Product Family
Joe Tocco


CEO, Americas, AXA XL

I admit it. I am a die-hard Buffalo Bill fan. Anyone who knows football knows that being a Buffalo Bills fan is not always easy.

For one, the team still plays home games outdoors despite Buffalo’s notoriously frigid weather. On the bright side, cheering on the home team in sub-zero weather certainly builds a tough fan base. This football franchise also has the distinction of never winning the Super Bowl, despite making it to the championship game four times.

This season, the Bills made it to the AFC conference championship, seeking another shot at a Super Bowl win, but unfortunately lost. There’s always next year and I will be there to cheer them on. I will always be a fan. After all, if there is one big lesson that I’ve learned from being a Bills fan – one that is serving me well now – it’s that building resilience is an essential skill.

As we continue to operate through the global pandemic, our resilience is being tested like never before. Through it all, I’ve witnessed more toughness and tenacity than I have ever seen on the gridiron.

I am proud of how far my Buffalo Bills have come this season, but I am even prouder of how my other team, my AXA XL team, along with so many industry colleagues, have performed under our current challenging conditions. Through it all, I’ve taken away some invaluable lessons that will continue to help me and my team navigate to the other side of this pandemic.

Lean on each other
This has been, and will continue to be, a team effort. Exercising lots of resourcefulness, we worked together to find new ways to connect to each other and find the best ways to deliver our products, services and risk management guidance amid COVID restrictions.

When on-site visits were a no-go, our risk engineers rallied to find ways to assess risk remotely, using data captured from telephone calls, web tools and existing reports. More recently, AXA XL Risk Consulting team took remote assessments a step further with the launch of the Digital Risk Engineer to use available new technologies to help monitor properties when in-person assessments and monitoring is not possible.

Our clients had to change up their operations too. Some changed temporarily to address the crisis. Manufacturers, for instance, pivoted operations to manufacture masks, hand sanitize or medical equipment. Others had to change safety protocols to keep employees safe or add new services, like delivery, to keep customers safe. When they did, many turned to us for help, looking to understand how their risks, and potentially their insurance coverage, changed when their operations did. A good example of this was how our Casualty team collaborated and partnered with Marsh on their DeliveryPro solution to provide commercial auto coverage when clients needed to add delivery services to their operations.

That’s the kind of partnership that we’re striving to achieve. In addition to providing insurance coverage, we’re here to lean on when our clients need help with problems that crop up or guidance on changing risks.

This has been, and will continue to be, a team effort.

Communicate often
Success operating under these prolonged, challenging conditions requires teamwork, ongoing conversations and reliable partnerships. From the beginning, we knew we needed to reach out, keep open lines of communication and work together to find solutions that work for us, and our brokers and clients.

That’s what our Americas team has done over the last year. As COVID continued, we were proactive in our approach – staying connected and having ongoing, open dialogue about the challenges the collective industry faced and continue to face.

For our Construction clients, for example, COVID’s global spread piqued concerns about potential supply chain issues. Our Subcontractor Default risk engineers immediately began looking at how any supply chain slowdowns across the globe might impact our clients. And they’ve continued to have an open dialogue with our Subcontractor Default Insurance clients to understand what they are seeing from their subcontractors so that we can better guide them in avoiding subcontractor defaults and supply disruptions.

We picked up the phone, spent a lot of time on video chats and talked through the impact COVID had on policy language to clear up uncertainties. These are never easy conversations, but we intended to be as upfront and collaborative as possible.

Rethink regularly
You can’t win a football game running the same play repeatedly. For some reason though, we’ve kept doing business the same way we have been doing it throughout our careers.

We’ve made incremental changes but COVID gave us a shove. That’s why one of the biggest takeaways from this experience is that we need to look more carefully, and more frequently, at what we are doing and why are we doing it.

Business travel for example is likely to never be the same. It will be hard to justify flying anywhere to attend an in-person meeting as frequently as we once did. I will be the first to say that building personal relationships has always been one of the best parts of my job. We will still make plans to see each other. But now, thanks to new technology, we have other channels to connect us, even more regularly.

And think about the resources saved that could be invested elsewhere with the intent of making a bigger impact on our clients’ risk management efforts. That’s how we have to rethink our “business as usual” habits.

Be open to change
In January 2020, when our IT team implemented Microsoft Teams, I may have shrugged it off as just another tool I had to figure out. We did not know how significant it would be in March 2020 when more stay-at-home orders went into effect.

Connecting or working remotely is not ideal in every situation but it worked remarkably well when we needed it. That’s part of the thinking behind AXA’s recent announcement about extending its smart working strategy to all main entities, like AXA XL, to adopt this approach in 2021. Prior to COVID, 38% of AXA employees regularly working from home. During it, 90% of AXA’s global workforce transitioned to working remotely and continued to operate effectively. Office locations are not confining us.

While remote working will never replace the benefits of face-to-face interaction, it allows us to offer greater flexibility and better work/life balance to colleagues. That means we can retain and attract talented colleagues wherever they call home.

As former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy once said, “If you don’t change with the times, the times are going to change you.” Admittedly, I was never an early adapter to new technologies. I am now.

Many believe COVID accelerated tech adoption by years. Most realize, including myself, we need to be more open to adopt technology that can have a big impact on so many aspects of our operations. That’s why I’m particularly proud of what our Construction team accomplished this year in the rollout of our Construction Ecosystem and Tech Library. Not only are we boosting our own tech adoption but we’re helping our clients boost theirs to more effectively manage their risk.

Consider what’s next
Since the start, I have been very impressed to see how quickly we adjusted to moving our operations to remote working. Our IT and business continuity colleagues’ advance planning prepared us well. Their foresight in assuring that each colleague had a laptop was a big advantage early in our remote working transition. Many companies were not as equipped as we were to make that transition.

When we got accustomed to social distancing, wearing masks, we kept referring to this as our ‘new’ normal. Nothing stays new for too long. If the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us that we need to put greater thought into the unexpected.

COVID drastically changed businesses overnight. Businesses, including our own, came to realize they need to have contingency plans for contingency plans. The rate of change continues to accelerate. COVID made that clear. Businesses need to be better prepared for what comes next, what will be our ‘next’ normal. For those of us where risk is our business, we have a valuable role to play in helping businesses and industries prepare for what’s next.

If we ignore change, we will be wasting time and energy trying to adjust to it. If we welcome, prepare and act on change, it won’t defeat us. We’ll be resilient, just like my Buffalo Bills.


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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. In this respect, our property loss prevention publications, services, and surveys do not address life safety or third party liability issues. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. The provision of any service does not imply that every possible hazard has been identified at a facility or that no other hazards exist. AXA XL Risk Consulting does not assume, and shall have no liability for the control, correction, continuation or modification of any existing conditions or operations. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any document or other communication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with our services, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.