With a career in the insurance industry spanning over 20 years, group underwriting manager at Markerstudy Wendy Hilder said she has seen a lot of changes, with the industry remaining an exciting one to work in.
Hilder began her career in insurance at Sun Alliance, working at their St James’s street office in a dynamic part of London. She said she wasn’t sure what made her choose insurance when looking for a job.
“There were quite a lot to choose from and if I remember rightly it probably paid more than the others,” she said. After two years she left Sun Alliance and started a short-lived stint at NatWest.
“I wanted to work locally rather than in London, but I hated banking,” Hilder said. “There was no opportunity for decision making, it was very much a process. You either stood behind a counter and did counter work, or you did the same thing every day. There was no scope for any sort of personal involvement.”
Heading back into insurance for good this time, Hilder held positions at Guardian Royal Exchange and Link Insurance Solutions before joining Markerstudy.
Fraud is one area Hilder has done a lot of work in. One of the challenges of this area is changing the public’s perception of who insurance fraud actually affects. A recent study commissioned by AXA
found that nearly two million in the UK have made some kind of fraudulent claim, with many seeing it as a victimless crime. Hilder said changing what people understand the definition of fraud to be would make for a huge discouragement.
“Inflating a claim is fraud. The same way claiming for something that didn’t happen is, but whether the public accept that I don’t know. There’s an awful lot of work going on in various industry bodies to publicise fraud and the impact and the consequence of it, which I think is good.”
Fraud stories hitting the press is one way of changing perceptions. “That’s part of the strategy, ensuring people understand that there are consequences of fraud and you won’t get away with it,” Hilder said.
Communication in general is another area of focus for Markerstudy. It’s something the financial services industry could do better as whole Hilder said, mentioning a recent experience with her pension provider.
“I’m not exaggerating, I got nine letters in three days from this pension company. I assume that all of that information was sent to me because it was necessary. Did I read nine letters? Not a chance.”
Hilder was heavily involved in the development of a customer charter for Markerstudy, designed to improve customer service and improve engagement.
“It is about being able to approach people with the right information at the right time in the right way,” said Hilder. “If we can do that, then I think some of the natural distrust, or natural apathy starts to disappear.”
Hilder said in her experience, being a woman has never held her back in the industry, and as long as someone was determined and capable they could go far.
“I don’t know why there aren’t more females involved in the industry at this level, but I don’t think that’s because there are barriers,” she said. “I’ve got two daughters, so if I felt they wouldn’t have a chance in this industry I’d be quite disappointed, but I honestly don’t think there’s be anything that could hold them or anyone else back in the industry.
What helped her get ahead of the competition was taking professional exams.
“I think taking the CII
exams was the biggest single thing I did to help kick start my career. You might just put it on a CV or job application, but it also means that people look at that and you might get an interview whereas you might not have done without it. You’ve still got to go and do the interview and you’ve still got to pass it and you’ve got to do the job, but it just opens some doors. I’m very grateful for having people in the past who encouraged me to do that because it’s made a huge difference.”
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