Not all virtual learning is the same

The COVID-19 environment has severely impacted how we deliver effective learning and it is widely reported that one of the first things to suffer during times of business pressure is building the capability of people. Understandably, companies focus on dealing with the business challenges at hand. So, under these circumstances, training is not necessarily seen as a priority by many companies.

However, we can’t put learning on hold indefinitely. “The COVID-19 crisis has reminded business leaders that a more capable workforce creates more resilient companies” (McKinsey & Company, November 2020).

Unsurprisingly, inuRE has seen demand for online training solutions increase as companies have recognised the importance of maintaining their investment in their people.

“Managers can’t push the pause button on capability building, so the moment belongs to virtual learning” (McKinsey & Company, March 2020).

To continue to support our clients with the same high standard of capability building, our opportunity was to evolve our industry leading in-country (face-to-face) programs into virtual training programs. To do this successfully – and ultimately for the benefit of our clients – we found that 5 essential factors need to be considered:

1. Online learning is not new but has often been seen as secondary to face-to-face learning, which is seen as the epitome of building capabilities. “Data prior to the current crisis suggest that, in normal times, few adults take advantage of online learning as a means to train” (OECD, 24 July 2020). The matter of inclusiveness is seen as a key reason, covering areas such as the level of digital skills, access to technology and self-motivation. For online learning to be successful, it is essential for employers to develop and provide a supportive learning environment, one that promotes and encourages continual learning.

2. Progressive companies need to focus on innovation to support their capability building approach and virtual learning has well and truly landed in many organisations across the globe. The COVID-19 environment has seen the need to bring digital learning to the forefront of capability building. But not all virtual learning is the same. Technology provides a solution, but on its own it does not provide the answer – it’s about how we use technology.

3. There needs to be innovation in using digital tools. For example, we can create virtual breakout areas for smaller groups and encourage discussion and hands-on learning. This helps to address the challenge of a reduction in personal interactions that can often be seen with online learning. However, the overall approach to online learning needs to include programmes that focus on collaborative learning.

4. Not all training formats used face-to-face translate well into the virtual environment. We can’t simply copy and paste materials. The effective use of visual materials is important, but we need to place additional emphasis on encouraging discussion and interaction. This can easily be lost in a virtual environment.

5. Businesses want to see capability building that is comprehensive and supported by learning which convincingly engages their people in a multitude of ways. Our virtual learning approach should not, therefore, be one dimensional. Delivering online seminars is one approach, but we need to think wider than this. We need to provide people with the opportunity to access learning in their own time and also with environments in which they can express their thinking and creativity.

Taking these factors into consideration – and, critically, listening to our clients – inuRE has developed the following virtual programs to deliver optimal learning experiences:

Self-directed online learning:

Using a leading Learning Management System (LMS), that is easy to use, our clients can access our premium learning content in their own time. There are more than 30 modules covering a range of reinsurance topics, including a variety of supporting exercises. To support all of our clients throughout Asia Pacific region, all modules are narrated. Our clients tell us that this dimension of virtual learning is providing participants with an easily accessible and flexible learning environment, one that is continuing to support capability building despite the challenges faced in 2020. They very much see this as an essential part of their capability building programs going forwards.

Virtual Workshops:

Facilitated learning is delivered using a webinar format. The training is tailored to requirements and delivered for varying numbers of participants over timeframes that fit with day-to-day business activities. Training delivered so far has covered the entire Asia-Pacific region. Our clients have commented that the transition from face-to-face training to virtual workshops has been seamless and that they will continue to use this format as part of their overall learning strategies.


This dimension of virtual learning provides a fully interactive and immersive experience for participants who are guided to make business critical decisions. Covering insurance, reinsurance and underwriting, the simulations provide the ideal platform for collaborative learning, encouraging creativity and original thought. Our clients have told us that the simulations support the ability of participants to understand the essential functions of insurance and reinsurance companies.

There can be no doubt that if developed and delivered well, virtual training is an effective part of successful capability building. Whilst the experiences of this year have required us to focus on the virtual environment, we have an opportunity to embed virtual learning as a core part of our learning strategies, rather than simply being seen as secondary to face-to-face learning.

Contact inuRE to see how we can support capability building for your people.

One simple question – has it been a successful year?

Welcome to inuRE’s final blog of the year. A time for reflection!

Like many, I had the desire to communicate something profound and reflective, something that encapsulates the past year. So, I felt a certain degree of pressure, as I wanted to communicate something that gives pause for thought, without being superficial. I thought about sharing a review of the year from inuRE’s perspective. This brought me to asking myself a simple and more revealing question – has it been a successful year and, what does success look like for me?

inuRE has been operating for just over 3 years. Unsurprisingly, the first year focused on establishing the business. The goal for the second year was to give the business forward momentum. Now, here we are, at the end year 3! This month I’ve been contemplating on what success looks like for inuRE – with typical performance measures, like profit, aside.

Success clearly means different things for different people and businesses. What I didn’t want to do is simply copy someone else’s definition of success or just review success in terms of performance metrics. I wanted to take a step back to think carefully about what success really means to me and my business.

I confess that when thinking about this subject I did research how other people and businesses define success. I saw many definitions that I liked and plenty that I didn’t feel comfortable with. So, I decided to start with what success doesn’t look like for me. It doesn’t mean:

Accumulating air miles;

Days away from home on business assignments;

Becoming a high-profile influencer;

Turning every business contract into an opportunity to maximise profit;

Staying within my comfort zone;

Looking at business performance metrics in isolation.

This got me thinking about my ‘end goal’ (essentially, what ‘success’ looks like for me) and fairly quickly 3 words came to mind – ‘peace of mind’. It felt good to have clarity on that! The next step was to determine the ‘formula’ that would help me achieve this goal.

I decided I needed to get clear on my values. This meant writing them down and then over the course of the month really challenging myself on whether they were just words on paper, or, the important question, if these were ‘lived’ on a daily basis?

I connected with the following principles:

Doing business with integrity;

Engaging with my clients and business partners;

Being prepared to say no where I believe that something is outside of my skillset;

Being prepared to step outside of my comfort zone, to try new things;

Keeping an open mind which is always prepared to learn.

The above principles may sound somewhat glib. Many such assertions are attributed to successful business men and women. Typically, principles like these are much easier said than ‘lived’ on a daily basis.

What I knew was that the behaviour of my clients and business partners would tell me if I was staying true to my principles. Simply, by how they engaged with me and their willingness to do business with me. This would provide me with the genuine measure of how well my business is positioned with respect to my growing definition of success – ‘peace of mind’.

So, has 2019 been a successful year for inuRE? Well, I have learnt that a list of all the things inuRE has been doing this year does not determine my success, nor do performance metrics alone. The true measures are that my clients and business partners are providing me with positive feedback and that my family is provided for! Does this give me peace of mind? Yes. I am feeling confident that 2019 has indeed been a successful year. I believe that success in 2020 will look the same if I stick to my principles.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my clients and business partners, and my family and friends, who have supported inuRE over the past 3 years. I look forward to our journey together in 2020.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian

Delivering effective group training in Asia Pacific

Over the last 20 years I have developed and delivered professional training programmes all over the world. During the last 10 years, the focus of my programmes has been throughout the Asia Pacific region. This experience has given me the opportunity to acquire invaluable learning that supports me to develop and deliver ‘best practice’ training in the (re)insurance industry in this part of the world.

It is no surprise that the attendees within a typical training group (often around 30 people and training formats anywhere from 1 to 5 days) will vary in terms of experience, knowledge, language, motivation, learning style and seniority. So, how do we get the most out of training when the attendee mix and learning styles are constantly changing?

The typical challenges to overcome are:

1. Language barriers

2. Maintaining engagement

3. Encouraging interaction

4. Managing the mix of the group

Language Barriers

In most cases, the native language of the attendees is unlikely to be English. From the outset, I make clear that a good level of English is required. In the (re)insurance industry, it is widely accepted that the international language is English. That said, the list of attendees can often be out of your control and you can’t assume that everyone has the same, good level of English comprehension. Furthermore, different people might have different perspectives as to what constitutes a good level of English.

In order to deal with the language challenge, I believe that some common sense must prevail – speak slowly, speak clearly and avoid using acronyms, jargon or overly technical words. At the very least, be prepared to explain the meaning of technical terms, don’t hide behind them. And, of course, break the training down in to segments, giving regular breaks. If you are learning a technical subject in a foreign language, you will need these breaks.

Maintaining Engagement

Many subject matters do require a lecture approach. But how do we ensure that the attendees are engaged? We need to be aware of body language and some obvious signs, such as:

Playing with mobile phones;

Drawing pictures on notepads;

Randomly leaving the training room;

Always being late for the start of each training section;

Not engaging in exercises, case studies and team discussions.

As my experience as a professional trainer has grown, so too has my ability to manage disengaged attendees swiftly and effectively. The way I approach this is to talk to these people to see if I can pick up any clues, to try and engage them and find out what interests them. You can’t cater for everyone in a training room and, sometimes, you just have to accept that some people might not be engaged. My rule is not to spend too much time on such people and to focus on the greater majority of the attendees who actually want to be there. Mobile phones are often one of the biggest distractions in training today. My approach is to strongly discourage attendees from using mobile phones in training sessions, sometimes this is with success and other times with more limited success!

There are some people who may bring work issues into the training room and this is where you need to tread carefully. Firstly, I ask that such matters are discussed during breaks, outside of the training session. Secondly, I ensure that any response that I give is framed in the following ways:

I can only give my personal opinion, which does not constitute advice;

If you work with an advisor, such as a broker or consultant, you need to obtain their advice;

I am unlikely to have all the facts at my disposal, so my opinion may not be valid.

To drive engagement and improve learning outcomes I introduce in-class exercises and case studies into each segment of the training. I let the attendees know in advance that this will be happening which typically increases the odds of holding their attention! The exercises and case studies give the attendees a break from the lecturing and help to reinforce key learning points – i.e. ‘learning by doing’. I have found that in many territories, attendees relish the opportunity to try something themselves, rather than just listening to a constant lecture.

Encouraging Interaction

Everyone is different and so are their cultures. Some people thrive on interaction, some people prefer to avoid this. With a group of attendees, you are likely to have one or two individuals who will ask the majority of questions and who will also respond to questions. I don’t want to discourage such individuals from being interactive. But when faced with such situations I do my best to circulate around the training room to encourage other individuals to participate.

I also divide the attendees into groups to promote more equal interaction. I then encourage the groups to work on exercises and case studies together and I ask them to discuss certain key points. I don’t think you can avoid each group having a natural spokesperson, but at least you’re giving the attendees the best opportunity to interact in as non-threatening environment as possible. This works better than trying to push certain less-willing individuals to share their thoughts in front of an entire class.

Introducing healthy competition into the training room is another approach that I use to encourage interaction. This can be done by using competitive case studies, such as asking the groups to design a reinsurance programme and selecting a winning solution. I also make use of insurance and reinsurance business simulations where the groups are competing against one another to produce the best overall results.

My experience has shown me that the group approach – combined with exercises and case studies – produces the most effective interactive environment. And interaction doesn’t just mean people talking, it also means people ‘doing’. We have to remember that learning styles differ between different territories and cultures.

Managing the mix of the group

All groups will have attendees with varied knowledge, experience and seniority. You have to start from the point that no knowledge is assumed. I explain to the people with greater knowledge, experience and seniority that the early stages of the training might be more simplistic for them. But I try to encourage their involvement by suggesting that they assist the less knowledgeable and experienced attendees, especially with the exercises and case studies. In fact, I try to ensure that each group has a range of knowledge, experience and seniority. The more experienced and knowledgeable individuals will tend to assume the role of group spokesperson, but this keeps them involved, especially during the more basic sections of the training.

Preparation, experience and adaptability is key. Some key recommendations are:

Divide the attendees into groups, each constituting a range of knowledge, experience and seniority;

Be prepared to speak slowly, clearly and without jargon and acronyms;

Maintain engagement by using in-class exercises and case studies – encourage the groups to work on them together to give yourself the best chance of achieving maximum interaction in a non-threatening way;

Try not to embarrass the more senior people by focusing questions on them – encourage them to naturally participate, just like the other attendees;

Don’t waste too much time on people who clearly don’t want to be at the training session – try to engage them, but focus on the majority of willing attendees;

Don’t let one or two people dominate the training session – circulate around the training room to encourage other people to participate.

The diversity and cultural differences in the Asia Pacific region keep me passionate, learning and motivated. Every situation is different which gives me the opportunity to apply different learning styles. Preparations are underway for the inuRE 2020 training programmes. The continued success of inuRE demands that I am always learning and applying these learnings to drive continual improvement. We are looking forward to delivering more great outcomes for our clients in 2020 and beyond!

Author: Gabriel Manoughian

The Tuvalu experience

Tuvalu, a relatively unknown nation, has been in the news a lot this last month, as the Pacific Island Forum 2019 was held there. It got me thinking about my trip there during February 2018, when I worked with the Tuvalu Government (the Department of Climate Change Policy & Disaster Coordination Unit).

Back in February 2018, I found myself on the island of Funafuti, one of nine islands that make up the small pacific island nation of Tuvalu. Situated about half-way between Australia and Hawaii, Tuvalu is the world’s least visited place (approximately 2,000 tourists per year). It is the world’s second smallest independent nation by population (just over 11,000) and fourth smallest by area (just 26km2). So, what brought me to this amazing place which, honestly, I had never heard of just 12 months previously?

Through my work, I was invited to participate in the Pacific Regional Dialogue on Financial Management of Climate Risks in Apia, Samoa, in March 2017. Tuvalu was taking a lead role in the dialogue, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Tuvalu – which I later discovered to be a leading, but until relatively recently under-reported, voice on the matter of global climate change – is particularly at risk from the effects of climate change given its remote location and that it is no more than 4.5 metres above sea level.

During the conference in Apia, I met with the delegation from Tuvalu. I had been inspired by their presentations on the challenges arising from global climate change and by their calls to develop a Pacific Islands Climate Change Insurance Facility (PICCIF). I was also given an insight to the initiatives being driven by Tuvalu, not only to raise awareness of the threat of climate change to the Pacific island nations, but also to their work to make Tuvalu more resilient.

What impressed me was that a nation with very few resources and a very small population was determined to be as self-sufficient as possible in making themselves as resilient as possible. A key part of their work is building financial strength to help them to recover – and critically to ‘build-back-better’ – following a natural disaster. One of the key risks for Tuvalu is Cyclone, which they experienced first-hand in March 2015 with Tropical Cyclone Pam. This Cyclone caused AU$ 14m of damage, equivalent to just over 25% of Tuvalu’s GDP.

Tuvalu currently has no insurance industry. It pursues a self-insurance approach through a unique country-owned and driven mechanism called the Tuvalu Survival Fund (TSF). I was invited to work with the Tuvalu Government (the Department of Climate Change Policy & Disaster Coordination Unit) to help them to develop a TSF payout methodology for residents who suffer a property loss. This gave me the wonderful opportunity to spend a week working in Funafuti to better understand the challenges faced by Tuvalu. The key challenges are resources and information.

Working with their Public Works Department, the Tuvalu Government has produced an impressive database of all properties, including details such as property structure, construction materials and location. This has been an intensive manual exercise requiring government representatives to visit as many properties as possible. From my experience with reinsurance, the information produced is at least on a par with, if not better than, that produced by many established insurance companies. This clearly shows Tuvalu’s determination to drive and manage a solution themselves.

The property database enabled us to we produce a TSF payout methodology based on:

A scoring system based on building construction, type, condition and valuation.

A damage factor assessment, with payout priorities and adjustments estimated to take account of social need & inflation, in order to ensure a fair, reasonable and timely payout.

A resilience factor to provide additional assistance for lower grade properties to support the core concept of “build-back-better”.

An adjustment factor to take account of the amount of funds available to the TSF at any one time.


The key lessons learned from the development of the TSF payout methodology included:

The TSF can respond to property losses arising from natural catastrophes and slow-onset climate change impacts, but it does not, and is not designed, to have the capacity to provide full indemnity protection.

A human sanity-check is required, with appropriate authority levels, to ensure that payouts are as fair, reasonable and practical as possible.

The methodology needs to be regularly tested against Probable Maximum Loss (PML) scenarios – estimates of maximum losses that might be experienced as a result of large-scale events – to check its effectiveness and practicality.

The methodology must have the flexibility to evolve as more data regarding properties and potential losses is captured.

An emerging finding was the possibility for future methodologies to incorporate non-property losses (e.g. business and livelihood losses).

The work is clearly ongoing and is testament to Tuvalu’s resolve to manage their own destiny as far as possible. Another clear indicator of this determination is the lead role that Tuvalu is taking in promoting the development of a Pacific Islands Climate Change Insurance Facility (PICCIF). This is a considerable undertaking as we need to think beyond traditional insurance and reinsurance principles to meet emerging challenges, such as providing compensation for:

Loss of land due to gradual sea-level rises;

Loss of land productivity due to salt-water contamination from rising sea levels;

Loss of fishing stock due to the effects of warming sea water, sea water acidification and damage to or loss of coral reefs;

Loss of livelihoods and culture should climate change effects lead to population migration.


A traditional response has been that such circumstances are uninsurable. However, this is not deterring Tuvalu and there are signs that people and businesses are becoming more willing to try and develop new solutions. I believe that the insurance and reinsurance industry have a key role to play in developing such solutions. Whilst the challenges appear to fall outside of the traditional principles of insurance and reinsurance, challenges are the growth engines of these industries and must be embraced as such. Furthermore, these climate-change challenges are too important and serious to ignore and adopt a “someone else’s problem” mentality.

Tuvalu, along with other Pacific Island Nations, is in the front-line of climate-change impact. We must not and cannot afford to turn a blind eye to their everyday experience from this growing threat. I greatly admire their work and tenacity because they are not simply appealing for help, they are leading the way by example. It might be a small nation, but Tuvalu has a very big heart and a fierce determination not simply to survive, but to be resilient and to grow stronger.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian

Building relationships – striking a balance between traditional and digital communication

In the push to generate and develop business, the simple things can often be overlooked. From my time (15+ years) working in the London Market, I learned the value of doing business face-to-face. Despite rapidly emerging communication technologies, doing business face-to-face, wherever possible, continues to be something I prioritise and value today. 

Communicating risk

In the risk and (re)insurance business, we are not, for the most part, trading commodities. We are establishing a support network based on perceived probabilities, scenarios, points of view, multiple possible outcomes and potentially unknown occurrences (amongst other risk factors). We must get to know the people with whom we are working, how they operate and how they run their business. This builds confidence that risks are being managed as well as can reasonably be expected.

A significant proportion of the business transacted in the London Market is done face-to-face. I often thought – like every new generation – that there must be a more efficient way to do business. However, we are dealing with risk and unknown factors, so building trust through relationships is essential.

A digital age

Whilst we have seen – and continue to see – communication technology developing at a rapid pace, do we really want to replace direct relationships with electronic and virtual trading? There is a place and need for new technologies to be adopted to improve efficiencies and evolve our business, but not at the risk of abandoning face-to-face relationships. In a number of cultural environments, business just won’t happen unless you make the effort to visit and spend time with people. I continue to be regularly reminded of this given the majority of my business is throughout the Asia-Pacific region, where building personal relationships is given a high priority.

We live in a social media environment in which virtual conversations can take place with strangers and instant responses are expected. I use social media to support my business and it has an important role to play if used thoughtfully. However, in the social media age we can fall into the trap of making rushed, ill-informed statements all with the aim of getting our message out as quickly as possible. This can result in not thinking carefully about the business in hand and our relationships.

E-mails are a great benefit to helping us to communicate. There can be a tendency, though, to hide behind e-mails. We can often think that we have communicated and engaged with someone else because we have sent an e-mail. How often can the situation arise when someone says, ‘I’ve sent an e-mail but I haven’t heard back’? We’ve sent the e-mail and ticked the box. There’s really no excuse for not talking to someone. With the technology we have available – such as FaceTime, Skype and video conferencing – we can easily make personal contact.

A lesson from the London Market

The London Market has taught me to think about how I communicate and the importance of making personal contact, either face-to-face or over the phone (or using available technology). In the London Market, you can’t hide behind e-mails because the market practice is such that business often cannot be done unless you personally talk to or meet with someone. This promotes an environment in which you need to be able to communicate clearly, demonstrate that you fully understand the matter in question and build relationships based on trust.

It is always important to consider how communication technologies can improve and enhance our business. You may say that people like myself – who have been in the business for quite a while – can be resistant to change. Disruptive innovations – such as social media and algorithm-based technology – can be unsettling for some of us because they can be contrary to traditional methods and the thought process that ‘we’ve always done it this way’. But such innovations will continue to happen and many of them can bring huge benefits to the way we do business, if we use them thoughtfully.

The opportunity for us is to find a balance between what experience has taught us and what emerging communication technologies can do for us. If we neglect the importance of building relationships based on trust and spending time talking to and meeting people, we risk letting communication technology dictate how business is done. This will affect our knowledge levels, ability to develop solutions and communication skills. Ultimately, future innovation will suffer. For me, the London Market finds the balance and teaches us to do the simple (but not always easy) things well.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian

A week in Kiribati

Where & what is Kiribati?

Kiribati (the Republic of Kiribati) is a sovereign state in the central Pacific Ocean with a population of around 110,000. It consists of 32 islands (atolls and reefs) covering a huge area of 3.5km2. I visited the main island of Tarawa in October 2018 and June 2019. This was not a holiday, but a work trip. A few years ago, I had never heard of Kiribati. I come from the UK, so the Pacific Islands were, for me, a totally unknown region and something I only saw in TV programmes or documentaries about intrepid and adventurous travelling. The idea that I could one day find myself on a business trip to a tiny and remote Pacific Island State was remote at best.

How did I get here?

Thanks to my business partner, Robert Felgate, I found myself with the opportunity to provide consulting services to the Kiribati Insurance Corporation (KIC). Rob had been working with the KIC since the early 1990s as part of his role as a reinsurance broker for Willis Re. The KIC is a state-owned company that was established in 1981. It is the only insurance company in Kiribati, providing a range of insurance products such as Fire, Motor, Marine and General Liability.

Over the years, Rob has been instrumental in setting up reinsurance support for the KIC. This has helped the KIC to grow from providing a few hundred dollars of insurance cover to around 800 million today. Despite its small size, the KIC punches above its weight and plays a key role in supporting the development of the Kiribati economy and the social welfare of the state.

When Rob first came to me with the opportunity to work with the KIC, I had no idea what to expect. This was certainly new territory for me. The KIC were looking for consultants to review their business, identify and generate new business opportunities and to provide technical training support. I jumped at the chance to do something completely new. Working with Rob would also be a great learning experience as he has around 30 years of experience working in the Pacific Islands.


A key attraction to working with the KIC was the opportunity to work with them at their head office in Tarawa. The island is the capital of Kiribati and lies about half way between Australia and Hawaii. To get there you need to fly from Sydney to Nadi (Fiji) and then onwards to Tarawa. The total travel time is the best part of a day, but it feels adventurous, like you are setting out to an unknown frontier. There are also only two flights per week, which means that you need to commit around one week to your visit.

Island Life & Climate Change

My overwhelming first impression was of the warmth and hospitality of the Kiribati people. Big smiles and big welcomes greeted us from beginning to end. The generosity of the people was also unprecedented. Here is a nation, let’s be honest, that doesn’t have the so-called creature comforts and facilities that we take for granted in many of our societies. Kiribati is mostly a subsistence economy with very few people employed in what we would consider to be traditional jobs. Yet, the people are extremely friendly to visitors from the so-called developed world and appear to have a happy nature. This is my genuine impression rather than a romanticised view of life in the pacific islands.


Kiribati doesn’t really have any tourism to speak of, so foreign visitors consist mainly of aid workers, government officials and business advisors. With that said, there was no way I was going to spend time in Kiribati without being a bit of a tourist! Fortunately, the KIC were keen to show us around. The highlight of this was a day boat trip that they organised across the lagoon to the other side of Tarawa. On the way, we stopped at what the locals call the ‘disappearing island’. As the name suggests, this is an island that has been gradually reclaimed by the sea. It is also a stark reminder of the ever-present threat to Kiribati from rising sea-levels resulting from the effects of climate change.

I asked some of the KIC team about their thoughts concerning climate change. They spoke openly about the threat to their way of life. To some extent, they appeared to be almost resigned to the fact that their nation and culture is in danger. There appeared to be a sense that there is nothing that they can do about it and that they are at the mercy of how the developed nations choose to deal with climate change. With that said, there was no sense at all that the people of Kiribati are prepared to think about the possibility of having to leave their home. They are a proud nation who wish to protect their culture and identity.

Welcome to the Kiribati Insurance Corporation (KIC)


The determination of the Kiribati people was clearly evident in the day-to-day life of the KIC. It is a well-run and ambitious company with a fantastic and hands-on board. The management and staff are hard-working and enthusiastic, always keen to learn. They greatly appreciate people visiting and spending time with them, especially as their exposure to the wider world can be limited at times. For our part, our outlook on life has certainly been broadened by spending time with the KIC team, by learning about their challenges and way of life.

As well as reviewing their current business, we have explored new ventures in marine insurance, medical insurance and micro-insurance. I am delighted to say that inuRE has an ongoing relationship with the KIC and that they are entrusting us with helping them to develop new products.

Insurance challenges


One of the KIC’s main challenges is developing awareness of the benefits of insurance. Whilst their business has been growing impressively, much of Kiribati remains uninsured. For a largely subsistence society, insurance is either simply not a priority or is an unknown concept.

We all seen the great benefits of insurance, but how do you persuade people with very limited funds to part with money in return for an intangible product? This is certainly why the focus on micro-insurance is so important. But a new product on its own is unlikely to be successful if the target demographic does not understand it. The KIC understand this and has a strong commitment to marketing and developing awareness campaigns. This highlights the clear benefit of having a local insurer which understands its society and way of thinking.

Lasting impressions

At the end of our visits to the KIC and Tarawa, I have reflected on my experience as I returned to the first-world comforts of Sydney. I wondered how easy it is for me to spend a little bit of time in Kiribati and then say that my way of thinking has changed……….as I prepared to re-immerse myself in the secure, material and on-demand society that I call home. I’m not saying that I am now willing or motivated to leave all of that behind in search of a ‘simpler’ life.


I realise that while life in places like Kiribati might appear to be free of all the mad-made ‘stresses’ of many of our societies, life there is tough. Aspects of our life such as shelter, education, health, food and employment are not to be taken for granted. But the main thing that stays with me from my experience in Kiribati is what one of the members of the KIC team said to me. They know that we, in places such as Sydney, have access to more of, well, everything! But they love their life in Kiribati – it is their home.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian

The power of simulations – learning by doing.

By: Peter Phillips, CEO, Unicorn Training (

How did you learn to walk, drive a car, and play your current favorite video game? Through “trial and error” of course. You may well have got some useful guidance along the way from a parent, teacher, expert coach, a YouTube video or even when all else fails, by reading the manual. But for the most part our most powerful and memorable learning comes from practical experience.

Now, while it is fine in a video game to die several times over before you beat the “boss”, that approach is not such a good idea where the real-world cost of failure is high.

If you are learning to be an airline pilot or a bomb disposal officer, it makes a lot of sense to practice before you ever take to the air or defuse your first bomb, but a series of PowerPoint slides delivered in a classroom or an on line e-learning course is not going to make you a competent pilot.

Because the cost of failure is so high, you need to practice in a safe environment, where you can make mistakes and learn from them.

Applying that to a business context, the costs and consequences of mistakes can also be very high. Insurance is an industry where even the most innocent mistake or oversight can be costly both financially and in terms of reputation.

A business is a complex system, where decisions in one part of the business can have consequences for other areas and it is important for decision makers to appreciate these interactions.

This is where business simulations can be so effective. A typical simulation activity will involve participants working in small teams to run a business over several decision periods in a simulated competitive environment.

Simulations enable delegates to practice building a business plan, exploring different options, make decisions and then experience the consequences as the simulated real-world environment rolls forward. They can then reflect on and discuss the results, before adapting their approach to the next decision period.

This practical hands-on approach greatly reinforces core learning objectives.

Unicorn and inuRE have a long history of working together to develop and run simulations for the insurance and reinsurance industry. Not only are they a highly effective learning approach, they are great fun, encourage high levels of participation and ensure that the learning experience is memorable.

Our Morotania simulation is a great “entry level” simulation, often used on company induction programmes. Participants are asked to run a new general insurance business on a fictitious volcanic island over a five-year period. They make a range of annual decisions – underwriting, marketing, HR, expenses, etc. – and review and compare their progress at the end of each decision year. Because their results are compared to the other teams, the experience quickly becomes competitive.

For example, KPIs like the combined ratio, underwriting margin, return on investment, renewal rate, customer satisfaction all come to life as teams try to understand what levers to pull to improve their results compared to the other teams. That level of involvement is impossible from a traditional lecture session on insurance KPIs.

Our underwriting and reinsurance (ReAction) simulations are more sophisticated and based on real world data, risk profiles and rating trends. They are suited to managers with a year or more experience in the industry, but who are perhaps specialists and ready to get a wider understanding of the business. Much of the richest learning comes from interacting with others from different disciplines within their team and across teams.

Over the past year, Unicorn/inuRE simulations have seen unprecedented levels of demand. We have run ReAction, Morotania, and our Underwriting business simulation for clients in the UK, France, the Philippines, Taiwan, Sydney, Cairo, Bahrain, Tunisia, New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

Thanks to smartphones and tablets, we all now play games and expect much higher levels of interactivity than ever before. Not surprisingly, businesses are grasping the idea that these levels of engagement can be translated to and harnessed for learning. Simulations are just one aspect of this, but the underlying principle of learning by doing is far from new.

As kids we learn by doing; through play, through experimentation, from the journey of discovery that our imaginations take us on. We learn and we remember. Formal education tends to knock that playfulness out of us so by the time we get into adulthood learning has become about sitting in a classroom listening to someone talk at us, “death by powerpoint”, or doing a linear click-next-screen piece of eLearning.

Simulations are simply adults playing but in a serious way. Give them a try, you won’t regret it.

About Unicorn Training:

Unicorn is based in the UK and provides high quality learning solutions underpinned by the Unicorn Learning Management System (LMS). They specialise in helping organisations with their Governance, Risk and Compliance training needs. Their solutions span a mixture of content, platform and mobile-first games and apps – meaning that they’re able to help organisations in every aspect of their learning strategy.

Unicorn is now part of The Access Group, one of the UK’s leading software providers to the mid-market and growing businesses.

So, you need training. What now?

The word ‘training’ means different things to people. For some, it is a matter of ensuring compliance and adherence to required standards and regulations. For others, it is a critical and integrated part of career development. For the trainer – at the risk of stating the obvious – it’s about clearly understanding both the requirements and expectations. This starts with asking the right questions.

When I first started as a trainer over 15 years ago, I developed training materials based on what people wanted to learn. I soon realised that this approach had limitations as the scope was often broad and ambiguous. For example, a client asks for training on the ‘types of reinsurance’. This is a broad subject. Without asking the right questions, the development and structuring of the training is very much open to interpretation.

As an experienced trainer, I have refined my approach. From the outset, I ask key questions to establish aims, background, scope and practicalities, such as:

  • What is the context of the requested training – why is it being requested?
  • What does the training subject mean to the requesters – what are they seeking to achieve?
  • What are the ultimate goals of the attendees and the training requesters?
  • Who are the attendees – including their job roles, level of knowledge and experience?
  • How much time is available for the training?
  • What is the setting – i.e. location, facilities, cultural environment?

The answers to these questions help determine the scope of the training. However, we are not finished there. Next, we need to think carefully about the delivery style. Is there an expectation regarding the delivery style and format of the training – e.g. lecture-style, interactive, discussion groups?

This takes me to something about which I am very passionate – the difference between training and presenting. While similar, for me, they are very different.

Presenting involves communicating effectively to an audience and this is clearly required for successful training. However, this is only a component. If a client wants and is expecting a presentation, that’s fine. However, if they expect training, we need to get the attendees involved. The attendees need to become more than an audience – they need to be participants.  For me, the content development process and the delivery style are what differentiate training from presenting.

To create participation, you need to generate interaction. There are various approaches you can adopt, such as:

It’s now a question of which methods, or combination of methods, are best in any one situation? Developing these methods takes time, so careful thought needs to be given as to how and where they will be used. Some subjects are best suited to particular methods. For example, technical training such as reinsurance wordings might fit best with lecture-style learning supported by in-class exercises (i.e. giving the participants activities – team based or individual – to embed the subject matter). Subjects such as product development, designing solutions and negotiation are often a good match for case studies, discussion groups and simulation-based learning.

There is no standard approach to training. I develop and deliver customised training in a number of countries with their own unique cultures and languages (18 countries so far in the Asia-Pacific region). My work gives me the opportunity to interact with people who come from various age-groups, backgrounds and levels of experience and knowledge. The challenge of getting the right balance in the training content, structure and style for a diverse group of participants keeps me motivated and always learning. Some cultural backgrounds and demographics are more accustomed to interactive learning. Others might find the idea of interaction intimidating. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use interaction in such cases, but that you might approach the interaction in a certain manner – i.e. a gentle manner which avoids putting people on the spot and provides a mentoring environment.

Developing and delivering successful training for the different cultures of the Asia-Pacific region can seem like a daunting task. There’s a lot of work to be done, everything needs to start with a blank sheet of paper and we need to ask the right questions. inuRE specialises in partnering with companies to deliver a tailored experience that delivers on the learning objectives. Having the right technical knowledge and content are, of course, critical. More than that though, we need to consider how best to engage the participants and give them something to remember. For me, every training assignment is an opportunity to learn, interact with diverse people and try something new. For these reasons, training is one of the most rewarding parts of my work.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian

Starting a Business

It was September 2016 and I was weighing up my options. Do I stick with the relative security of a career in a large corporate? Or do I take a step right out of my comfort zone and start my own business? How did I get to this point in the first place?

After 21 happy and successful years at Willis Re, I found myself thinking about the next stages of my career. I wasn’t unhappy at Willis Re – far from it – but more and more, I had the feeling it was time for a change. Something different.

The question was, “what does change or something different look like for me”?

I still felt passionate about the reinsurance industry, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. I also knew that I loved training, solution development and client services. How could I do more of the work I loved? 

Initially, the thought of setting up my own business did not occur to me. But when a friend and colleague floated the idea, I started to give it some serious thought. My conclusions? Scary, risky and out of my comfort zone! However, I thought that I would at least develop a plan for a business – what it could do; core offerings; how it could work; its values and proposition. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the beginning of my business, inuRE.


I really enjoyed developing a business plan. I could be creative and adventurous in a risk-free environment. I showed the plan to some close friends who are well experienced in the (re)insurance industry. I thought that they might tell me that while they liked the idea, it wasn’t really feasible. However, their reactions were very positive – you can do this!

It was time to get over the self-doubt and back myself. Time to step outside my comfort zone. I was the right person, I had the right experience and I was passionate about what I wanted to build.

Every new business needs a foundation, a starting point. Mine was that I had a great track record in providing industry leading learning support and training during my time at Willis Re. I also had great relationships across Asia-Pacific. It wasn’t long before I had my first major contract to provide reinsurance training services to (re)insurance organisations across the Asia-Pacific region. inuRE was off and running.

I had a great start to my business and before long new opportunities came from different places.  A particular highlight was to partner with some of the most vulnerable nations in the Pacific on climate change initiatives. Now countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are dear to me.

While I still had thoughts such as “what am I doing?” and “is this a step too far?”, these negative thoughts lessened as I immersed myself in my business. I’ve been on a steep learning curve – and this will no doubt continue – but just over two years down the road I can’t imagine doing anything else.

To date, I have delivered training and consulting services to over 50 organisations and 700 people in 18 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. I have been privileged to be involved in climate change initiatives for the risk and insurance sector. I have some fantastic strategic partnerships in place and I am working with a good friend and former Willis Re colleague.


I certainly don’t want to take anything for granted or rest on my laurels. I am always learning something new and I’m always thinking of ways to evolve and enhance the business.

Two years on and do I still feel like I am outside of my comfort zone? Honestly, yes, sometimes I do, but today I know that this is normal and it means I am learning. For the business to succeed in the long-term, embracing new directions and challenges is necessary……….and exciting!

My key lessons, so far, are: 

  • Don’t be afraid of developing an idea and sharing it with others.
  • Have a key proposition in mind, this will get you your start.
  • Don’t be shy or embarrassed about approaching people to develop business opportunities – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  • Self-Promote, even if this feels uncomfortable. Highlight your achievements and credentials.
  • Clients first, clients second, clients third……..and so on. This is the priority of your business.
  • Listen and be open to feedback, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
  • Accept that the boundaries of your comfort zone will be constantly challenged and will expand – believe it or not, it’s actually exciting!
  • Never lose sight of your objectives, values and why you are doing what you do.
  • Be decisive!

I am extremely thankful for the support I get from my clients, friends, family and former colleagues. Without them inuRE would not be inuRE.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian