Young, female and not originally from the UK – with a strong push for diversity in the insurance industry, Karolina Komarnicka appears to tick all the boxes. Yet this highly talented Poland native with a background in the fashion industry is proof that one size does not fit all when it comes to attracting new faces to the industry.
That’s because Karolina breaks down the stereotypical perceptions of what that sought-after Millennial generation is supposed to be. Those that brandish this new wave as being lazy and entitled clearly haven’t come across a 23-year-old who has already dipped her toes into multiple industries, works until 10pm on a daily basis and flies from London to Berlin during the weekends to pursue her own business.
This is not a young upstart who has had everything handed to her either – this is a woman who has worked for everything she’s achieved from humble beginnings.
“I moved to London when I was right about to start A-levels,” she said. “I am from Warsaw originally and I never had plans to move here but my Dad moved and we all moved with him. He was a diplomat.
“In my A-levels I passed with straight A*s. It wasn’t easy because of the language barrier and I had a lot of difficulties at the start, but it worked out really well. I got great results that I didn’t really expect but then I went to university doing business management and got a first and won the Helen Maurice prize for outstanding achievement for consistently getting above a 90% pass rate.”
Her university success was just the tip of the iceberg as she had already begun a fledgling modelling career aged just 19, working for internationally renowned American retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.
“I got scouted on the train, it was very random,” she explains. “But I am very much a ‘yes’ person – I am saying ‘yes’ to everything, within reason of course! I think it’s important to grab everything that comes your way and I knew the brand so I didn’t hesitate. I thought ‘why not’… ‘just go for it’… and I went along for the casting.
“It was fun. I did mostly catalogue and in-store marketing. I was promoting the brand by working in the clothes. We would sit outside the store in the clothes and people would take photos with us. It was quite unique but also quite tiring.”
While continuing to study, Karolina juggled a fashion career and marketing taking intern positions at several firms while also modelling for Gilly Hicks and working as a fashion co-ordinator for Bodymetrics. She has spent the last two years, however, working at PremFina, the premium finance facility which aims to offer brokers better returns and better retention.
“This is actually my first full-time job,” she said. “All the things I did before were just for four or five months and most of them were unpaid. They were literally just to get work experience. I knew that I didn’t want to go into a big corporation at first – I wanted to be more hands-on and learn quicker about different aspects of a business rather than one specific area.”
Understandably for a woman who has packed in so much into such a short space of time, however, Karolina isn’t resting on her laurels. Instead she continues to look for new opportunities and is one of the founders of a business that is developing a fitness application that she hopes will be ready within three months. She currently travels between Berlin, where the developers of the application are located, and London during the weekends. Indeed she’s not forgotten the fashion industry either.
“I want to have my own business eventually,” she said. “I want to be in the fashion business so I have an idea to do a capsule wardrobe. It’s a small wardrobe – say 40 key pieces – with the basics, white shirt, jeans, really well-tailored and well-made, high quality. The idea is that you can buy the whole wardrobe and have everything put together for you; or you can just buy by outfit or an individual piece.
“It has a lot of potential because there is such saturation in the fashion market – you literally don’t know what to choose any more and I think this brings more of a focus. It could be an online business or it could grow into something more than that.”
So how did this highly qualified and ambitious young woman make it into the insurance industry? According to Karolina it was the broadness of the industry that attracted her – but if insurance wants to attract more young women like her it needs to put females into positions of power and present them as role models.
“There needs to be more of a presentation of women in the industry,” she said. “If it wants to attract young women it should offer free tickets to a conference, have more female speakers, let women be ambassadors for the brand. When there are guys promoting a company and diversity you don’t identify with the message – let women speak and talk about the benefits of the industry and what opportunities that it can give to you. Open the eyes of women from a female point of view.
“When you’re a woman in this industry you actually have a huge opportunity. People don’t expect anything from you – but the reality is you’re always something different and that gives you power. You have an advantage to exceed expectations and prove people wrong. That’s something I am passionate about.”
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