In the heart of Belgrade, Serbia, Ivana Soković began her remarkable journey with Dunav Insurance Company. Fresh out of the Faculty of Organizational Sciences at the University of Belgrade, she embarked on a path that would ultimately lead her to a leadership role in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Fresh out of the Faculty of Organizational Sciences at the University of Belgrade, Ivana embarked on a path that would lead her to a leadership role in a male-dominated industry.
Ivana’s early days at Dunav saw her immersing herself in the intricate world of insurance policy conclusion – a task she readily admits was “anything but easy.”
Eight years of dedication and hard work in sales paved the way for Ivana’s ascent within Dunav Insurance Company.
She assumed diverse roles, from Deputy Head of the Belgrade Branch to the stewardship of the Insurance Branch, and eventually, the leadership of the Non-Life Sales Directorate. In 2018, Ivana’s exceptional contributions and visionary outlook earned her a well-deserved spot on the Company Executive Board. But that was just the beginning.
In the year 2020, Ivana Soković ascended to the role of CEO. It was a position teeming with immense responsibilities and towering expectations. Yet, Ivana accepted this mantle with the grace and determination that defines her character, steering the company to unprecedented heights and cementing its status as a market leader.
In a candid conversation with Ivana Soković, we delve into the services and ethos of Dunav Insurance Company, exploring the life and career of a woman whose journey serves as an inspiring testament to the relentless pursuit of excellence.
DUNAV INSURANCE COMPANY’s tagline, ‘Once a Friend, always a Friend,’ emphasizes loyalty, trust, and friendship. As the CEO, can you tell us why these values are particularly important to you and the company’s mission?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: The insurance industry has its specifics. The client takes out an insurance policy as a kind of warranty that he will easily overcome the effects of unforeseeable and adverse events, obtain an equitable indemnity, and be able to carry on with his life and business regardless of what befell him. We need to be our clients’ friend right from the start, offer to give him an honest advice and expertise and stand by his side if he gets into trouble. This is something that goes without saying and defines our industry.
Errors and omissions are not allowed here. Furthermore, we strive to build a higher quality relationship with both our clients and the entire social community.
Dunav osiguranje is always alert to the needs of its surroundings and we develop tailor-made services for all clients, follow up on and settle the eventual client complaints as soon as possible. At the same time, we streamline a huge portion of our profit to help the social community.
That is the reason why our policies are synonymous with safety and trust, and our name is a symbol of insurance and friendship.
What types of insurances do you offer, and who can become a client?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: As a joint-stock company for life and non-life insurance, Dunav osiguranje is the only insurance company on the Serbian market registered for transacting all types of insurance activities. Our company’s proposal covers more than ninety services, available for clients in twenty-eight main branch offices and at more than six hundred points of sale, located all around Serbia. Plus, we have a network of insurance agents and offer the possibility to purchase an insurance policy online, so that we can keep up with the emerging needs of modern life.
Dunav’s proposal includes a wide range of policies that are available for foreign citizens who can, for example, decide to cover by insurance their uninhabited or inhabited apartment, house, or other immovable property in Serbia.
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: We also offer them insurance against liability that might arise from possessing the real property, personal liability insurance, accident insurance for individuals and family members, voluntary health insurance to cover medical expenses during their stay in Serbia.
Our travel health insurance policies are valid throughout the world if the journey starts from Serbia. We provide insurance of goods in transit that covers furniture, appliances, musical instruments, works of art that the Insured move from one place to another within Serbia or from Serbia to America and vice versa, but also to any other destination on the globe.
There is also motor casco insurance and motor third-party liability insurance for vehicles with foreign plates that are either traveling through the territory of Serbia or are registered in our country. Moreover, we offer casco insurance and third-party liability insurance for the users of boats and other vessels, the insurance of drones and other aircraft if they are owned in Serbia.
Any local and foreign individual, regardless of their age, may become a member of the Dunav Pension Fund that operates as a part of the Dunav osiguranje group. The membership terms are the same for both the locals and the foreigners. To be more precise, an individual can pay contributions for his own benefit, where he shall be the member of the Fund himself. Another option is that the client pays contributions for the benefit of a third party (a child, spouse, or anyone else who is not a relative), where he shall be a payor, and a person for the benefit of whom the contributions are paid shall be the member of the Fund.
In case of damage to a vehicle owned by a foreign citizen, our related company, Dunav auto, can perform a damage assessment as a service for another insurer or reinsurer.
How does the commitment to loyalty, trust, and friendship translate into the Company’s relationships with its employees and customers? Can you share any stories or examples of instances where the Company’s dedication to these values had a positive impact on a customer or employee?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: We are aware that the quality and level of care for employees are important factors for Dunav’s business success. That is why we pay much attention to communication with employees and to the fulfillment of employee rights.
The Company grants our employees the rights that are beyond those stipulated by the Labour Act. The collective agreement between Dunav Insurance Company and the employees envisages the annual vacation of at least twenty-five days, longer paid leave, higher salary benefits during religious and national holidays, higher sick-leave benefit, the right to a higher base annual salary, and severance pay.
The Company presents gifts to the children of our employees on the occasion of the New Year and Christmas holidays, a greeting in cash to our female colleagues on the occasion of International Women’s Day, free health check-up, one-off payments for the New Year and Christmas, group accident insurance, and insurance in case of death policies, voluntary health insurance policies, interest-free cash loans for firewood, winter food stores, school books, or for other needs.
We also focus on monitoring talented colleagues and their professional development. For such employees, there is a particular career plan development and management procedure in place, based on which we assess new opportunities and solutions according to the needs of our Company.
As for the users of our services, we constantly work to improve their satisfaction through all the available channels. We inform them of our services in detail, supply any written information as may be required, and strictly adhere to the rules of personal data protection.
We are positive that good and open communication, respect for clients’ opinions, and mutual trust are key to long and successful cooperation.
If you know all this, you would not be surprised by what a number of market researchers have shown – the name of Dunav Insurance Company is synonymous with the overall insurance industry in Serbia. Most Serbian people believe that insurance equals Dunav and vice versa. For several consecutive years now, we have received numerous awards and recognitions, such as My Choice and Consumer Favourite, granted exclusively according to consumer votes.
DUNAV INSURANCE is known for prioritizing gender diversity in its leadership. How have you contributed to creating a more inclusive and diverse leadership team within the organization?
Forty percent of top management positions at Dunav are held by women. Nevertheless, let me stress that these women have not been appointed to these positions because we are trying to establish some kind of gender balance, but solely because they were recommended by their education, expertise, abilities, acquired skills.
The same is true for men at high managerial positions. In our Company, there are no wage level differences according to gender – men and women occupying the same positions are equally paid.
Could you share some examples of initiatives or programs at DUNAV INSURANCE COMPANY that promote women? How have these initiatives been successful?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: For a few years now, Dunav Insurance Company has cooperated with the Gender Equality Council of the City of Belgrade and the Safe House, wishing to empower women to raise their voice against domestic violence. We support the Safe House’s protegees by employing them, and we also issue them voluntary health insurance policies free of charge – these policies include general check-up and any other examinations they might need.
Dunav has long supported the noble attempts of an established Serbian TV host Tamara Grujić, the author of the TV show called Taking Action Together with Tamara. A lot has been done during fourteen half-seasons and seven years of cooperation between Dunav osiguranje and Tamara; 186 socially vulnerable families got new homes throughout Western, Eastern and Central Serbia, Kosovo and Metohija, Vojvodina, and the Republic of Srpska. Together with Tamara, we renovated several elementary schools and so created better conditions for the education of our youngest friends, especially in rural areas.
The Company joined the activities of the Woman to Woman Association that provides support to women fighting against breast cancer. We have become an inseparable part of the Be Brave Caravan, a campaign traveling through Serbia with the aim to raise awareness of the importance of prevention and early detection of this disease by providing free preventive examinations to women in our country.
In your opinion, what are the unique challenges women face in the insurance industry when striving for leadership positions, and how can these challenges be addressed?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: I would not say that the position of women in the insurance industry varies much from the position of women in any other industry. The women who wish to build a thriving business career and at the same time be successful mothers and wives, or nurture any other aspect of their private lives, face numerous challenges.
In my opinion, it is key to find the right measure and create such a climate in your families that will help you succeed in all the fields that are important for you.
How do you balance your professional responsibilities as CEO with your personal life? What advice do you have for women who struggle with work-life balance in leadership roles?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: As I already mentioned, I think that we should find the right measure between the various obligations, interests, and targets we place before ourselves.
My professional and private obligations are well balanced, I think, so that there is no collision between them. Anyway, I don’t believe that women should give up on their careers because of motherhood or vice versa. Family life, partnership, or parentship should be accepted as challenges, in the same way as career building. One should define priorities, streamline obligations, assign duties.
There are a lot of women in the Company I work for who are successful at their jobs and at the same time gentle and responsible mothers and wives, both at managerial and any other position within the Company.
Looking ahead, what role does DUNAV INSURANCE COMPANY intend to play in shaping the socially responsible future?
CEO IVANA SOKOVIĆ: As a market leader, Dunav osiguranje focuses on its own growth and development, but also on the development of the entire insurance industry in Serbia. And there is more to it. We are well aware of our role in creating a better future for generations to come and always ready to support the preservation of our cultural heritage, the improvement of education, science, environmental protection, and sports.
Our focus on the young can be seen from our umbrella project Childhood Friend, where we aim to develop new ways of cooperation and communication with the young and take part in their growth and help them adopt positive values of companionship, cooperation, fair play, and tolerance.
We at Dunav believe that by hard work and by doing good, a better and more humane world can be created.”
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