Meeting up with Victoria in London is tricky, as she has a busy life. She manages the Lloyd’s broker Aston Lark’s claims operations across several offices in the UK as well as studying for an MBA through the Open University. When we do, she does have some great stories to share about how her very successful insurance career.
What did you want to be at school?
A teacher like my mother, but just before the end of university, I decided that was not for me. So, I applied for jobs in my home town of Colchester in Essex and my first job was working for Capita who handled insurance claims on behalf of several London Market insurers.
Why did you choose a career in the London Insurance Market?
I was aware of Hiscox as a large Lloyd’s syndicate with a great international reputation, so once I realised I enjoyed working in insurance claims I joined their Colchester office. I had eight great years there including setting up and managing their UK commercial insurance claims team. After I completed my ACII insurance examinations, I decided it was time for a new challenge and moved to Towergate and then to Lark (now Aston Lark) who are a Lloyd’s broker, although I have responsibilities across the UK.
What does the job of a Director of Claim Operations entail?
When you are working for an insurer the role of the claims team is to help customers recover if they have a had a loss such as a fire or a theft, and make sure they are treated fairly. But at the same time, you have to ensure that you are not paying claims that are not covered within the insurance contract as that will impact profitability.
When you are working in claims for a broker, you are working for the customer so your object is to help your customer get back on track and ensure they receive a quick and fair claims payment from insurers, whilst still retaining the trust of those insurers. In operations, we are obviously trying to make sure we deliver a speedy and responsive claims service by organising and coaching our people and leveraging technology.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I fell in love with claims as I enjoyed helping customers when they most need help. In claims, you never know what claim is going to hit your desk that day. There are so many different scenarios that can occur – I remember ten years ago we suddenly had hundreds of claims as a result of a volcanic ash cloud which prevented air travel across Europe for three days and we had to figure out how to help our customers in a scenario no one had ever expected. Even when you have similar claims scenarios the customers and their emotional responses to the same scenario are often very different, so empathy helps too.
I also enjoy coaching (that ‘’teaching gene I suppose”) so I have enjoyed managing people and setting up new teams.
And of course, insurance is fundamental to so much social and economic activity. Look at all those music festivals which couldn’t run as it was too risky as they might be cancelled due to Covid 19, but they can now as the insurance industry has partnered with the Government to set up the Live Events scheme.
What skills do you need to do your job?
Like all jobs you need to be organised and able to prioritise so you can help the customers who need it most. You have to be able to analyse the insurance contract to see whether a claim is covered or not, but also need to understand what is fair.
Communicating complex concepts simply and clearly via email, telephone or in person is really important. Especially when you have to explain to a customer why their claim is not going to be paid in a way they understand. So, you still retain their trust.
And of course, you need to be able to build relationships not only with customers but with your colleagues and suppliers such as loss adjusters.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to join the London Market?
Don’t pigeon-hole yourself, keep your options open. All the roles in insurance are interconnected so once you understand the basics of insurance it is easier than you think to move around e.g. from claims to underwriting or underwriting to broking. Changing roles also helps you gain perspective, many of the best underwriters I know have also worked in claims.
Once you have got a position in a company understand about how that company works and think how you can help it succeed. I obtained a couple of promotions by identifying areas where I thought the business could be improved and then demonstrating that I was the right person to do the job of implementing that change.
Also, always make sure you have evidence which backs up why you are the right person for the role.
Fun fact about you
I have always worked in guiding or scouting but a lot of my time has recently been taken up looking after my dog a Miniature Schnauzer who is called Amos – as he looks like an old man!