Digital insurance – forget about finance in the classic sense
At ELEMENT insurance, financial experts are handling every day new challenges – cash flow procedures for new partners, a big round of investment or building asset management. Today we talk to Arno Bussmann, Head of Finance at ELEMENT Insurance AG.
E: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT ELEMENT?
Arno: I came to ELEMENT in April 2017 after spending half a year with finleap, our company builder. This is how I was already there from the beginning – an experience that was pretty new to me.
E: HOW DID YOUR CV LOOK BEFORE THEN?
I studied auditing and controlling at uni. After graduating, I spent a while at a major auditing firm, starting out in Frankfurt before moving onto London. In 2014 I switched to the insurance industry and started working at a international insurance and reinsurance company.
E: WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BEGIN WORKING AT A YOUNG FINTECH COMPANY?
I think it’s exciting to have the opportunity to build something from scratch and be part of a company from the start. This is exactly the opportunity that ELEMENT gave me.
E: WHAT WERE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES AT THE START?
The biggest challenge was us starting with a blank sheet of paper. I had to think differently when it came to this – my job was suddenly about creating something new as opposed to improving existing structures. At ELEMENT, I was responsible for key areas from day one. Things really got going once we received our licence from BaFin, the German supervisory authority. Now, on the other hand, we’ve grown past these early stages visibly – and those start-up don’t keep us busy any more.
E: SO WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES NOW?
We still don’t have any constant, repetitive routines or monotony. Every day can turn out differently – whether it’s cash flow procedures for new partners, a big round of investment or building an asset management. My team and I are often kept busy by the heavy regulation that the insurance sector in particular has to deal with, and that can also make our jobs that little bit more challenging.
E: WHAT ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR AS HEAD OF FINANCE?
I’m responsible for anything finance-related – in the broadest meaning possible. My team and I, for example, look after accounting, controlling, tax, internal and external reporting, asset management, treasury and coordination for external audits.
E: HOW MUCH OF YOUR WORK AT ELEMENT IS TRADITIONAL FINANCE AND HOW MUCH IS NEW TERRITORY FOR YOU?
For starters, we’re an insurance company supervised by BaFin – which means we deal with a lot of finance in the classic sense. At the same time, though, we’re also an agile tech company highly involved in the development of new products. On top of that, ELEMENT and its company culture also make it possible for anyone to take on responsibility – something that my colleagues and I absolutely appreciate.
E: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CAREER AT A TRADITIONAL COMPANY AND ONE AT A YOUNG COMPANY LIKE ELEMENT?
In my experience, many traditional companies do their work based on a set rule book. This can be anything from recruitment and training to career progression. Contrast this to our company where, for instance, some of our values are diversity, team spirit and willingness to make mistakes. In addition, we’re much more flexible when it comes to organising everyone’s duties, we encourage people to take on responsibility and we promote personal growth as well as a healthy work-life balance. Our channels of communication are direct, which makes a lot of things easier.
And, finally, working at ELEMENT is simply more fun. Our office is in a building with other start-ups and we have a young, light-hearted team – and we don’t wear suits!