Q&A: Claims Apprentice 2020 winner Kelly Huddleston

Kelly Huddleston

Kelly Huddleston, credit hire team leader for Covéa, has been crowned winner of the Claims Apprentice 2020. Post caught up with Kelly and sponsor Kennedys’ own Alan Sugar, Suzanne Liversidge about the experience, the process and the challenges

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How did you find the process of filming?

I quite enjoyed the filming. We have good technology platforms now like Zoom we used during lockdown which have been very useful. Without that we would’ve struggled having to use emails and telephone. Luckily we’ve got that and it took some of the nerves away. When we were in London we were thrown into a situation where you were in front of everybody. The fact you were behind your laptop helped take away a bit of the nerves.

What was your favourite task and what was your least favourite?

My favourite task was the podcast challenge. To go into the studio and do the recording it was just more fun. It was not something I’ve done before and we all got something out of it and it was just a really good experience so we all enjoyed that one. For me the insurtech challenge was probably the most difficult for me when it came to working out financials. I’ve never done a business plan before so it was a bit out of my comfort zone. It was the task that challenged me the most.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the tasks had to be changed to an individual task looking at the cyber security risks of working remotely. As the only contestant to produce a video what was your thought process behind that and did you think that would help you stand out?

I didn’t know until we got the results that I was the only person that had done a video so I was quite pleased with myself as that would help me stand out from the others. But for me it seemed like the easiest thing to do and made sense to me as much as a poster is nice and visual, for me a video creates more impact – it has sound and graphics. That was my method of learning. If I see something I remember it so and luckily it paid off.

How did you find having to do the task individually rather than in a team?

It was fine. We still shared our thoughts and were still in touch – we created a Whats App group. We were still very much in touch and sharing ideas so I never really felt like I was working on my own. I prepared that video on my own but I’m used to doing that at work anyway so I didn’t mind doing that.

Since you were crowned Claims Apprentice 2020 winner what has the reaction been from colleagues, family and friends?

It’s been quite overwhelming to be honest. I am not one to draw attention to myself and I’m not on social media platforms. It’s been lovely – there’s been a little bit of banter at work saying I’m the local celebrity. It definitely provides me with a lot of recognition and work has been fabulous sharing it on our intranet and showing lots of support. I’m really grateful for the opportunity.

What skills do you think you brought to the tasks? Is there anything you felt less confident in doing?

I kept thinking ‘how did I win?’ and ‘what have I done that is any different to the others?’ because I thought the others were so good. It brought out my people skills and how I’m able to empathise with others and think about the experience from a customer’s point of view. Generally I’m quite good at bringing a team together and I believe I brought that to our team. The thing I probably found difficult was that it was a new experience and I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Dealing with tasks that I normally don’t deal with on a day-to-day basis. In the lead up to the day of the tasks I caused myself a little bit of worry about them when actually they were all really enjoyable.

What would you say you’ve learnt from the process?

I’ve grown in confidence. The experience has given me a lot more confidence about how to approach things and I’ve realised I shouldn’t worry so much.

What is next for you in your career?

I have been speaking to my manager about this. I’m quite new to the insurance market as I’m coming up to two years now with Covéa. It would be nice to experience another department and maybe further down the line get a bit more of the leadership experience under my belt. Then maybe take that to another department to get more variation. My hope is then to go up to a team manager position, which is the next stage within our company so that’s where I’ll be looking to my development.

Would you do the experience all over again?

Yes I would. I would like to come back to London again. At the beginning it was a bit of a bad start because of the storms and everything.  It would’ve been nice to finish it off down in London but we had to do everything virtually.

What words of wisdom would you give to anyone who wants to apply for next year’s Claims Apprentice?

Go for it – just put yourself out of your comfort zone. Yes you will be stretched and have your challenges but you will overcome them and really enjoy it. Your confidence will grow hugely and if it’s something you’re looking for to help in your career and development it’s an opportunity that you should just snap up. There was a lot of support along the way with the mentors – there were a lot of people we can speak to and email to make sure we were on the right track so you’re supported all along the journey as well.

Suzanne Liversidge

Q&A: Suzanne Liversidge, global managing partner at Kennedys

How were the ideas for the tasks put together?

Kennedys’ philosophy is helping clients to solve issues using skill and innovation. We’ve used this initiative to allow us to work with Post and identify key focus areas that are of real importance to the insurance industry right now, and ask our apprentices to find solutions. 

Due to lockdown measures the last task had to be done via video conferencing. How did you have to adapt to that?

Throughout Covid-19 we’ve all realised how much we miss the personal contact. But having said that we were already well into the situation when we filmed the second part of it. So I was very used to doing my daily meetings in that format. So while I miss the personal contact, in particular, when announcing the winner, the virtual experience was remarkably easy and still very enjoyable. It translated very well into the programme that was put out. 

How do you think the process went? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

The process is a really fun way to do it. I Iove the format of the series with the tasks. The tasks allow you to see each individual and the teams interact. Two things I’d do differently – I’d change the weather on the day we were going to start filming and I would avoid a Covid-19 situation. But we managed to deal with both. 

Could you see Kelly working on the legal side as a lawyer?

Yes she’s bright, she’s hard working, she’s passionate, she’s innovative, she’s a people person and committed – and those are the ingredients we look for in a Kennedys lawyer all the time – so definitely.

How did you decide on a winner?

That was really difficult – every single candidate was a worthy winner. A really good cohort this year – each one impressed in different ways. Kelly had the edge because she had gone on such a personal journey - from absolute total fear to actually shining throughout the experience – growing in confidence and realising her skillset and her ability. 

How do you see the future of claims management over the next 10 years?

It’s a bright future. There’s a huge amount of change ahead of us in relation to insurance and claims – in digitial transformation, innovation and globalisation – and those things make for an exciting future and career in claims, whatever part of the claims management process you work in. Technology is changing rapidly – the way that we work, the increase in artificial intelligence, the rise of insurtech, big data are all critical to the future of claims.

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