With #IBWomenInInsurance just around the corner, there’s no better time to acknowledge the sheer variety of potential routes into the insurance profession and the diversity of experience that it takes to keep the profession fit for purpose. Insurance Business UK’s recent ‘Rising Stars 2022‘ report highlighted 50 standout young professionals working across the insurance ecosystem – each selected for their achievements, goals and contributions.
Registration is now open: Sign up to hear speakers from Marsh McLennan, QBE, Hiscox UK and more share their DEI insights
Among those awarded the designation was Colette Crawford, client development executive at Marsh, who said it was “humbling to be named alongside so many accomplished people in the insurance industry”. It was a real surprise but a very welcome one, she said of the designation, and a chance to reflect on her own journey into the profession.
“My route into insurance was a quite funny one,” she said. “I was at university in Aberdeen, and I was doing a history degree, with Mandarin on the side while working part-time in Tesco as a fishmonger and butcher. I got to my last year and knew I really wanted a graduate job but felt that financial services probably wasn’t going to be available to me because I hadn’t done an economics degree and am not especially good at maths.”
Crawford took quite a scattergun approach to the application process, willing to consider any range of possibilities. When she was invited to interview with Marsh, she said, she undertook a lot of research into the company and the role, speaking with independent brokers and Marsh’s Aberdeen branch to find out more. That was her first real introduction to the world of insurance and it was a markedly positive one – as everybody she spoke with was delighted to provide expertise and insight.
“Looking back, I think the thing that massively cemented that I really wanted the job and made me throw everything at it is that I did what I didn’t do with the other graduate schemes I applied for, and I spoke to people in the industry,” she said. “And I also reached out to a number of people on LinkedIn. And every single one of them was happy to help, whether they worked for Marsh or another broker.”
The process of joining the graduate program was an intensive one, Crawford said, but the more she went through it, the more she realised how much wanted the job. When she was accepted, she moved to Manchester to take up her place and was blown away by how welcoming and kind the team were. After a great first year, she was fortunate enough to go and work for then-corporate CEO Joe Grogan and see how the business worked from the top-down, after experiencing how it worked from the bottom-up.
“It was just utterly fascinating,” she said. “And I think that was the point that really reinforced that insurance was the career I was going to pursue. And it’s been that way ever since.”
Reflecting on her route into insurance, Crawford noted how fortuitous it is that she didn’t allow the idea that her background wasn’t the right fit for financial services to dissuade her from applying. One of the beautiful things about Marsh’s graduate scheme is that there is no stipulation as to what degree you have to do, she said, and she was privileged to work alongside a range of peers who had graduated from degree programmes as diverse as music, geology and Arabic.
“That allows for much broader thinking and a much broader conversation,” she said. “And I think that has been transformative in the industry, to be honest. And it’s not just at Marsh - I know that there are a lot of insurance companies that are diversifying who they’re bringing into the business which is allowing more and different conversations with clients, which is a really good thing to see.”
There are some shared qualities found among successful insurance professionals, Crawford noted, and among those are energy, enthusiasm and a natural affinity for problem-solving. But there’s no one route into insurance, nor one path to take once you become part of the profession. Insurance touches everything, she said, and it’s not limited to any one area or any one geography. A career in insurance offers young people so much opportunity – and so many different roles for them to explore.
“There’s always an opportunity to find something that really taps into your skill set and your interests,” she said. “When I was at university, I thought I’d go on to work in Tesco because I really enjoyed working with the food and beverage sector and understanding how that works. And I’ve been able to transfer that interest into the job I’m doing now, which just allows me to feel like it’s not so much a job at all, as I get up every day and have something different to be looking at – whether it’s looking at what’s on the horizon for retail, or bakeries, or the dairy industry. It just keeps everything interesting. I haven’t been bored yet and I don’t think I ever will be.”
To other young people considering a career in insurance, Crawford advised that they do their research, not least because it will showcase how generous insurance professionals are with their time and expertise. If you aren’t sure about what insurance entails, talk to somebody, she said, and she can guarantee there will be somebody who wants to have that conversation.
When people are passionate about something, the first thing they want to do is share what’s so good about it, she said. And by doing that research, you can get a really clear picture of both the good and challenging elements that the industry has to offer.
“And again, I would say don’t worry about what I used to worry about, which was not having done economics or not being great at maths, because there is a place for everyone in insurance,” she said. “And I think that’s really coming through, especially at Marsh because we have diversified so much which is making this such a wonderful and inclusive place to be.
“So, go and find somewhere that’s going to use your talents and allow you to challenge yourself, that’s my advice.”
Book your tickets now: Women in Insurance UK