The Keys to Collaboration at XL Catlin

XL Catlin’s Elliott Bundy says a strong culture that values talent, continued improvement, and innovation is the global insurance firm’s foundation for success

Elliott Bundy, XL Catlin

Elliott Bundy’s former career as a political communications specialist was far from glamorous. He recalls the days when his car was overflowing with candidate yard signs and nights he spent at low-rent motels. Still, Bundy says he wouldn’t trade that time for the world. The job yielded gains in both his personal and professional life, including getting invaluable training and meeting his wife. It also led him to his current position as the chief communications and marketing officer and managing director for XL Catlin, an insurance and reinsurance company that provides property, casualty, and specialty products to industrial, commercial, and professional firms; insurance companies; and other enterprises throughout the world.

Bundy joined XL Group in October 2010. XL Group acquired and merged with Catlin Group Limited in January 2015, and the primary business brand is now XL Catlin. In 2006, Bundy served as press secretary and policy director for then-US Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who became CEO of XL Group in 2008.

“Working in campaigns was an incredibly rewarding experience even on the tough days,” Bundy says. “As a training mechanism, there is nothing like it. The skills I developed are applicable to a lot of different things in corporate communications and marketing.”

During XL Group’s acquisition of Catlin, two people from each corporation represented each function to ensure that the integration was well planned. Bundy guided the marketing and communications implementation team as it handled all communications around the transaction. His team also worked on unifying the marketing and communications functions of both companies, which involved refining the new brand identity and cultural statements. Bundy says the process was a success from almost every metric, but not everything was perfect.

“The merger was a collaborative effort across both legacy groups,” Bundy explains. “Yet some of the subtler differences between the two companies didn’t come out in the early parts of the integration, and that took some time to iron out. I found that paying attention to everything and taking an active listening approach reveals those things that might seem subtle at first are actually very important.”

As chief communications and marketing officer, Bundy supervises fifty-five people who are based in different XL Group offices around the world. Together, they execute internal and external activities, such as writing corporate press releases and organizing business partner advertising. The structure of XL Group’s communications and marketing team is designed to expose each of Bundy’s team members to the entire spectrum of communications and marketing tasks. It also offers flexibility as to which projects people get involved in.

“We hire people who have a wide variety of interests and backgrounds within the communications and marketing space,” he says. “Therefore, they are interested in a lot of different things that we are working on. For the most part, people aren’t siloed into specific skill sets and that encourages collaboration.”

In his other role as managing director, Bundy is one of a hundred individuals who act as an extended leadership body of the firm. They deal with strategy reviews and recent efforts such as XL Catlin’s diversity and inclusion program. The managing directors make it easier for the company’s nearly eight thousand employees to be connected and empowered.

“By extending the leadership group out to managing directors, every colleague is one degree closer to someone who can work with them on making real decisions within the organization,” Bundy says. “This is a firm where anyone can send our CEO an email, get a response, and possibly impact change. It’s a hard thing to achieve in a large, global company that is highly regulated, but it is something we feel is very important.”

Although Bundy has many responsibilities, shaping and fostering the culture of XL Group might be the most crucial. He partners with HR managing directors, the corporate leadership team, and broader business leaders to cement XL Group’s unique attributes. The corporation’s culture revolves around five commitments: be accountable, collaborate, do what’s right, be future-focused, and make it better. Being flexible, entrepreneurial, and innovative are other qualities that XL Catlin professionals value.

“We describe our strategy as talent plus continuous improvement plus innovation,” Bundy says. “These are the playground level instructions for how one should think, act, and work at the company. This is what drives us forward and sets us apart.”

Bundy says culture wasn’t something he thought about much before coming to XL Group, but his eight years with the firm have changed his perspective.

“The degree to which we pay attention to culture is something that I now view as essential to the success of most enterprises,” he says. “Our view is that strategy, people, and culture have to work together.”

The payoff of XL Group’s commitment to culture is felt in every area of the company. Bundy says it can be difficult for a business to differentiate itself in a commodity industry, but a strong culture helps to build a reputation that attracts potential employees and clients.

“We view the external brand and the internal culture as very hard to separate,” he says. “They are basically one in the same and self-reinforcing. The culture reflects the brand, and the brand reflects the culture. Our culture feeds our reputation, and our reputation adds to growth, client retention, and attracting the highest level of talent.”

Photo: Cynthia McIntyre