Photo: courtesy of UNIQA
Lucie Urválková, CFO of the UNIQA financial group, is a graduate of the Silesian University in Karviná. She began her career in finance at consulting companies “Big Four” in auditing and consulting. After that, she specialized in the field of insurance and still works in the management of the UNIQA financial group. She has been ranked several times in the Forbes magazine’s list of the most influential Czech women.
What is the beauty of the world of numbers? Have you been attracted by the world of finance, but also by the insurance industry since you were a child?
The world of numbers is constant and certain. Little is subject to change and trends – mathematics and numbers are one such area. If something can be calculated, it cannot be fooled at the same time. But I came to this gradually, as a child I certainly never dreamed that my daily working life would be connected with finances. When I was involved in middle track athletics, I wanted to be the new Jarmila Kratochvílová. And later, I was more inclined to more “soft disciplines” like marketing. So my journey to numbers and finance didn’t really start until after college.
Do you think that the world of finance is to some extent the world of men? What do you think it is?
“To some extent” is the right connection. It is a tradition – we do not remember bankers and financial experts from the past. It was clearly the world of men, but fortunately it is over. In my opinion, it is useful to mix both sexes in this area as well, because finances serve everyone and should therefore be determined by both men and women. Because cash registers are no longer held only by men, business is not only run by men and family expenses are also not decided by men alone.
You started in a financial audit in one of the companies called the Big Four. How can one best work on oneself in such a large corporation? What is the key to being successful when virtually everyone starts from scratch?
My simplest advice: to keep my eyes open, to work willingly on everything my bosses entrust to me, to act confidently but with respect. And always learn from those who have something to pass on not only professionally, but also in terms of access to work, communication with colleagues and subordinates and the relationship to their company. I draw from it all to this day, and I also still remember how I started and where I came from.
Photo: courtesy of UNIQA
What are the biggest myths about working in a corporate? How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed this view?
There are, of course, big differences between a corporate and smaller companies or a self-employed activity, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. The truth is, however, that those who left the corporation and started their own business or went to a smaller company usually appreciated retrospectively the order and processes that had previously taken care of them. Because in a small company, one needs to take care of everything from ordering a pencil to changing tire tires at a car, writing a contract to handing over an order with complete documentation. Of course, the internal established order of the covid pandemic in corporations disrupted and brought new knowledge. Certainly, after the end of this extraordinary period, there will be big changes on our part as well, whether in the area of using shared offices, a larger range of home offices, reducing the number of business trips and changes in the work of managers.
Is your work currently mostly about numbers or just about the people you lead? What is the most difficult part?
Every company is about the people who work in it. I currently manage departments with a staff of about 190 people. Those numbers will only make sense if my people imprint them on them according to the given definitions and formulas. And it’s about showing the current state transparently and allowing comparisons over time. The most complex, but most important, thing is that all internal and external stakeholders are given the numbers they need for their work and that it is consistent across all our entities.
What insurance events did you encounter and do you encounter most often during a pandemic?
The pandemic has turned many business sectors upside down. It has also brought new trends to the insurance industry, fortunately in both directions. Of course, we were only minimally confronted with damage from travel insurance, at the beginning of the first spring lockdown, traffic accidents also decreased (although the share of serious ones increased), people reported fewer accidents. On the contrary, there were more insured events in life insurance and supplementary insurance to it: more deaths from covid, there were significantly more incapacity for work and hospitalizations, for which we pay daily benefits to clients according to concluded contracts. And the current real estate fever has also been reflected in insurance – an increase in insurance contracts in connection with mortgages and other credit instruments, as well as household and real estate insurance.
Photo: courtesy of UNIQA
How will Covid-19 change Czech society and the Czech business environment? In your opinion, is economic collapse waiting for us? And what will this mean for the insurance market?
The indebtedness of the economy is currently threatening, but it is clear that events of such a global scale and impact are not able to be solved by commercial insurance companies or banks. The state must be the guarantor here. Of course, covid-19 hit entrepreneurs hard, especially in some fields (gastronomy, tourism, personal services), on the other hand, “loaded” others (online sales, streaming services, production of hygiene goods, etc.). Now it will depend a lot on whether the company recovers and thanks to vaccinations there will be no further outages. People didn’t spend long months sitting at home – now maybe they’ll really have a chance to go out and catch up on deferred consumption. For insurance companies, this event brings many new challenges and questions that our industry will have to address – some independently and some with a connection to the state. In any case, the pandemic accelerated the digitization of insurance companies, which were able to implement virtually the entire service and internal processes remotely. This knowledge is very valuable and without restrictions during a pandemic, we would have gotten this far in a much longer time.
How important are things like fashion and style for you? How would you describe yours? And do you have a favorite brand?
My favorite style can be described as elegant, but comfortable, practical and variable. I change clothes according to mood and occasion. For more formal moments, I choose a dress dress, trouser suits or with a longer skirt. I pay attention to accessories such as belts and handbags. I like to underline my femininity, but I also like to surprise, so I am able to play with my “model” a little every day so that it is not dull and attractive. I like to admit that I pay attention to my appearance even when I stay at home at the home office and I’m not satisfied with a T-shirt and sweatpants. Sometimes it is enough to change a few pieces of clothing during the day and you look different – I take off my pumps and put on nice sneakers, I change my elegant jacket with a denim jacket – and I can go again. However, I don’t have specific favorite brands to stick to. I buy things that I like and I don’t like the brand so much. Recently, I have been choosing quality, tailor-made models from Czech designers for special occasions. I trust their eye and consider it practical that they tailor everything exactly for me.
How to successfully balance the ratio of career vs. family? Is it at all possible to optimally plan your private and professional life when you are in such a high managerial position?
So I’ll reveal the secret: it won’t, but I’m still trying! Of course, I plan and try to follow, but it doesn’t always work out. Of course, I have some untouchable points in my schedule, both at work and in private. I stick to them and I don’t give up. But I’m not a perfectly programmed machine that can keep everything to the letter. Work and privacy in such an exposed position will always partially overlap each other, I have already come to terms with that. Then it is about understanding and respect both in the family and in colleagues at work, so that it still works and we can all feel good about it and enjoy it. And I really try my best.
Photo: courtesy of UNIQA
Source: MODA.CZ – Pánská móda, dámská móda a vše ze světa módy by www.moda.cz.
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