The Changing Face of Insurance: an Insight Into the Ever-Evolving Industry that Has Been Flying Under the Radar
In the world of Insurance, London is renowned as the largest global hub in the industry, home to the world’s leading insurance marketplace, Lloyd’s of London. As such, it is rather ironic that many of us do not actually know what a job in this dynamic sector entails and are unlikely to stumble across such information without purposeful research on or exposure to the industry.
Moreover, an image predominates among the public that Insurance, and generally the financial services, are industries dominated by men and lacking in overall diversity. Unfortunately, this is not just a notion, but a reality corroborated by facts. One example of this can be found in the 2017 London Matters report, which tells us that despite 44% of the London market workforce being women, only 3% of Executive Directors within the London Insurance industry are female.
While diversity is a rich term that encompasses a variety of factors – such as ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and sexuality – this article will focus on female representation in the industry. As such, we have spoken to three experts in the field, all of whom have come from a sporting background. The first, Heidi Carslaw, is a Managing Director at Mactavish who competed to a high level in equestrian sports. We also talked with Holly Payne, a VP at Marsh McLennan, who was previously an England hockey player, as well as Holly Hill, an Insurance Broker at John Lamb Hill Oldridge and former GB rower. Over the course of these interviews, we were enlightened as to what a job in Insurance is really like, and we discussed the invaluable skillsets that have transcribed from elite sports training to the workplace, as well as how the industry is evolving to become more inclusive for women.
The Essence of Insurance Careers at a Glance: Fast-Paced, Dynamic & Constantly Evolving
Across our discussions with these industry experts, it was evident that a career in Insurance cannot be defined by a simple and straightforward explanation. All three women told us with a lot of enthusiasm that insurance is an incredibly broad and evolving sector, offering a variety of fabulous opportunities in an environment that is constantly changing. Heidi Carslaw pointed to this as one of the reasons why she loves her job, explaining that “every day is a different day, you’re always learning something new. You get to meet some really interesting clients and develop long-lasting friendships”. Managing Director at Mactavish, the UK’s leading independent buyer of insurance on behalf of business policyholders, Heidi is responsible for the overall relationships between the company and the clients, ultimately making sure that they deliver on what was promised. Further to this, she is also always on the lookout for areas in which they can develop new business opportunities, with the long-term goal of trying to grow the company over the coming years. Holly Hill works at John Lamb Hill Oldridge, a specialist Insurance Brokerage that deals in Life Insurance, which most of the time is based around inheritance tax planning. She described her workplace as being split into two arms; one side deals with private wealth, whereas Holly’s team focuses more on dealings with landed estates and larger established families.
Holly Hill on the boat - photo by Chris Down
Despite working in different fields, the three women unanimously described the industry as fast-paced, dynamic, and a place where you can always learn something new. Holly Payne is VP Broker in International Casualty at Marsh Marsh McLennan, which provides data-driven risk advisory services and insurance solutions to commercial and consumer clients. She showed her appreciation for the analytical aspects of the industry, which plays very much to the strengths of her STEM PhD (University of Birmingham, MSc Toxicology, PhD Platelets & Thrombosis). She also explained that Insurance is not a career in which you can get bored easily, as there are always different tasks to be done, many of which are connected to a variety of other industries. Similarly, Holly Hill told us that she is always gaining lots of new knowledge since “a lot of insurance is problem-solving – it’s not simple or straightforward, you have to play in the market until you get the right solution”.
In addition, Heidi illustrated that insurance holds many opportunities, leaving the door open for a variety of skillsets and personalities; “If you’re in the sales arena, you need to be someone who’s outgoing, enjoys talking to people, and has good communication abilities. Behind the scenes, in terms of analytics or underwriting, you should be more detail-oriented and have an inquisitive mind”. However, she said that the most important thing is to be passionate about the industry and committed to developing your skills and progressing your career.
“We (athletes) underestimate the skills that we get from sports and can bring to the corporate world”
The Pathway Into the Industry
In their transition from the sporting world to the workplace, they all agreed that they brought invaluable skills from the former to the latter. When Holly Payne was asked about which skills have transcribed from elite hockey to her current career, what first came to her mind was the ability to work productively in a team; a crucial skill when collaborating with individuals who possess distinct communication styles and work at varying paces. She described a feeling that many athletes who move into the workplace are familiar with: “We underestimate as athletes the skills that we get from sports and can bring to the corporate world. We often feel underequipped, as we don’t have the experience or background that others do, but there are so many other skills that we get from team sports that go unnoticed because we just do them naturally”. Looking back, she remembers how skills like ‘teamwork’, ‘time-management’, and ‘leadership’ were seen as simple “buzzwords”, but she has now come to realise that, thanks to hockey, they have become an ingrained response which has given her a good grounding for life.
“It’s not female-first, it’s just equal”
The State of Play & Future of Diversity in Insurance
Despite comprising 44% of the overall workforce in the London market, women account for a mere 3% of Executive Directors in the Insurance, indicating a significant gender disparity. In contrast, the representation of women as Executive Directors in the FTSE 100 companies has reached 21% (even though this also remains far from being satisfactory). While insurance continues to be an incredibly male-dominated sector, all three women asserted that the situation is improving. Holly Payne admitted that the industry may be behind the curve in terms of equal representation, but she has also witnessed a huge push to employ more women. This appears to be occurring both at entry and senior levels, as women are increasingly being considered for executive positions across the board. Holly Hill highlighted that while she is aware that a watertight solution to the issue will not arise overnight, knowing that there are numerous women in the industry and women’s networking groups in the city are incredibly helpful. She aptly describes these organisations as “strength in numbers, which allows women to join together and push forward as we want to”.
Photo Credits: Mizuno Field Hockey @mizunofieldhockey at @SurbitonHC
With regard to the future, there was a unanimous assertion for the necessity of further improvement. Although they all also warned against what Heidi described as “viewing gender equality as a quota that must be fulfilled as a means of bending to the desires of society, rather than actually appreciating and respecting women for their own merits”. Holly Hill also advocates for the practice of hiring and promoting based on individual merit rather than gender; “it's not female-first, it’s just equal. It’s about just valuing everybody, no matter what role you’re in or your gender. You’re just doing your role to the best of your abilities.”
The expectation is that the current progress will accelerate significantly, with the increased hiring of women in senior roles leading to greater recognition and appreciation of their individual talents, unique and fresh perspectives.
Advice For the Future Generation of Insurance Talents
Holly Hill’s mantra is to “get the most out of life, be the best version of myself, and enjoy it along the way”. In other words, she stressed the importance of actively taking the things she likes and applying them to insurance, such as appreciating the communicative and relationship-based aspects of the job. She is a strong believer that if you bring this attitude into your job, you will end up having fun. In terms of career searching, she advises not to panic and stay calm; “you don’t have the take the first job that presents itself, or you might miss an opportunity that comes up later.”
Holly Payne shared this sentiment, telling us that as a student-athlete, you should “back yourself and have the confidence that you have so many skills to bring to the workplace” Furthermore, she emphasised that one of the most important things for those currently experiencing that strange and often disconcerting period of time before deciding on a career path was to “be really open-minded; you are not limited or pigeon-holed into any one route, but if you take a risk then a lot of opportunities can come your way.”
Finally, we will end with the encouraging advice that Heidi gave for anyone considering a job in insurance: “just do it! It really is a fascinating industry, there’s a great opportunity for people to develop careers in a range of different sectors, roles, and experiences. Do a bit of research first – try to understand what is available within the insurance sector, what are the niche roles, and what it is that interests you. With this prior research, you will end up in the right role. Ultimately, just be yourself, and let your own personality shine through. Make sure you know what you’re on about and if you’re passionate about what you do, then there will be opportunities.”