InsuranceERM Annual Awards 2024 - UK & Europe

Crowe: Optimism for the future

Justin Elks, partner and head of risk consulting, gives his thoughts on what it takes to be a successful insurance risk consultancy firm in this day and age.

Congratulations for winning risk consultancy of the year for the fifth successive time. Why do you think you've won the award five times in a row?

We cherish this award for its recognition of the value and quality of our work. It is meaningful as it's voted for by independent industry risk experts who look at our client testimonials and endorsements. The focus is on clients' experiences, not the number of projects completed, or the size of a consultancy - unlike some other awards.

You spent most of your career on the other side of the fence – what led you to become a consultant?

Yes, I spent most of my career in insurance, in finance and risk roles developing new frameworks and approaches. Having built up a lot of expertise in risk and Solvency II, I sought a change from traditional CRO roles.

Justin ElksWith guidance from a coach, I reflected on the aspects of my work that I found most fulfilling, focusing not on titles or positions but on autonomy, problem-solving using my expertise, and driving meaningful change. Much to my surprise at the time, that led to consulting being a natural choice.

While business is sometimes seen as lacking 'creativity' compared to 'creative industries', I've found consulting to be very creative in helping clients solve complex problems.

The fact that I've spent most of my career in industry has given me a lot of experience as a buyer of consulting services – providing valuable insight into what works and what doesn't. Consultancy has a bad name, and I wanted to pursue a different approach, aligned with my expectations of how consultancies should interact and assist clients.

So what's different about how you do things at Crowe?

Having experienced the common issues with traditional consultancies firsthand during my industry days, I witnessed the pitfalls of transactional engagements. Partners would sell the work, then vanish, leaving the junior team to project manage. You could buy the 'A' team in a pitch, then have the work delivered by the 'C' team. Consultants can fail to value your business and culture, imposing their own methods. This approach proved costly, yielding little beyond flashy PowerPoint slides. It can feel like consultancy is being done 'to' or 'at' you, rather than 'with' you.

At Crowe, we see ourselves as an integral part of our client's teams, collaborating closely with our team members. Our approach is practical not theoretical, and we think the combination of our experience and collaborative approach means that the changes we recommend or make are more sustainable, and get a better return on the investment in our services.

We prioritise a strategic approach, focusing on extracting value rather than just meeting regulatory requirements.

What are the challenges most concerning your clients currently?

We see an increasing focus on streamlining approaches to reporting, to free up capability to focus further on delivering on transition plans. We have helped clients to prioritise where they can make a difference in managing sustainability risks and opportunities, while minimising duplication and navigating increasing complexity. This helped them make tangible progress where it matters most.

We are also seeing an increased focus on operational resilience as we approach March 2025. I anticipate a focus on scenario testing and enhancing frameworks - frameworks that perhaps look good on paper, but don't help organisations build resilience in practice. Properly addressing third-party risk is increasingly a significant part of building resilience.

We are seeing a continuing increase in clients focusing on the cost-efficiency of their governance, risk and resilience work. Our focus on value, and that we do not see compliance as an end in itself, means we help our clients to get more value from the investment they make in their work.

In terms of transformation, few organisations have truly achieved the flexibility needed to constantly refine and improve their ways of working. Leading companies are focused on removing the barriers to this kind of agility.

Finally, the coming of age of AI and the evolution of modelling is leading to an increased focus on model risk and data governance - putting in place the infrastructure and approaches to unlock the value inherent in data.

How do you see the future for Crowe?

We've built a strong reputation in the industry in sustainability, risk and governance, resilience, data and transformation, and invested in our talent across those areas.

It's exciting that clients are coming to us with challenges that don't fall into neat silos. This enables us to help them by joining the dots. This is something I think other consultancies will really struggle to match as they can struggle to collaborate across disciplines. I'm really excited for the future.