John Ammendola disrupts the status quo to transform Grange Insurance

As Grange heads into 2018, Ammendola is having his senior team pause and examine the priorities to ensure the most critical come first. What’s not as important may be delayed.

The change is also felt unevenly across the organization, and areas that don’t feel the change at the same level may be more positive. The technology department, on the other hand, is going through tremendous disorientation around its new tools and skills, he says.

“That area is under even more pressure, so then it translates to myself, the CIO and the COO talking about what do we need to do to ensure we’re creating engagement, the appropriate level of communication and the need for change, but also not completely wiping people out because they’re so stressed and overburdened,” Ammendola says.

One thing Ammendola wants to emphasize in the future is that it’s OK for people to fail. There hasn’t been much opportunity for him and his senior team to do that yet, but he says when you point out a failure where people tried again and got it right, it’s an opportunity to begin to reinvent the culture.

In the insurance industry, perfection tends to be the art of the day, Ammendola says.

“We’re not the only company who is going to struggle with changing their environment to a more innovative one.

There’s a lot of legacy companies out there of all shapes and sizes in the insurance sector,” he says.

 

Takeaways:

  • A case for change requires persistence and discipline.
  • Align changes, so employees know what it means for them.
  • Communicate and listen to dictate the pace of change.

 

Ohio’s Fintech71 Accelerator

In addition to participating in Smart Columbus, Grange is an investor and board member of Ohio’s new Fintech71 Accelerator, which seeks to spur innovation and growth. Fintech refers to computer programs or other technology used to support or enable banking and financial services.

With the backing of Ohio-based industry leaders and JobsOhio, the intensive 10-week program gives startups access to top financial services companies, along with a stipend of $100,000 for a flexible, stage-appropriate equity stake.

The first 10 startups, announced in September, included five international companies. Startups needed at least one fintech product or solution prototype and two or more team members who could attend the full program in person.

Not only does it raise Ohio’s profile, Ammendola says mentorships with companies like Grange help startups see if they can turn up the volume and get to the next level. Fintech71 is even open 24/7.

“Entrepreneurs are amazing people. I’m not one of them, I want to be clear, but I want to take advantage of them. They have a passion and a spirit to how they think about their idea. They are relentless in beginning to create it, and if it fails, to move on to the next thing,” he says.

Not only should corporations engage with startups to see what’s coming, the education goes both ways, Ammendola says. Companies can say, “Oh, that’s a good idea, but if you’d move that a little to the right, it would be even more powerful.”

Fintech is another step in Grange’s journey to create innovation as a core competency, disrupt the status quo and create a culture that not only desires change, but also knows how to flex toward it, he says.

Learn more about Fintech71 and its inaugural cohort, which finishes later this month.

 

The Ammendola File:

Name: John Ammendola
Title: President and CEO
Company: Grange Insurance

Born: Queens, New York

Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, The New York Institute of Technology School of Management

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My passion was to be a rock ’n’ roll star, so I did have long hair back then. But my first job, absent playing in a band, was a movie theater usher. I had the bow tie, blue jacket, black slacks and that little sweeper and the flashlight.

I learned that I had an affinity to lead; eventually I became the lead usher. I had a desire to be the person trying to guide, direct and have the responsibility for the greater group.

What leadership skill was the hardest for you to learn and why? What I had to un-learn was a high order of technical aptitude with too much detail, making it hard for the general audience to consume. I’ve been working hard to summarize and order my thoughts into one, two or three things.

I’m big on helping people understand because I think if they understand, they can bridge the reasons why they’re either participating or choose to not participate. That’s a muscle that I had to work hard on in the beginning — taking the technical and creating more summarized points that are poignant and people can galvanize around.

What do you like to do when you’re not working? I love to cook and enjoy cooking Italian, as that’s my heritage. One of my more stress-relieving moments is the preparation and process. Because of growing up in an Italian household, I try to spread the joy. I like a lot of people around — a lot of food, drink and conversation.