Master Class CEE Insight Talk with Gabor Lehel of VIG

02. Mai 2022

We continued our Insight Talk series on April 26 with Mr. Gabor Lehel, Chief Innovation Officer and Board Member of Vienna Insurance Group. The talk started with an interview moderated by Ms. Angela Fleischlig-Tangl from VIG Human Resources and was followed by a Q&A session with the participants of the MC CEE 2021-22.

The focus of the talk was on VIG’s experiences in CEE during the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The lockdowns in March 2020 surprised the management in the same way as the general population. Local entrepreneurship – one of the key management principles of VIG – turned out to be an advantage again. The local subsidiaries responded quickly and tight communication between headquarters and subsidiary management made sure that best practices were shared within the group. The most impressive outcome was that people came together in this crisis, took care of each other and acted very mindfully – even more than before!

VIG’s strong organizational culture was a bedrock in these times as the current responses to the crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine demonstrate. VIG runs three subsidiaries in Ukraine with 1,400 employees (VIG is not present in Russia). While some offices are closed, most employees continue to work and attend meetings, managers even in uniform. They try to continue life and work as good as possible in this situation. The Ukrainian colleagues got immediate support from their colleagues in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic and Austria. They provided accommodation and daily support in their countries for 200 colleagues who left Ukraine. VIG management set up the “VIG Family Fund” to enable all 50 subsidiaries and their employees to help their Ukrainian colleagues and their families. The start capital of € 5 million is continuously increased by contributions coming from the subsidiaries.

Before the outbreak of the pandemic CEE has seen nearly full employment, tight labor markets and rising wages. Insurance companies had difficulties finding the right candidates too. After two years of living with the coronavirus, the demands of employees have increased. People have get used to home office during the lockdowns and thus job candidates and staff demand more flexibility in working conditions, including remote working. On the other side, management has to get accustomed to run remote teams and to shift from a control- to a more trust-based management style.

When asked what skills are sought in candidates for a management position, Mr. Lehel emphasized soft skills as the differentiator. He highlighted the following qualities:

  • Listening to and understanding the other side on the table

  • Figuring out how to combine the other parties demands with the own perspective

  • Stepping back and having a look at the “big picture”

  • Looking for “win-win” solutions

  • Readiness to go the “extra mile”, namely to do more than one is required to do.

Summing up, the talk with Mr. Lehel provided interesting insights on the impact of crises on organizations and the crucial role of corporate culture and lived solidarity in coping with such extreme situations. Furthermore, the executive shared and discussed his views with the students whose questions ranged from the importance of face-to-face meetings among top-managers, digitalization initiatives at VIG, to the effectiveness of the implementation of VIG’s diversity and inclusion policy throughout the CEE region.

zurück zur Übersicht