As a successful management consultant at one of our partners Simon-Kucher & Partners, Stefanie zur Horst knows what matters in customer projects. In an interview with consultingheadlines, she shares her experiences, talks about important learnings over lunch in South America, and what Lego bricks are all about in the context of innovative insurance products. Have fun reading!
Would you like to introduce yourself to our users? What is your expertise?
I have been working in consulting for eight years, currently as Senior Director at Simon-Kucher & Partners . This means that I am responsible for key accounts, new customer acquisition and the further development of the content of our consulting field, as well as the operational management of our projects, of course. My expertise focuses on the topic of “insurance”.
How did you come to Simon-Kucher & Partners at that time and why did you choose this consultancy?
Internships during my studies showed me that I would like to work in an established and at the same time strongly growing consultancy. Simon-Kucher & Partners combines the professionalism of a company with more than 1,000 employees with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
I also wanted a broad, yet clearly defined, range of topics. I’m comfortable with the fact that our teams can draw on a certain level of expertise in each project. This makes us valuable to the customer. At the same time, every project is different and therefore always interesting and challenging.
You have been with Simon-Kucher & Partners for eight years now. What were the special highlights of your career?
Projects abroad in Miami, Mexico City, Lima, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur are among the formative and very valuable experiences that few other jobs of this kind would have afforded me. But highs are also every time a team – often from different countries and colleagues who hardly know each other – comes together and gets so into the groove that super ideas emerge together.
Name a project from which you have learned the most.
These were probably my first projects in South America. I used to think: “I sit in the office for three weeks and develop ideas, strategies, products and prices, then I present that to the customer in three hours – done”.
In South America, at the latest, I realized how important it is to keep talking to everyone on the customer side, not just in meetings, but also over coffee, lunch, and any other occasion. Only when every opinion is heard, every idea is discussed calmly and the question is always asked whether everyone is fully behind the project, will it ultimately be a success.
This means that it is important to me to discuss the recommendations we develop with the customer in detail. Because with it we work out the optimal result together.
The management consulting industry is still heavily dominated by men. How have you experienced this as a successful woman during your career? And what advice would you give to other female candidates who are interested in a job in consulting?
Especially as a young consultant, sometimes you are actually challenged more in the first moment to prove yourself. But still, I see absolutely no disadvantages for women to get into consulting.
As a young mother, for example, I am now faced with the challenge of successfully balancing work and family. My job offers me many opportunities in this regard, because we work flexibly by definition. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that you also need to be able to plan well, stick to your own schedule and switch gears quickly. In the home office, it’s then “study door closed = 100% job” or “from the study into the children’s room = 100% mother”.
About a year ago, the event “CREATE!” took place, an innovation lab for the insurance industry. Could you briefly introduce the event and explain what exactly your role was?
The insurance industry is under pressure to catch up. On the one hand, this relates to current topics, especially digitization, but on the other hand also to the way work is done (keyword “agile working“). We address both of these issues in our innovation lab:
- with intercompany and intracompany events
- with small groups of participants
- in a creative environment
- including less crisp lectures
- and in return with plenty of time for the development and discussion of new ideas
We also like to take unusual approaches, such as building innovative insurance products out of Lego bricks.
This quote comes from you. What would you say are fun ways to make insurance a little more lively for the customer?
In every insurance sale, whether online or in person, the first thing is, of course, to provide the customer with competent advice. However, this does not preclude developing a process that also appeals to emotions instead of just reason and actively involves the customer. The possibilities are endless, from short, likeable cartoon videos to virtual reality goggles.
What do you think are the three hottest insurance startups?
In my eyes, not everything that calls itself a start-up is hot by a long shot. But without question very good is lings.ch because it combines many good, innovative approaches: flexible, easy-to-understand products, fast, uncomplicated sales processes, and any contract terms.
Do you think that in the future corporate or insurance advisors will be replaced by artificial intelligence? could be replaced?
No, AI needs control in some form to make it useful, and thus the consulting field is not lost. However, it is increasingly becoming a very essential part of our work.
Thank you, Stefanie, for the sympathetic interview and the detailed insights! We wish you and your family all the best!