Women of ELEMENT: Francesca Cossu

At ELEMENT, we’re immensely proud of the incredibly talented women working in our various teams. Our “Women of ELEMENT” series highlights the incredible female talent committed to redefining the future of insurance. Our purpose is simple; to increase awareness of women’s roles in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and to highlight the expertise and passion these women bring to their roles each and every day.


Our guest in this edition is Francesca Cossu who is a Team Lead in our International Business Department.


Tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide upon a career in insurance?

I have a background in finance, starting my bachelor's degree in international finance and Economics at Bocconi University in Milan. I added two master’s degrees in corporate finance and financial markets from ESCP Europe, and The University of Turin and progressed into the Fintech industry before insurance. My career started in trade finance and Peer-2-Peer lending start-ups before moving to Finleap which is one of ELEMENT’s shareholders. I started in an investor partnership role, which involved bringing together the different investors and start-ups of the Finleap Ecosystem to partner on strategic projects.

I moved to the company building business unit of Finleap where, as a venture architect, I was responsible for the planning and implementation of new ventures from ideation to launch, in strict collaboration with strategic design, product development and external partners.

I was then called upon to join a small team at ELEMENT that was reviewing the company's sales strategy. What started as a temporary/consulting role, transitioned into me joining the company full time, to reshape the future of insurance, which was not something I planned for. I met the team and instantly fell in love with them. They are super smart and open to exchange ideas and explain stuff to me, who theoretically did not understand a single thing about insurance. I would say the people I met during the first month were key to my decision to move into insurance.

 

What do you enjoy most about your role as the Team Lead for International Business?

My role is not a standard role but a mixture of several things which makes it exciting. Like the title says, I am responsible for the internationalization of ELEMENT that is moving ELEMENT from a mainly German company to a pan-European company. One part of the role is asking; what the next markets aside Germany, Austria, and Italy are for ELEMENT.

Another part of my role is supporting other innovative insurtech companies from countries like the US and Asia who want to enter Germany and Europe. I also strategize on how to support insurtechs from EU member states who plan to access the German or any other EU market. These are the main tenets of my role, which is extremely exciting because I get to engage with leading innovators within the insurance industry, with a very strong tech DNA.

I deal with tech heavy companies and reinsurance companies to understand how we can launch new insurance products with a very strong innovative component. Cloud downtime Insurance is one of our most innovative products we launched last year and was because of a pivotal collaboration with one reinsurer and a tech company turned insurtech. The most interesting thing is being in touch with all the innovation in the sector, example Parametric insurance or Embedded insurance, and more. The people that I meet in my role are very smart and experienced people from all over the world who are always ready to share knowledge.

 

Your career is very impressive, what skills/traits would you attribute to your personal and professional success?

The main driver for me is the strive to always be the best version of myself and push the boundaries I set for myself. As someone who was born in a very small town in Sardinia (Italy), I am always encouraged to achieve more and this made me leave the comfort of my home for school, move to Milan, Seoul, Paris, and Berlin, always on the lookout for more challenges and build enough experience that would propel me to success.

I always valued the input from people who were more experienced than I was. I consider myself fortunate to have worked in roles and with teams which challenged me to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I would say I really like my job now because the complexity of the sector drives me to know more and always keeps me engaged and on my toes. There is always something new to learn and this eagerness is what drives me to push and push to be a better version of myself every day

 

What is your experience of diversity in the insurance industry? And how is it changing?

I always worked in predominantly male dominated roles/industries, and insurance is no exception. In my daily meetings, say about 95 percent of the meeting, I am the only woman. Outside of ELEMENT, I do not really see that much diversity in the industry. At ELEMENT, we are about 36 nationalities which is quite rare, I would say that there is not much diversity in the sector. The approach at ELEMENT for me is vastly different.

While other companies might also have many nationalities, the key decisions are often taken by a small, non-diverse group of people, who then pushes the decisions to the lower levels. I believe it's different at ELEMENT because people do not care about your background, gender, experience and will give you a chance if you show that you deserve to be there. From my start, I was immediately exposed to meetings and decisions which I did not have any idea, but I was offered the chance to have a voice, understand what was being done and give input. In the department I lead, I am trusted to lead the path my own way towards our common goal. This environment has helped me try new things and grow. I believe I have an equal voice and equal opportunities at ELEMENT.

While it's very typical for German companies to say they are a German company which is international, it is very typical to go into meetings where people just speak German all through without regarding English speakers. This is not what happens at ELEMENT. Is ELEMENT inclusive, you ask? I feel included. I can share ideas and make valuable contributions irrespective of my gender. I am not micromanaged and enjoy the flexibility of a diverse and inclusive company. In my team, I have people from Portugal to Kazakhstan. Jose and Alytyn bring impressive knowledge from various backgrounds and markets which is not insurance and always breathe fresh ideas in the international Business Team.

 

What advice do you have for women looking to enter the industry?

Be determined and go for what you believe in. Sometimes for women, it’s a bit hard because we have a lot of external input; am I too aggressive? Am I too arrogant? Am I pushing too much? Do I really deserve this and am I good enough? We ask ourselves these questions because we have so many unrealistic and exacting standards placed on us, and sometimes we do not feel like we deserve a seat at the table.

That should not be the case, if you feel passionate about something be it a position, job, or objective, please go for it no matter what other people say. Really think and plan what you want, try to find people you admire and learn from them, but do not hold yourself back or shrink yourself. In male dominated industries, you need to have a goal and go for it. Sometimes you are lucky to find leaders who will push you which is nice but not everyone is lucky, so I would say know your worth and strive to be a better version of yourself every day.


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