What was your first job within financial services?
To make ends meet at university, I took a summer job with a pensions administrator, spending six weeks checking that letters generated by one computer system were consistent with another, before carefully folding them, inserting them into an envelope, and placing them in a post tray. Perhaps not the most glamorous start to a career, but we all start somewhere, and it certainly taught me the valuable lesson of not believing something just because the “computer says so”.
Describe your current role
I am chief executive of Engage Mutual. We are a Yorkshire based mutual insurance business of about 200 people, serving around half a million customers and particularly focusing on the ‘to and through retirement’ generation.
What is the biggest challenge in your current role?
Making mutuality meaningful for our customers. As a mutual, our customers are both our policyholders and our owners, so we want to do much more for them than just provide good value products. We want to make the benefits of belonging to a mutual business real and tangible for our customers, differentiating ourselves in the process. To that end, this year we’re setting aside £1m for the benefit of our customers and are working with them to let them decide how best they spend it for the benefit of themselves and their local communities.
What is the highlight of your career to date?
I spent two years of my career working in Europe, with responsibilities spanning a dozen countries. This resulted in a life of planes, trains and hotel rooms, which at times was tough, particularly since my wife and I had two young kids at the time. But when I look back, I realise what an extraordinary amount I learned in a relatively short period of time through being immersed in different cultures. As a bonus, many of the friendships that I made during that time still endure to this day.
What is your career ambition?
Contrary to best practice career advice, I have shamelessly adopted a spontaneous and opportunistic approach to managing my career. My principle has been to take on as many new challenges as I’m capable of but always to make sure that I was enjoying myself and learning as I went. So my career ambition is simply to keep being able to have fun and learn, for as long as I can.
What piece of advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Above all else, be true to yourself. You are probably going to have to work for 40 years or more, so do not think in terms of “getting a job”, think about what you want to do with your career that you truly believe is worthwhile.
If you cannot explain to your friends why you are proud to do the job that you do, then you are probably in the wrong job! And remember that radical changes of career direction are a lot easier when you are younger, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find the path that is right for you.