“Make sure you walk out richer than you walked in,” Hood Group’s Bruce Reid

Commercial director reveals the peaks and challenges of his role, plus his tips for success

“Make sure you walk out richer than you walked in,” Hood Group’s Bruce Reid

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

As the commercial director at personal lines broker Hood Group, Bruce Reid leads the firm’s distribution function, which includes marketing, e-commerce, data and analytics, and sales and insurer relationships.

Before joining Hood Group in 2004, he enjoyed a successful career in the UK financial services industry spanning over 20 years, and has worked for firms including AIG International and BUPA.

Insurance Business caught up with him to find out how he has worked his way to the top, what keeps him excited about the industry, and his tips for up-and-coming insurance professionals.

How did you get your start in the industry?

I joined a direct sales force in financial services back in 1988. I guess like a lot of people, it wasn’t necessarily planned – I was introduced by a friend who was working in the industry.

The thing I enjoyed about it was that it was based on meritocracy. It was evident to me that if you worked hard, you kept learning, and you took the opportunities as they afforded themselves, then you could progress. Also, you were in control of a lot of your own career. So that for me was the attraction when I joined, and by and large, that’s played out throughout my experiences in the industry.

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I had a lot to learn – it was literally in at the deep end. But one of the things I’ve recognised in the industry is that the training is very good, and you’ve also got an opportunity to do professional training with recognised qualifications. So I wasn’t fazed by the fact that I didn’t know much about it, for me it was evident that the support was there, and it was then down to what attitude, and aptitude, you applied.

What are the best parts of your job?

One of the reasons I wanted to join [Hood Group] was to shape what the business was doing, to have an input into strategy, and to the direction and values and the vision of the business – which is exactly what I have now. I really enjoy that aspect, and I really enjoy identifying talent and helping them develop and progress. One of my fellow board directors is someone who I recruited into a management role and who is now a peer of mine – I definitely work on the basis of ‘surround yourself with people who are much smarter than you, and you’ll be OK.’

What are some of the challenges you face in your role?

I think right now, the challenges are really what’s happening in the industry around disruption, innovation, and the whole piece around technology and data – I think that’s a real challenge that you have to face up to. In the last year, there’s been a lot more noise, a lot more traction, and a lot more investment going into these innovators and disruptors. Underpinning all of that is technology, and keeping your technology relevant as a board member is always important, because technology now is being talked about in terms of decision-making, through AI, through efficiencies. What’s genuinely interesting and exciting for me is addressing those challenges.

We have a very strong focus on innovation – we’ve set up an innovation hub outside of the business-as-usual and away from the offices, based in Spitalfields [in London]. We’re partnering with some of these disruptors, either as an enabler or an accelerator. Data and analytics is something that’s really emerged over the last 12-18 months, and if you haven’t got a focus on that area I think you’re going to be left behind.

What advice would you give to someone working their way up the insurance ladder?

Firstly, I would say work for someone, or an entity, that you believe in, that believes in you, and that’s aligned to your values.
Something that gets you out of bed every morning – I’ve never woken up and thought that I don’t want to go into work.

Secondly, when you are in a business, understand that business and its key drivers. When I was working in sales, we focused on how many units you sell, but the thing for me is it’s not just the size of what you sell, it’s the shape of what you sell.

Lastly, take responsibility for your own career path and don’t sit and wait for someone to develop you. I meet every new person who joins our business, and I say to my team too – when you walk out of the door for the last time, make sure you walk out richer than when you walked in. That doesn’t mean more money – but something that no-one can take away from you, and that springboards you to your next role.

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