We spoke to Vicky Rowlay, National Director – Business Transformation at Arch Insurance (UK), about the huge career appeal of the insurance industry, how the marketplace is transforming, where it is headed and how those entering the sector can get the most out of such a dynamic sector.
How did your career in the insurance industry start and do you think the industry is doing enough to promote its career potential?
To be honest luck had a big part to play in it. I sent out a speculative application letter to several companies in the financial sector and Sun Alliance was the first to respond. Although, while I might have entered the market by chance, I’ve stayed for nearly 40 years by choice!
I don’t think any sector offers greater career potential than insurance. I’m extremely passionate about promoting this – in fact, we’ve established a broker working group to push this very agenda. The industry is evolving so quickly and the intellectual capital you need never stops being built. It’s so integral to the ability of every type of business to take risks and as an industry we enable so much.
How has the way the industry operates changed during your career to date?
It’s safe to say it has changed more in the last 5-10 years than in the preceding 30. One area in particular is the way in which we work together. It used to be a very hierarchical, male-dominated sector and that has changed massively. The working environment is now much more inclusive and collaborative. You’re getting input and ideas from all levels – new joiners right through to seasoned practitioners. That enables much broader and more involved conversations that make a real difference to how we work.
Can you talk to me about your role as Head of Transformation?
There was a simple reason why I was given this role – I was always one of the loudest voices at the table when it came to talking about how we can improve what we do, so I was given the opportunity to make it happen.
When we started this journey, over two years ago we were in ‘fixing mode’ with the focus more on problem-solving. Now however it’s much more forward-looking and focused on first-mover advantage as we look to future-proof our organisation. We’ve got some amazing thinkers with fresh perspectives in our team, so the opportunity pipeline is bountiful.
What are some of the developments you’ve helped drive through?
We’ve seen transformation across every aspect of our business – systems and processes, customer interaction, financial results, and people.
On the people front, for example, we’ve introduced the Arch Academy taking 15 people straight out of education onto an intensive 24-month training programme to give then all the skills and qualifications they’ll need to have an incredible insurance career. They train as a single cohort, progressing at the same speed, and they also get to meet with our senior team regularly – something I don’t think they would get to do elsewhere.
We’re also in the process of expanding our online products portfolio and we’ve invested in building our own insurer hosted proposition rather than relying on software houses to effect the changes we require which means we can be more responsive in adjusting our rates.
I would add that Arch is a company built on giving brokers direct access to underwriters – including in the digital environment. So, every risk no matter how small can be funnelled to one of our highly experienced underwriters if it doesn’t fit through the digital channel.
Where do you expect to see the biggest transformations over the next 5 years?
I’d expect data enrichment using AI and Machine Learning to increase dramatically.
It’s clearly going to revolutionise the underwriting process over the next 5 years. What that will mean I think is that the way that we interact with brokers will becomes less transactional and more strategic as we look to secure stronger risk commitments and evolve the relationship.
In such a dynamic environment, what advice would you give to someone early in their career?
My advice would be to stay curious and inquisitive and be clear about why you want to work in this industry. When you’re looking at your career progression don’t think about specific roles, but rather focus on what you love doing.
Also, don’t be afraid to step sideways or change lanes – often that can provide a much more enriching career progression rather than pushing down the more linear route. Remember that this industry has so much to offer – so choose something you are truly passionate about.