movie content, and music that actually really gets into people. I was really amazed how well this all turned out to happen. This campaign was launched at the end of the last year, and we already have a very high number of people who are actually really looking into this commercials, into this new way of communicating value in insurers market. There’s always something new. 

Mimi Nguyen 

You also said that you felt that you started three little startups within Accenture. I also know that when I was there, and you were senior manager back then, you went to Stanford to like a mini MBA program. How did it help you in this venture building skills?

Lukasz Marczyk 

I was always putting quite high attention to education, because I believe that especially in management and consulting, you need to always have an edge, always look for new information, new management tools, methods and so on. Five or six years ago, when I was given this new opportunity to develop the insurance capability within Accenture, I was also looking for ways to move from the idea through some kind of validation stage up to implementation and delivery. At that time, I found an interesting executive leadership development program called From Idea to Action. So how to exactly leverage those kinds of methods and concepts in order to really deliver some business value? It actually opened my mind to new things, because many times you need to really be taken out of your comfort zone, out of your everyday business and brought to issue tech or startup environment that actually is around Stanford where there is big as well as small technological companies that constantly evolve, constantly coming to fruition and sometimes are closed and get to know all these different concepts. It was divided into three elements. One was looking for the ideas, so strategy, how to make a strategy to bring a really competitive advantage, how to check if the strategy really works. It was really interesting to understand these innovative concepts.

Mimi Nguyen 

I remember actually you were flying to Stanford University and you met my friend there. Briefly, when she was studying there, she was passing a package for me. So if you think about people who would like to consider going to courses like that – your experience was offline, so you actually had to fly and be on the campus of Stanford University. Would you redo that online? And how do you think that would affect this whole learning process?

Lukasz Marczyk 

From my perspective, I really enjoyed being there on premises, not only because of nice weather and the sun in California. In January when it started, it was amazing coming out of the cold country, as we have right now (thirty centimeters of snow and minus ten degrees Celsius) into a place full of palms and twenty degrees and a nice campus, which is really amazing. That’s one thing but I think the most important thing was to somehow get into this whole culture and environment of constant innovation and to have a potential to discuss with all these innovators how they are doing this business, how they are checking this on the market, to really even have these design thinking courses, when you could really play with those prototypes and see by your own hands how this prototyping and working with a client really changes your idea about the final product or service. Last but not least, networking. Maybe I’m a little bit older but I really enjoy having a real face to face conversation and discussing something together. I really miss it right now in the COVID times to really have more in person discussions, feedback and also fun together. Of course, right now there are some new tools, like MURAL that allows you to actually have a similar experience online. I think that younger people who are already used to this kind of doing business, conversations remotely, everything on mobile, tablet, computer, I think for them it might be still very valuable. Myself, I really enjoy going there, I still have a lot of friends from all around the world. Having these personal discussions with various cultures, various mindsets was really opening also my way of assessing the world, technologies and trends. And really this Stanford campus is an incredible place with Google and Facebook all around. What, for instance, strike me the most is that in such a culture like we have in Poland, and probably also in other countries in Europe, we tend to get to know something, some innovative idea and keep it for ourselves, thinking that when we’re going to share it with someone, we’re going to lose some kind of an edge, some kind of value and there it’s completely different. It’s exactly the opposite. The way to interact with many people with various skills, technologies, experiences and test your idea and get their feedback is something which is for them most valuable. So I would still recommend, hopefully, this COVID times end soon, to really go there and have maybe a part of it online, but also a part still offline there in place to really understand this culture and this innovative environment. I think Silicon Valley is really amazing in this way.

Mimi Nguyen 

So you’re constantly thriving for innovation. I remember you inspired me to take on my MA innovation management course after Accenture. You also did innovation in Canada I remember. But before all of that, you went to Warsaw School of Economics. Did you know back then that you wanted to work after in financial consulting?

Lukasz Marczyk 

No, actually, even in high school, I didn’t know where I should go, to which college, to which university because I was kind of a generalist I would say as we call it nowadays. I like to know everything so all mathematics, Polish, English, geography, everything were actually interesting for me. I was and I still am kind of an ambitious guy so I wanted to go, if I go for economics, which somehow was what my mother also did, I said, “Let’s go for the best school in Poland”. At that time Warsaw School of Economics was and I think it still is the best in Poland. I think the most important for me was to have the potential at Warsaw School of Economics to actually see new ways, new opportunities that further developed both my attitude as well as my skills and my knowledge, because it allowed me first of all, to go to exchange program to Kiel, which is in Germany, for one year. There was a place where I was really playing with innovation management. I remember professor Kleinschmidt, who was at that time, a visiting professor from the McMaster University in Canada. He was at that time one of the gurus of innovation management and I really enjoyed having lectures with somebody who is great worldwide in this innovation area, and who had so many different experiences and cooperating with many top companies in the world. I decided at that time, “Let’s go into this innovation management”. This is something that combines some of my skills, this kind of always looking for something new, combining technology with business, a way of interacting with many players in order to collect the ideas, testing something. I think the biggest moment for me was when I then moved to Aarhus School of Economics, which is now Aarhus University in Denmark, where I did my second masters. I never knew when I was joining this school that I will have a potential to go for an exchange period to Canada to exactly this McMaster University that Mr. Kleinschmidt was giving lectures at. In order to do this, I had to get one of the best results in Denmark but I, thanks God, achieved this. It was a great motivation for me. Then I moved to McMaster University and I think this was one of the best experiences of my life because I found this difference between how the Canadian universities are teaching management, compared to some of the Polish or even European schools. They are much more concentrated on real impact, practice, learning, the job in a very pragmatic way, on equipping the managers with some specific tools and methods instead of just some knowledge. Then later on, you come to the first job and you don’t know how to apply it so I really enjoyed having a lot of projects together with some companies, a lot of visits to the real companies, working on some real case studies that these companies had in terms of innovation and how to apply those different concepts to a specific business situation. I really liked it and when I came back from this, I already knew that I want to further develop innovation management, that this is something that I love. This is something that I’m really motivated to do, that really allows me to use my skills together with some, as I said, technologies on the market to bring some real value.

Mimi Nguyen 

So you went straight after education to Accenture? 

Lukasz Marczyk 

Yes, because when I was going back from McMaster University, I remember this moment at the Toronto airport when I was thinking about myself, “What will I do? I have this kind of innovation concept, but which company to choose”? I remember a huge banner on the Toronto airport at that time, Accenture’s “Innovation Delivered”. It was at that time our motto and our way to attract clients. And I said, “Wow. Okay, so I’m an innovation guy, this is “innovation delivered”, so this is the company for me”. When I came back to Poland, I actually applied for the job, and I got the job and still seventeen years later, I’m still delivering innovation and changing companies as well as people, so I really enjoy it. 

Mimi Nguyen 

Two decades, tell us about your journey to becoming a managing director in less than twenty years. 

Lukasz Marczyk 

Actually in 15 years. It was quite a journey. One of the problems that we had in Accenture was that we had difficulties in setting up the insurance practice, to scale it and have some idea of how to use this kind of specific structure of the insurance market that we have in Poland, how to create a sustainable business on this market. Of course, one of the ideas was, “Let’s give it to Lucas, maybe he will have an idea because he always does some strange, different things and he’s this universal soldier so let’s give him this chance to also develop this segment”. Of course, my attitude, “I can always do it, I can deliver, I’ll find a way” allowed me to come up with some nice strategy at that time to actually work both from the biggest players that normally are Accenture clients, as well as from smaller players, but for smaller players to deliver something like software as a service or services as a service that actually aggregate those smaller insurers, and we can provide them service in one to many mode. In this way, we can actually bring the newest technologies, newest skills that are sometimes quite expensive, into smaller and midsize insurance. This strategy was actually a successful one. We have right now a couple of hundreds of people that are working on insurance projects. That is a sustainable business and we are constantly looking for new ideas how to help and how to transform this insurance sector with a similar concept of technology and business value.

Mimi Nguyen 

It’s impressive. Looking back throughout your career, let’s ask about your mana. What has been the one trade that has helped you to excel?

Lukasz Marczyk 

I was actually thinking what is the thing that motivates me and that really fuels me on a daily basis. Over the years, there were different things but I think the most important for me is this kind of a human touch, this kind of way of developing people, in order for them to become experts in an area, to become expert not only in Accenture, but also on the whole market. I think what I would like is to really know all the people that I work with, from the interns, through analyst, consultant managers, senior managers, understand the key capabilities or key skills that this person brings to Accenture or in general to the market, what is the area of development that this person has, and then bring it together with some trends and technologies on the market and help to build their career, their developmental path, in a way for them to become successful. So far, through these startups that I mentioned before, so in claims, analytics, robotics, in cloud right now, customer experience, in many of these areas, I was fortunate to have great people at the beginning, who together with me, started the journey, and who were opened for some of my ideas, my developmental feedback. I was able together with them to grow to the level that they are right now treated or perceived as experts in this area. For instance, one of my colleagues when we started this claim ecosystem platform business, we developed it from scratch, we were cooperating together on some of my concepts, some of his business knowledge. Right now, he’s a claims director in one of the most interesting insurance companies on the Polish market. The second person, we started at the beginning of the analytics journey five, seven years later, and now he’s chief data officer in one of the most data driven insurance company in Poland. Robotic process automation we started this three, four years ago and a colleague who we developed it and brought it to the market with is right now a robotic process automation expert and director in one of the biggest banks in Poland. Of course, I also love the people that are still with me in my team, and I really enjoy working with them. They fuel and challenge me every day, and I challenge them. We have very close communication together. We like to innovate. Sometimes that’s difficult for them, because I constantly ask them to have new ideas, to test something but on the other hand, we are growing together in this and I think even if they later on leave Accenture, or stay in Accenture, they are experts in this specific area. And after the seventeen years in Accenture, I think this is something that really motivates me. When I discuss this I have this kind of goose skin. That is actually, “Wow” that I not only helped insurance companies, I not only helped Accenture to grow, but this particular people who I’m still in a great contact with who see my way of doing business, my way of cooperating as a way for them to grow and the way for them to be experts on the market is something that really lasts longer than just carrying Accenture. It’s something that is, for me, very motivational, gives me fun. When I look back at these years, I think this is something that always strikes me and always keeps to my mind. That’s my Mana.

Mimi Nguyen 

I think it gives me goosebumps as well, because these people that you mentioned, they all worked with me, I remember, in the same room.

Lukasz Marczyk 

Mimi, I think you are one of the examples. You started with us, you remember, as we were discussing how to combine your great skills in designing, in art together with something that is on the market. At that time, there were these trends of both customer experience and design thinking, together with some technologies. We were sitting together thinking how to develop these skills and look at you now, ten years later, you’re a lecturer of one of the innovation courses at one of the best innovation schools in Europe. You are having startups where you combine your skills in design, in management, in people, and you are one of the woman leaders that is still developing. It’s really amazing for me to also look at this development, that sometimes was maybe initiated by me, so I had the privilege to work with you at the beginning, maybe give you some concept that later on, allows you to also grow to such a great career.

Mimi Nguyen 

Thank you so much, Lukasz. Thank you for being with us today.

Lukasz Marczyk 

Yeah, it was a pleasure. I never thought when I was at the beginning hiring you as an intern that after a career in Accenture and in some other companies, you will become such a great woman leader and I will have a chance ten years later to talk to you about such interesting stuff. Wish you all the best.

Author

  • Mimi is a Mana Search R&D Labs co-founder. She is a senior associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins in Innovation, and a PhD fellow at Imperial College London, Faculty of Engineering, she co-hosts The Fintech Times Searching for Mana podcast.

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