Industry Leader Interview, Otso Lahtinen – Global CEO of Geobear

How did you get to where you are today?

I have worked in this business since 12 years of age, and was trained originally by my father. During the past five years as CEO we have undergone a change from IPR licensing business to a geotechnical services business. Within our insurance work our objectives are to dramatically decrease claim duration, lower overall costs whilst  increasing customer satisfaction by providing rapid solutions.  The business has been around since the early 80’s in UK and we are the original inventors of the non-disruptive geopolymer injection method to remediate subsidence problems. Our growth in the claims sector has come about due to the benefits of our system compared to traditional processes, and more disruptive underpinning  methods.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your sector of the industry?

The fundamental challenges relating to domestic subsidence generally are achieving stability quickly at an acceptable cost, allowing a prompt repair and minimal customer disruption. The industry has largely been addressing subsidence  problems by crack monitoring properties, removing trees / repairing drains, and on occasion providing a conventional underpinning solution. The challenges related to this method can be  prolonged claim duration, added cost, and  reduced customer satisfaction. We have tried to put ourselves in the shoes of homeowners, loss adjusters and insurers and create a model that would serve everyone’s interests, to enhance  the current model. Our real challenge is to communicate the benefits of using Geobear to insurers and loss adjusters. There are clear cost savings and dramatic time reductions to be made in the industry and we can deliver those, so we must ensure the value we offer is clear for all to see.

How are you and your business dealing with this?

After having understood the key problems in the industry, we have set out to create a solution that can cater  for all stakeholders. We are offering a minimally disruptive, immediately executable substructure repair solution, which can reduce the scope of  investigations, superstructure repairs and mitigation  works. This enables the insurers and adjusters to manage most valid subsidence claims in 2-3 months, as opposed to 12-18 months. We’ve recruited an expert in the industry, Alex Finch, to help guide the growth in the claims business. We’re actively promoting our business in the sector and working to deliver a clear definitive process that will benefit the entire market. We used to operate with the name URETEK, and changed last year to highlight our focus on the claims market, and also larger commercial and major infrastructure projects.

Out of your business achievements, what are you most proud of and why?

During the past seven years we have created a global geotechnical services contracting business in six countries, including China, from scratch. We have a structured plan and resources to create the world’s most compelling ground improvement contractor by expediting the industry’s change towards more socially responsible ground improvement methods. I am proud of our vision and success so far, as  growth of business is easy to talk about but challenging to execute.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the industry?

Decide what is your personal target outcome, understand why it is important to you and create a time bound, specific and measurable action plan to get there. If you run into an obstacle, change approach until you get there. In this process asking the reasons “why” is crucial, and stick to your particular target outcome when  you run into challenges, which you always will, just like in executing any plan.

If you could change anything what would you do to make the insurance industry "Better tomorrow”?

We would encourage working groups to adopt and establish the best current practices from not only the UK market, but taking lessons from overseas too. We can speak from our experiences in international markets that there are clear improvements we have made to our UK operations. Sometimes it pays to dare to be different !

What's your top tip for being productive?

Plan your work, work your plan. Schedule all your activities to your calendar, and do not schedule for more than 6 hours of meetings for each day so that you will have time to actually take things forward and communicate with colleagues on an ad hoc basis if needed. Set six goals for yourself for each day and measure success in the evening.

What gadget can't you live without?

Gym membership card. I go religiously every morning before 7am at least for a 30 minute workout.

Talent or Perseverance? 

Ability to create momentum despite challenges, so perseverance I guess !

What do you do to switch off or escape from work?

I am a big fan of meditation, and do it twice a day, it is like charging your brain to increase creativity, productivity and happiness.

"I am a big fan of meditation, and do it twice a day, it is like charging your brain to increase creativity, productivity and happiness."

Otso Lahtinen


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