Aon’s chief innovation officer wants to tackle ‘complex’ challenges with tech

28 Apr 2022

Jillian Slyfield. Image: Aon

Jillian Slyfield, who will be speaking at Future Human in May, shares some examples of how Aon is creating solutions to address new and complex challenges.

Different businesses and industries have their own specific needs and challenges, which usually have a number of different possible solutions.

But what do they do when one of their needs requires a solution that doesn’t exist yet? That’s where Jillian Slyfield steps in.

As the chief innovation officer at Aon, it is Slyfield’s job to help create strategies to address the unmet needs of the company’s clients.

“There are some needs we already know exist, but for which there are no efficient solutions in the market. There are others that are on the horizon, and still others we need to be prepared for, but their underlying trend is still developing. We have identified an increasing gap between those client needs and transformative solutions to help address them,” she told

“I’m responsible for helping develop Aon’s Innovation at Scale strategy to address growing unmet client need around increased volatility, greater access to capital, building resilient workforces, and reaching underserved sectors of the economy.”

Slyfield joined the company in 2015 and was its digital economy practice leader until she moved into her current role at the end of 2021.

As digital economy practice leader, Slyfield helped companies address digital disruption in their industries, particularly in mobility-as-a-service, future of work and platform marketplaces.

“We formed that practice to develop a unique value proposition that resonated with clients who were asking for the insurance industry to respond in an agile way to constantly evolving client needs,” she said. “That experience taught me to understand the value of a minimum viable product to test a new solution.”

From the evolving tech space to external challenges such as extreme weather and the Covid-19 pandemic, Slyfield said many companies are facing “more complex and interconnected challenges than ever before”.

“Their needs continue to rapidly evolve and outpace innovation, exposing a troubling gap. This includes the rise of long-tail risks that were once thought of as rare but are becoming more common with implications that are more severe over time,” she said.

“Clients are rightly demanding an adviser capable of providing guidance and solutions that give them clarity and confidence to make better decisions to protect and grow their business. They expect us to be bold and stay ahead of market trends.”

Innovation in action

Slyfield, who will be speaking at Silicon Republic’s Future Human event next month, highlighted intellectual property as one area where Aon is helping clients in an innovative way. She said Aon’s intellectual property solutions team has developed a way to help companies identify and value their intellectual property, and then borrow against it to unlock access to non-dilutive capital.

“When I’ve talked about unmet needs, one of the areas we’ve identified and focus on is helping clients gain access to capital. Before this solution, start-ups’ primary option to raise capital was to offer equity shares, diluting the founders’ equity value,” she said.

“Giving founders a mechanism to borrow against their own IP completely changes the game and has enormous implications for early-stage companies. The potential for this funding mechanism is massive.”

Another example is from the company’s public sector partnership team, which has deep experience serving in government, insurance, reinsurance, consulting and the capital markets.

“As state and local governments faced extraordinary demands in the face of volatility driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, there were difficult choices to be made as governments continued to experience challenges from other risks such as extreme weather events and demands on infrastructure,” said Slyfield.

“Aon’s public sector partnership develops innovative solutions that reduce the impact of stress events, creating more predictable budget outcomes.”

As part of her role as chief innovation officer, Slyfield is building a strategy that aims to create, manage and scale solutions to help address unmet client needs.

“We’re now positioned to accelerate our innovation strategy to capitalise on our own momentum by replicating successful solutions from certain parts of the business and applying those capabilities to new client bases, paving the way for innovation at scale.

“We’re incorporating our data, analytics and insights to apply existing capabilities to previously unmet client needs, while also developing integrated and net new solutions that anticipate the needs of tomorrow.”

Future Human is Silicon Republic’s international sci-tech event focusing on the future of work, climate, entrepreneurship, leadership and the web. The event will take place on 12-13 May 2022, and in-person and online tickets are available at the Future Human website. For more information, you can also sign up to the Future Human newsletter for event updates and special offers.

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic