Hear from three award-nominated women at FM Global, discussing opportunities, challenges, and trends.
Touchpoints UK has spoken to the three women from FM Global’s UK team who have been nominated in the Women in Insurance Awards 2020 to hear about their career, approach to working life and what stands them apart.
Helena Richards (HR), Operations Vice President, Operations Chief Underwriter, London Operations, Clare Obeng (CO), Assistant Vice President, Senior Global Services Executive and Janet Bramwell (JB), Senior Project Specialist, FM Approvals share their experiences and advice for the next generation.
Which award have you been nominated for in the Women in Insurance Awards 2020?
JB: I am really honoured to have been nominated for the Mentor of the Year Award. In addition to my day job in the FM Approvals EMEA Business Development team, I also voluntarily mentor colleagues across the business in developing their leadership and public speaking skills . I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to support a large range of colleagues and through leading the education programme within the FM Global UK sponsored Toastmasters Group for a number of years, I have seen the difference that providing a safe and supportive environment to practice public speaking and leadership skills within this framework can make.
CO: My role at FM Global is a Senior Global Services Executive within the Global Services EMEA team. This team is a group of insurance professionals that provide 3 levels of service – i) internally we support all the producing operations around the world in all matters related to Global Delivery, indeed that international expertise may also be called upon by our other internal departments such as finance, tax and legal, to name a few; ii) external client and broker servicing predominantly on the ground, internationally, so all the client and broker contacts in each country have the service expected from either FM Global or any one of our local WorldReach Partners; and iii) external relationship management with our WorldReach partners in all countries where FM Global does not have a license to operate. Through this role I have been nominated in the Risk Professional of the year category.
HR: I have been nominated for Underwriting Professional of the Year and I have just been appointed Operations Chief Underwriter for London Operations. In this role, I have responsibility for ensuring we make profitable underwriting decisions to ensure our Company can support our Clients’ businesses for the long-term (as per our mutual business model).
What do you consider to be your greatest achievements at FM Global and how would you sum up your approach to your role?
CO: I am a full-time working mum and the primary carer for my children who, since I embraced the new role that Global Services team members have been asked to fulfil which merges two roles previously split within the function, have grown from a 10 year old primary school child to a 15 years old teenager battling with her first set of important educational exams and from a 5 year old into a 10 year old approaching the end of his primary education and soon to start secondary school. My greatest achievement (although always room for improvement) is juggling family life with all its challenges along with putting all my efforts in giving 100% to my assigned roles within the Global Services team.
HR: What I love about working at FM Global is how our Underwriting teams work so closely with our Risk Engineering teams. It really is a unique business model, and gives an underwriter the chance to understand the risk exposures at our client’s businesses because the risk is brought to life by engineering colleagues who are visiting client sites day-in and day-out. It can be stretching intellectually, but these interactions really help us focus our underwriting analysis on what is most critical, rather than being diverted by minutiae.
We also ask our underwriters to attend engineering visits regularly, so that we have first-hand experience of what our client’s environment is like – it makes us better at what we do. I’ve visited an underground mine on the edge of the Arctic Circle, various factories making anything from hip replacements to diamond drill-bits, and am hoping to visit one of the largest power plants in the world in the next few weeks. From an underwriting perspective, we directly link Risk Quality to how we craft and price our insurance product – and its very satisfying to be able to support a client achieving on their Risk Improvement Plan by offering them a premium incentive. And the quid pro quo is being able to entice some of our engineers to join our underwriting teams.
My approach is to “set others up for Success”. Our underwriting team comes from various disciplines, everyone needs training, and we will all make mistakes as we learn – but if you want people to be the best they can be, then encouraging a more holistic and inclusive approach to developing their skills can really work.
JB: Through the public speaking mentoring over the years, I have, for example, helped prepare colleagues who are speaking at the UK kick off meeting. Following advice and support in preparation, I have had people say to me “if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have set foot on that stage”, which is hugely rewarding.
I have also very much enjoyed being part of the Society for Women Engineers Ambassador Programme, particularly the confidence and pleasure that speaking at some of those events has given me. I feel that, if I am inspiring others in anywhere near the same way as some of the women I have heard speak at those events, then I am on the right track.
My approach to work, or my work mantra, is the same as my mantra in life – treat people how you would want to be treated, always with respect and kindness.
The insurance industry, particularly the commercial property insurance sector, is still relatively male-dominated. What advice would you give to young women considering career or university options and what is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given during your career in the industry?
HR: The advice that I would give to others is four-fold: firstly, if you knew you had to work, but wouldn’t get paid, what sort of career would give you satisfaction? Enjoying what you do is worth more than any pay-check. Secondly, know that if you don’t find the right job first time, that is ok – you will learn a lot about yourself in the process, and building resilience is an important life skill. Thirdly, bring your authentic self to work – having to contort yourself to fit in where you don’t feel you belong is not sustainable for long without it affecting your health. And finally, which is also the best piece of advice that I have been given, if you don’t have a boss who is prepared to support and nurture your development, find a mentor who can help you until you eventually find a new boss – being valued by someone you respect and can learn from early in your career will help you know how to be a better boss when you move up in an organisation.
JB: The advice I would give to others is the same I have given my daughter. Whether it is choosing a university or career, you must feel like you fit. If you fit, you can remain true to yourself, fulfil your true potential and add value. It is also important to continually learn and to speak with confidence so your voice can be heard.
The most helpful advice and support I have received is to remember that professional qualifications are not the be all and end all, if you have the gift of empowering others, that is qualification enough.
CO: The insurance industry appears on the face of it a very large industry of suits, seriousness and to some degree an intimidating world of high stress high stakes. However, I have grown to learn that perception is not always reality. My experience of the insurance industry is that the majority of people that work within it are extremely friendly and passionate about elevating insurance as a profession of highly skilled people that want to do right by our clients. Once understood, you quickly realise that this industry supports so much global growth and new developments in a risky world. While the population of insurance industry professionals is large, I often find myself repeating the phrase “it’s a small world”. Reputation is everything in this industry. The key is to remember to maintain a high level of integrity in everything we do. We must take care and guard our relationships across the industry because despite the efficiencies and constant technological roll-outs changing some of the linear transactional processes, the insurance industry will always thrive on people and the high quality engagement that this industry lives and breathes on.
Are there any trends in the industry that you think individuals and organisations should be aware of, and taking into account as we head towards 2021 and begin to move away from the peak of COVID-19?
JB: For me, the pandemic has taught us a lot – one to the main things is around communication. We have all had to adapt and to find different ways of keeping in contact with family, friends, and colleagues. Embracing this and continuing to focus on how we communicate is pretty key moving forward.
HR: Our industry needs to be more inclusive across the board, and post-Covid it would undoubtedly help all companies to embrace the many benefits of remote working recently tried and tested across the industry since lockdown. When staff are trusted to do the right thing, and you have the reliable technology in place, great things can happen – and happy staff who can balance both work and life commitments are always going to be more productive. To me that’s a “win-win”. I am really proud of how our teams have adjusted, and as a Company we have continued to deliver a top-quality service to our clients and brokers in these difficult times.
CO: In my opinion, and from what I have experienced, I believe the insurance industry has shown that we can excel at our value-added services despite Covid-19. There are many stories of resilience and even performance beyond expectation. I have seen many insurers and brokers already moving towards agility and flexible working for their employees. Covid-19 may well have accelerated these practices in a lockdown environment. There is no reason why we cannot continue to nurture and develop strong business relationships which make this industry truly excel at the same time as offering employees flexibility in the way that we work. The technology is now so advanced that teams can flourish online both internally and externally. I personally look forward to watching the industry become even more resilient than ever before with agility through elevating technology to protect and enhance our business relationships even more.