Blossoming from ‘ordinary’ to ‘role model’ for diversity

Insurance Leader of the Year candidate talks about smashing gender stereotypes in the industry

Blossoming from ‘ordinary’ to ‘role model’ for diversity

Insurance News

By Louie Bacani

Over the past several months, Carol Geldard, of Covéa Insurance, has reached new heights in her career. In June 2016, she took up the role of personal lines director and recently she was shortlisted for the Insurance Leader of the Year title at the 2017 Women in Finance Awards.
The awards are considered the finance industry’s largest diversity initiative as they recognise high-achievers, advocates and exemplars for women in the sector. With her nomination, Geldard now serves as a “great role model” for Covéa’s other female leaders, the company said.
“To be honest, my first reaction was shock – what, me?” Geldard says of her nomination. “I’m really flattered, but what’s really made it special is the positive reaction I’ve had from colleagues, both male and female, who are really excited to see our organisation represented in this way.”
“In particular, I think it’s fantastic for the aspiring young females in our organisation to see that ‘ordinary people’ can be picked out and nominated in this way,” she adds.
Geldard believes that the insurance industry “needs to do much better” when it comes to diversity. She says that there is “a lot of work to do in terms of busting the stereotype that insurance is grey, middle-aged, white and male.”
“I also believe it’s broader than simply looking at gender and that greater success comes from diversity in its broadest sense,” she tells Insurance Business. “As an employer you aren’t going to attract or hire the best talent unless you recruit from the widest range of individuals.”

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“And from a customer perspective my own philosophy is that if your business on the inside reflects the world on the outside you are so much better placed to understand and respond to the needs of your customers.”
At Covéa, Geldard says she takes every opportunity to ensure that the company creates and maximises gender diversity.
“I have a ‘role model’ responsibility and I make time to get actively involved and talk to people about exactly what we’re doing as an organisation and why it’s important,” she says.
Why insurance? How did you get into the industry?
To be frank, I didn’t actually think of what I was doing as ‘working in insurance’ for a while, I thought of it more as ‘helping people when they were stuck!’  But having worked in the industry now for over 25 years, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it as a fantastic career choice for anyone. The diversity of opportunities rivals any sector I can think of, plus there’s the added satisfaction of knowing that, whatever your role, in some way you’re part of providing an invaluable service which helps people protect themselves from financially and emotionally distressing situations.
What personal or career milestone are you most proud of?
I’m going to pick the launch of Provident Insurance and the reason is because I can’t think of a time where I’ve felt prouder than I did on the day we launched. And that wasn’t down to the fact that delivery was the culmination of many years of blood, sweat and (at times) real tears, it was the fact that it was ‘the moment to shine’ for the great team of people who had taken great leaps of faith, who had really stretched themselves and collectively got us safely to the finish line.
Who is your role model/hero and why?
I don’t have one specific person, as I can think of so many people who have inspired me in so many different ways.  But I’d pick out people like Rosa Parks for her bravery and her determination and spirit in standing up for what she truly believed in, in the face of considerable adversity.
What’s the best life lesson you’ve learnt?
Never be afraid to be you - be authentic.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Trust your instinct.
What do you do outside the industry?
‘Lots’ is probably the most straightforward answer – I’m not very good at sitting still.  I love all things fitness, which ranges from crazy crossfit classes to being in the ‘great outdoors’, be that running over a moor, getting muddy on a bike, falling off a windsurfer or a pair of skis, or capsizing a boat.  I love baking with my daughter, holidays with my daughter and husband, and regular doses of live music and live comedy.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in insurance, I would be…
Who knows…if you’d asked me 30 years ago what I’d be doing, I doubt I would have ever dreamed I’d be doing what I am.  Maybe something in fitness and nutrition, or on a farm!
What advice can you give to neophyte insurance professionals?
Don’t have an ‘elevator mentality’ (i.e. progression can only be achieved through your current line management route) and if your first role doesn’t quite ‘hit the mark’, don’t leave the industry as insurance really is a fantastic sector to work in, with such a diversity of opportunities.  Get the broadest range of experience that you can to help you decide where you can add the most value and derive the most job satisfaction.  I’m not sure there are jobs for life anymore, but this can definitely be an industry for life… and I mean that in a positive way!

Related stories:
Covéa CEO personally commits to closing gender gap
Brokers ‘far from doomsday’ despite insurers going direct

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