As part of Post’s countdown to the 20th anniversary of the British Insurance Awards in July, we spoke to two past winners of the Young Achiever accolade. Equity’s Victoria Cuggy won the award in 2006 for her work in managing the company’s compliance matters, as well as its Lloyd’s managing agency company, Equity Syndicate Management; while Claire White scooped the prize last year for delivering the best results to date during her time at Allianz Commercial’s national SME unit.
How has your career progressed since you won the Young Achiever award?
Victoria Cuggy, company secretary and head of corporate governance & regulatory affairs at Equity Insurance Group: I am now a member of the executive management team, and have a wider role in which I am responsible for not only company secretarial, but also legal and regulatory compliance. I will have been with Equity 12 years this year, and while it could probably be argued that this is too long to stay in any role, opportunities have arisen that have meant there has been no professional need to move on.
Claire White, senior manager, Allianz Engineering: Being a 2013 winner, there hasn’t been a lot of time since the awards, but I have recently been appointed as a senior manager within the Allianz engineering business. My new role is a huge contrast to my previous responsibility of running a large operation, but it is this variety that keeps working in the industry so appealing.
What have been the highs of the industry since you won your award?
VC: The industry and the wider financial services market has had a very difficult few years for numerous reasons, which makes this question very difficult to answer.
CW: The industry is becoming increasingly successful at attracting talent. While people have often said they have just ‘fallen’ into it, I am increasingly coming across those who have set out to build their career in insurance.
And the lows?
VC: For me this has been the assumption that insurance companies were party to the financial crisis of 2008 and, therefore, subject to the same level of scrutiny as the banks.
CW: It would be difficult not to mention the recent floods. It’s a challenging time across the industry, but a time where we are able to do what we are in business to do – help our customers get back on their feet.
What were the biggest challenges facing the industry when you won your award? Have they changed since then?
VC: When I won my award, the industry was still in the throes of getting used to the Financial Services Authority. In a way this has not changed, as we are now having to embed the new requirements of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Obviously, consumer confidence and increased competition, with the birth of aggregators, have also been challenges.
What challenges face the market now and how do you think it will respond in 2014?
VC: The issues are as stated in the previous answer. How the industry will respond is largely dependent on the regulatory environment we now all need to operate within.
CW: The need to constantly evolve will always be a challenge. Business models will need to adapt to ensure they are sustainable and relevant. We need to move towards a more efficient way of working while also enhancing the customer journey.
Who would be your dream BIA music performance?
VC: Bon Jovi! Old school but brilliant. Everyone knows the words to their songs, no matter what age you are – they span the spectrum of age groups and would liven up any atmosphere.
CW: Ellie Goulding.
What is your best memory of the BIAs?
VC: Obviously winning the award but, other than that, the atmosphere and venue, which were amazing. There is, of course, the memory of the very long and embarrassing walk to collect the award, as our table was right at the back – but this is more a cringe moment than a best memory.
CW: I had a fantastic (late) night at the BIAs, but the highlight was coming back to the office to a surprise celebration organised by my team. I was pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate with them, as most of my success has been down to the fortune of having the opportunity to lead a great team.
The BIAs are 20 years old this year. What were you doing in 1994?
VC: In 1994 I was 16 years old, still at school taking my GCSEs and planning what A-levels I would like to take. Back then, I thought they would be toughest things I would need to do – if only I knew then what I know now.
CW: I would have been 12 years old, having just started secondary school at the Folkestone School for Girls. A career in insurance was not on the agenda at that stage.
If you hadn’t chosen a career in insurance what do you think you would be doing now?
VC: In all honesty I did not actively choose a career in insurance – I am a chartered secretary by trade and joined the company secretarial department of Equity. Had I not taken the position with Equity, my life would have panned out completely differently.
CW: I would have started my own business – doing what, I am not sure. I don’t mind hard work and would enjoy the challenge.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone beginning their insurance career?
VC: Always make yourself known as someone who has a desire to learn and to take on responsibility. I am a firm believer that opportunities come to those who are willing to put their head above the parapet.
CW: Work for a good boss. Don’t chase promotion at the expense of working for and with good people.
If you could give a BIA to someone, who would it be and what for?
VC: I would give an award to Inga Beale, the new Lloyd’s chief executive. Who would have thought in a market so steeped in tradition there would ever be a female at the helm? This is seen as huge progression for women in the industry and should be an inspiration for the wider market.
CW: I would like to see my team receive a BIA. They put a huge amount of passion into what they do and it would be fantastic to watch them getting recognised for it externally.
Finally, the most important question of all: where do you display your trophy?
VC: My trophy is sitting on the top of a low-level cabinet in my office. Admittedly it could do with a really good clean and polish, but it is on display to all those who venture into my office.
CW: On the cabinet beside my desk.
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