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《财富》2018年度商人:她让这家保险公司的增长速度超过了苹果

Aric Jenkins 2018年11月19日

她从公司底层员工一路升到首席执行官,在一个相对稳定的行业里推动着重大变革。

11月的一个星期五,天空中漂着毛毛细雨,美国前进保险公司的克利夫兰总部,54岁的特里西娅·格里菲斯走进演讲厅准备鼓舞团队士气。她走上演讲台,一边兴奋地跟60多名刚入职的员工挥手致意。格里菲斯刚一开口大声说:“嗨!!!!!”全体员工齐声回应。格里菲斯宣布升任首席执行官的消息之后,人群更加兴奋。谈到早年在建筑材料公司当经理实习生的经历时,她还拿自己的简历开了个玩笑:“如果有人想拆浴缸外壳可以找我,我可是持证叉车司机。”她收起笑容,然后一位与会者大喊:“好的,姑娘!”后来,一位员工问格里菲斯,对有志担任首席执行官的人们有什么建议。 “做好你手里的工作,”她说。“一定会有人注意到你。”

格里菲斯确实很了解。因为30年前她就是在前进保险从理赔代表开始做起。她在两个方面比较特殊:第一,她在现在领导的公司从入门级员工一路升到首席执行官,第二,她是《财富》美国500强公司24位女性首席执行官之一。她还有一点很特别:在相对稳定的行业里推动大变革。前进保险一年和三年销售增长率(分别为20.2%和11.4%)均高于苹果和微软。过去12个月中该公司股价上涨近50%,利润增长一倍以上。2017年前进保险超过Allstate,成为全美第三大汽车保险公司,仅次于Geico和State Farm。或许最令人印象深刻的是,截至三季度末俄亥俄州梅菲尔德公司净保费达到300亿美元,而三年前刚达到200亿美元,对一家历史长达81年的企业来说,可谓增速明显。

Tricia Griffith steps into the lecture hall, ready to motivate the troops. It’s a drizzly Friday in November at Progressive’s Cleveland headquarters as Griffith takes the stage, cheerfully waving to a crowd of 60 or so brand-new Progressive hires arranged in tiered seating. Griffith’s introductory “Hiiiiiii!” is greeted gleefully as the employees respond in chorus. The enthusiasm is palpable as Griffith regales them with an account of her rise to chief executive. While talking about an early stint as a manager trainee at a building materials company, the 54-year-old cracks a joke about her résumé: “I’m actually forklift-certified if anyone needs a tub enclosure moved,” she deadpans, prompting one attendee to shout, “Okay, girl!” Later an employee asks Griffith what advice she’d give to aspiring CEOs. “Focus on the job you’re doing now,” she says. “You will get noticed.”

Griffith knows: She began her career at Progressive as a claims rep three decades ago. That makes her a rarity on two fronts: a CEO who started as an entry-level employee at the company she now leads, and one of just 24 female Fortune 500 chief executives. But she’s also something else: a CEO pulling off the remarkable evolution of a company in a relatively staid, stable industry. Progressive’s one-year and annualized three-year sales growth (at 20.2% and 11.4%, respectively) tops both Apple’s and Microsoft’s. The insurer’s stock is up nearly 50% over the past 12 months, and profits have more than doubled. In 2017 Progressive vaulted past Allstate to become the nation’s third-largest auto insurer, behind Geico and State Farm. And perhaps most impressively, at the end of the third quarter, the Mayfield, Ohio, company hit $30 billion in net premiums written, after reaching $20 billion just three years earlier—a remarkable growth rate for an enterprise that’s now 81 years old.

图片来源:Spencer Heyfron for Fortune Magazine

她还主导设计公司文化,充分包容且鼓舞人心,可以说很令人兴奋。今年前进保险首次跻身《财富》年度最适宜工作的企业榜单,我们也发现该公司充满“创业”氛围,包括黑客马拉松和创新“车库”等,都是由员工负责的智囊团和创新实验室。

现状与前进保险此前的发展路径相去甚远。该公司成立于1937年,刚开始是个人汽车保险公司,后来通过高风险司机找到市场突破口。但在格里菲斯的领导下,其业务早已突破传统。2015年公司发展迈出关键一步,前进保险以约8.75亿美元现金收购家庭保险公司ASI多数股权,将汽车和房屋保险更好地捆绑起来。公司将捆绑购买的客户称为“罗宾逊”,将每位客户个性化,不再用刻板的保险术语。收购ASI之前,前进保险花了近十年争取客户,但格里菲斯仅用了两年多就将客户数从大约40万增加到100万,也是推动近期保费增长激增的重要因素。格里菲斯说,她喜欢“大胆定目标”,然后围绕关键项目团结全公司,激励实现投资目标。在房屋保险业务中,相关投资协助其在2017年推出HomeQuote Explorer工具,帮助客户比较各家运营商的报价。

公司里的一些高层已认识格里菲斯几十年,其中不少人看着格里菲斯一路晋升超过自己,大家都表示她非常擅长鼓励团队合作,而且经常跟普通员工联系。如果她走在前进保险充满艺术气息的办公区里,没走五步总有人会喊:“嗨,特丽西娅!”每个星期五她都跟员工一起吃午餐。

为什么要这么做?她说,因为自己以前也是低级别的员工。1988年,她看到一条分类广告信息后去应聘,当上了实习理赔员,她以为这份工作只会做几年,但后来一直做到MBA毕业。她跟母亲谈起工作时,回应是:“哦!那家卖汤的公司!”(指的是公司名接近的浦氏)。第一年格里菲斯在印第安纳波利斯一个很小的理赔办事处,经常要在修车厂的车底到处爬,写评估报告。格里菲斯说,修车厂里女性不多,而前进保险的着装要求又是西装加裙子,还有长筒袜和不露趾鞋,工作起来经常有些困难。有一次,她钻到一辆车下查勘受损的悬挂,“我钻出来时,有10个男的站在那里,”她说。“当时的情况就是,‘不管了,再难堪也得扛过去。’”

她确实熬了过去,还在理赔部门稳步提升,最终引起时任首席执行官的格伦·伦威克的注意,也是后来把公司交给她的人。当时公司找新的人力资源主管,格里菲斯的家人、朋友和同事都在劝她找伦威克。“但我内心的声音说:‘可能做不好,’‘你又没有相关工作经验。’”但格里菲斯鼓起勇气自荐,2002年伦威克给了她机会,主要相信她在业务方面的专业知识,有能力“改进公司文化,”伦威克告诉《财富》。人力资源主管是格里菲斯第一个高级职位,任上她推出了首个多元化和包容计划,2007年成立了前进保险非洲裔美国人团体和性少数者团体LGBT Plus(此后又成立了七个团体)。

Meanwhile, she’s been the chief architect of a culture that’s not only inclusive and inspiring, it’s—dare we say—exciting. This year, for the first time ever, Progressive made it onto Fortune’s annual list of Best Places to Work, where we noted the “startup” vibe, including hackathons and an innovation “garage” that functions as an employee-run think tank and experimental lab.

That’s a long way from Progressive’s roots. The company was founded in 1937 as a personal auto insurer, eventually finding its niche in high-risk drivers. But under Griffith’s leadership, it has moved far beyond that. One key move came in 2015, when the company acquired a majority stake in home insurer ASI for roughly $875 million in cash in an effort to better bundle auto and home insurance. The company refers to these bundle shoppers as “Robinsons,” a move to personify customers rather than using sterile insurance lingo. While Progressive had been trying to sign them up for roughly a decade before the ASI purchase, Griffith led the charge to rapidly expand their numbers from around 400,000 to 1 million in just over two years—a major factor driving the recent premium growth surge. Griffith says she likes to “set audacious goals” to rally the company around key projects and spur targeted investments. In the homeowners insurance business, that investment helped launch the HomeQuote Explorer tool in 2017 to help customers compare carrier quotes.

Top-ranking colleagues who have known Griffith for decades—some of whom she won promotions over—say that she’s remarkable at fostering teamwork, as well as creating connections with rank-and-file employees. On a walk through Progressive’s art-filled campus, she can’t take five steps before another passerby calls out, “Hi, Tricia!” Every Friday she makes a point to join a lunch table to meet employees.

Why? Because she’s been that low-level employee, she says. In 1988 she responded to a classified ad calling for a claims adjuster trainee, thinking she’d do it for a few years until she finished her MBA. When she told her mother about the job, the response was, “Oh! The soup company!” (referring to Progresso). During Griffith’s first year stationed at a small Indianapolis claims office, she often found herself in body shops crawling under cars to write estimates. There were not a lot of women present, and Progressive’s dress code of suits with skirts, hose, and closed-toe shoes made things difficult at times, Griffith says. In one instance, she dollied under a vehicle to assess damaged suspension components “and when I came back out, there were, like, 10 guys standing there,” she says. “It was just like, ‘Man, I gotta fight through this.’ ”

She did, and steadily rose up the claims division, eventually catching the eye of her predecessor, then-CEO Glenn Renwick. When the company was looking for a new chief of human resources, it took the persistent badgering of Griffith’s family, friends, and colleagues to persuade her to approach Renwick. “It was my own internal voice saying, ‘You probably couldn’t do that,’ or ‘You don’t have that experience.’ ” But she worked up her courage, and in 2002 Renwick gave her a shot, believing in her expertise on the business side and her ability to “advance the culture,” he tells Fortune. As HR head, her first C-suite level job, Griffith launched Progressive’s first-ever diversity and inclusion program, establishing the Progressive African American Network and LGBT Plus in 2007 (the company has since added seven more groups).

格里菲斯在员工活动上演讲。她说争取好的第一印象是“工作中最有趣的一块”。图片来源:Courtesy of Progressive

担任人力资源总监后,2008年格里菲斯回到理赔部门担任集团总裁,随后担任客户运营总裁和个人保险分公司首席运营官等职位,进一步丰富了领导经验。在此期间,她越来越了解公司运转的核心所在。2016年伦威克执掌公司15年后宣布退休,格里菲斯已准备好掌舵。

熟悉领导公司的过程中,她发现不仅要让员工理解品牌,更更要的是激励员工,让他们要感受到与品牌产生联系。今年秋天,前进保险广告里的员工“Flo”庆祝了10周年纪念。格里菲斯和团队决定请曾扮演她的女演员斯蒂芬妮·考特尼,在美国举行两天的巡回演出作纪念(客户总是问起Flo,但多数员工没见过真人)。事先格里菲斯还派遣高管飞到佛罗里达跟考特尼见面沟通,确保她对此事没有意见。

Following her stint in HR, Griffith returned to claims in 2008, serving as the group’s president, and later solidified her leadership experience with positions as president of customer operations and chief operating officer of Progressive’s personal lines branch, during which time she got ever more familiar with the nuts-and-bolts operations that make the company run. And when Renwick ended his CEO tenure in 2016 after 15 years, Griffith was ready to take the helm.

Along the way she realized how important it is not only to be accessible but also to motivate employees by making them feel connected to the brand. This fall, “Flo” from the Progressive commercials celebrated her 10-year anniversary with the company. Griffith and the Progressive team decided to honor the milestone by having Stephanie Courtney, the actress who plays her, headline a two-day tour across the U.S. (customers are constantly asking about Flo, but most employees have never seen her in person). Griffith made sure Courtney felt comfortable too, flying top execs down to Florida to meet her beforehand.

前进保险广告代言人“Flo”。图片来源:Courtesy of Progressive

这些例子并不是说格里菲斯只注重情商。事实上她对无感情的信息也很关注,已大笔投资人工智能支持的技术。2017年在她领导下,前进保险在全美国推出了一款针对Snapshot的移动应用程序,主要根据使用情况制定保险计划,利用远程信息处理技术评估驾驶风格,然后向驾驶员收取保费。前进保险表示,目前已收集超过15亿英里的驾驶数据创建算法,通过手机使用和谈话频率等多个变量判断驾驶分心程度。“主要的目标是,了解哪些风险会导致更多损失。”格里菲斯表示。虽然其他保险公司也有类似产品,但市场普遍认为前进保险在分析领域很擅长创新。“前进保险向来敢为人先。”富国银行的证券分析师爱丽丝·格林斯潘表示。推出Snapshot之类新项目后,前进保险可以向高风险司机收取更多费用,同时降低安全驾驶司机的保费留住客户,这点对维持利润至关重要。

格里菲斯坐在公司的黑色奥迪后座上,一边认真回顾旅程(她告诉我,车上播放的音乐是Rap Friday,歌名叫“我们经常学德雷克”)。什么让她夜不能寐?气候变化是房屋保险业务即将面临的问题,如果车辆实现自动驾驶了还有谁会买车险? “世界不停变化,我们也得跟着变。”她说。但至少她能推动公司实力增长。她执掌的保险公司日渐成长为多元产品帝国,除了两个强劲的竞争对手,其他都已甩在身后。(财富中文网)

本文另一个版本刊于2018年12月1日出版的《财富》杂志,标题为《特里西娅·格里菲斯:政策调整》。

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

That’s not to say Griffith is all EQ—indeed, she has embraced unemotional intelligence as well, betting heavily on A.I.-powered technology. Under her direction, in 2017 the company rolled out a mobile app nationwide for Snapshot—its usage-based insurance program that uses telematics to charge drivers premiums based on their individual driving style. Progressive says it’s since collected more than 1.5 billion miles of driving data, which it used to create an algorithm that measures distracted driving based on a number of variables such as handheld phone use and frequency of talking. “That’s really the name of the game, being able to understand what risks will have more losses,” Griffith says. And while other insurers have similar offerings, Progressive is widely acknowledged as an innovator in analytics. “Progressive historically has been very good at getting ahead of everyone,” notes Elyse Greenspan, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. Programs like Snapshot enable Progressive to charge riskier drivers more and cut deals to keep safer drivers—crucial to protecting profits.

Settled in the back seat of a black company Audi, Griffith muses about her journey (it’s Rap Friday, she tells me, referring to the car’s soundtrack: “We usually do Drake”). What keeps her up at night? Climate change is a looming concern for the homeowners business, and who will buy auto insurance if vehicles drive themselves? “The world is changing, so we have to change with it,” she says. But at least she can change from a position of strength. She’s at the wheel of an insurer that’s growing into a multi-product empire, with all but two of its competitors in the rearview mirror.

A version of this article appears in the December 1, 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline “Tricia Griffith: Policy Shift.”

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