How to Make it in The City – An Insider View from the Insurance World

The area around Lime St, where the Lloyds Building now stands, has been at the heart of financial commerce for centuries. It was on Lombard St, back in the late 1600s, where merchants and ship-owners would meet at Lloyds Coffee House to discuss maritime insurance, shipbroking and foreign trade. It didn’t take long for their informal convivial chat to be formalised and regulated. However, it’s unlikely they could ever have foreseen how they helped pave the way for the towering buildings that represent the epicentre of the financial services and insurance industry in the UK today.

Nor would they have predicted some of the more ‘quirky’ elements of insurance and risk. The industry as a whole insures all conceivable types – from F1 drivers to Cristiano Ronaldo’s legs, and even Bruce Springsteen’s vocal chords.

However, the same passion, curiosity and appetite for risk still exists, although the figures dealt with now differ wildly. The London Insurance Market generates 26% of the City’s GDP and 0.9% of total GDP for the UK. It’s the largest global centre for commercial and speciality risk, controlling more than 91bn in GWP in 2015. It employs around 35,000 professionals in London.

Rich Millbank is one of these professionals – a former Royal Engineer, he has forged a successful career in the insurance sector, with the help and support of Lloyd’s Military Network Work Placement Programme. The programme lasts two months and is run twice a year. Most significantly, it has a 70% success rate at placing ex-military personnel into new industry careers.

Rich joined the Business Development team at JLT Speciality, a specialist insurance broker, in September 2016. His main role within the bid management team is to help the briefing team attract new business through compelling and convincing presentations.

A generalist
Rich describes himself as a ‘generalist’ without any deep specialism, such as procurement or cyber. But the Lloyds work placement gave him insights into different parts of the insurer/ broker process – from underwriting (the insurer) at Liberty Specialty Markets, to Marsh and Mclennan Companies (the broker). He decided to focus on business development at JLT, which specialises in facilities, energy, real estate, and aviation teams.

Placement opened up opportunities
Rich says: “The placement was a fantastic grounding for me. I had the opportunity to work with F1 underwriters and listen to sales people brief them on risk. Here I got the chance to see how the whole process works – from pricing up risks with insurers and brokers, to evaluating who could be trusted.”

He adds: “Yes, the industry is about making money but it’s also extremely people orientated – you need to work out who the key stakeholders are and be a good judge of character.”
The placement also consolidated just how many areas there are to go into within the industry – from broker transactions, through to the middle office, HR functions and business development. And, as Rich comments, the placement helps to ‘dispel myths’ that some employers have regarding ex-military. “We’ve a lot to offer and aren’t prone to marching up and down corridors bombastically!”

Stand out skills
Ex-military already possess many of the skills that the insurance industry needs. As well as a ‘can do attitude’, the ability to plan, process data quickly and pick out key facts is essential. Rich says: “Building relationships inside the company, and across the sector, is also an integral part of success in the industry.”

Networking is the ‘absolute norm’
Rich admits that he found networking ‘intimidating’ when he left the Services but that it’s the ‘absolute norm’ within the industry, as everyone is focused on building an internal network. He stresses the importance of being ‘prepared’ and ‘punctual’ for any ‘meet-up’, however informal it may appear, and that it’s important to ‘leave any meeting with another two contacts to reach out to’.

Rich’s financial qualifications

  • MSc in Disaster Management
  • BSc(Hons) in Information Systems and Management
  • Chartered Manager, Management of Risk
  • Prince 2 Agile PM practitioner
  • No insurance qualifications – as – yet!

Rich doesn’t think these are ‘essential’ to finding a route into the industry and points out that he hasn’t had to use his. However, he says: “I think they’re useful for formally demonstrating project management skills and the ability to plan logically.” He adds: “They also show a commitment to the industry and can be an extra confidence boost – especially within an environment that feels a little intimidating initially.”

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