EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Symbion Power CEO Paul Hinks
Symbion is an international power developer that takes a unique approach to delivering electrical infrastructure projects. With a deep commitment to empowering local communities, the company takes great pride in possessing the knowledge and operational know-how to succeed in some of the world’s most challenging construction environments.
Founded in 2005 by Paul Hinks and Lord Richard Westbury, Symbion’s first project was in Iraq. Hinks had been working in the region for two years as a consultant when he observed that many American corporations were leaving the country due to the security risks associated with the conflict there. “Many large American companies were hightailing it out of the region due to escalating security issues, making business extremely problematic,” explains Hinks.
Over the course of his career, Hinks has developed ‘a formula’ for working under such difficult security conditions. “I saw a gap in the market so I established a business that combined engineering and security,” he says. The business was built on a foundation of partnership and cooperation and sought to conduct business by working with and improving the lives of local communities. Even its name – a derivative of the word symbiosis – reflects the basis of the relationship it strives to develop with suppliers, local partners and subcontractors.
Symbion’s portfolio is growing by the day, along with its reputation as a world-class energy and engineering firm. Alongside his ‘day job’ as the CEO at Symbion Power, Hinks is also the Chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa. “I represent the U.S. private sector and their ambitions to invest in Africa. As part of this, I have also been involved in the genesis of the Power Africa initiative, which President Obama launched in July 2013. I work very closely with private-sector businesses, the US government and with local government and local communities to ensure the initiative is a success,” he says. “Power Africa is ground breaking and it will see the United States supporting Africa on a grand scale.”
Hinks is still the powerhouse behind Symbion, driving it forward and seeking new opportunities for the business and for the communities in which it operates. Its point of difference comes not from its power-engineering prowess, but from its local engagement and its dedication to give back in the regions where it works. “Symbion will always be motivated by the desire to help the people in the places it works. Our staff enjoys this as much as I do and it makes what we do so much more enjoyable and interesting.”
Watch Paul Hinks in an interview during African Utility Week 2013 below. Please note the video was recorded prior to the launch of Power Africa:
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.