Change may be the only constant in life, but it does not necessarily come easy. For BHIB Insurance Brokers managing director Julie Walker (pictured), it meant having to step back, assess one’s strengths, and ask the right questions.
Here the MD talks about what it took to harmonise the business, and opens up to Insurance Business about a major move many moons ago which saw her not only start over but also enter the broking world.
What made you pursue a career in insurance?
I ‘fell’ into insurance rather than it being a direct career choice. To be honest, at the time – way back – I didn’t really know what the insurance world was all about, I just needed a job when I finished my A-levels.
In your four decades in the industry, what do you consider as the most significant developments?
Not quite four decades but certainly a long career… The landscape of insurance has changed dramatically, particularly with the technological advances that have been made in the last few years. There has been more changes in that last five years than the previous 50, in how we transact business, how we engage with our customers, and never more so than in the claims arena.
As managing director of BHIB Insurance Brokers, what do you envision for the business?
We are continuing to evolve our business model to ensure that we are fit for purpose – today, tomorrow, and long into the future. Customers will always be our number one priority, and providing solid professional advice by qualified staff is the bedrock of our business.
This will not change, but we recognise that customer demands are changing, their needs are changing, and so we have to be agile enough to adapt quickly. Recently we have added new divisions to the business in affinities and wholesale, which complement the traditional way of broking. By doing this, we like to think that we have all roots to market covered.
In terms of challenges, what would you say have been the biggest in your current role?
I have to say that I am fortunate to work with some exceptional people who are very supportive, and so together we hit challenges head on.
Our business has grown rapidly over the last few years, by both acquisition and organic growth, and so one of the biggest challenges for me and my management team was to effect procedural and system change management so that we came together as one business operating in one way.
We looked at what we were good at, not so good at, and where our expertise were, and within this we had to embrace technology and what was on offer in the marketplace together with what we could develop ourselves via our own in-house software division.
To some extent we ‘ripped up’ our broking operating model, took a step back and asked ‘Why do we do this – Could we do it better – How can we be more efficient, and most importantly of all – Is how we do things what our customers want’.
We have even implemented in the last few months a whole new IT system!
Despite an awful lot of upheaval for the staff – who were brilliant in dealing with all of this – we have become a much more focused business with clearer direction and sights set firmly on the future.
Where would you be if not in insurance?
I had always set my sights on a career in the police force and in fact had been accepted into the force in the October intake after leaving college. My parents said I needed a job over the summer months; they weren’t going to fund me while I sat around waiting out the summer, before I joined the force, and so I took an office junior job at Eagle Star – October came and went and the rest is history!
Name one thing your peers probably don’t know about you.
I am pretty much an open book – but many won’t know that I emigrated to America in the ‘90s with my husband’s job, but I am too much of a home bird and we came back after two years as a penniless couple, with two children and no jobs! That’s when I got into broking and started my career all over again.