A Woman's World - Mary-Jane Halpin, Cornmarket

03-Mar-2020 11:00:00 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute

The second part of our 5 part blog series focuses on Mary-Jane Halpin – Director of HR and Business Change at Cornmarket.

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How did you get to the position you are in now?

I started my career in Caledonian Life in June 2001, straight out of college and spent 4 years in a standalone HR Business Partner role. I then moved to Matheson to a HR Manager role. This change in industry provided me with an insight into the complexities of a Partnership structure and worked with some great people who taught me the importance of resilience and pushing yourself to really succeed. I joined Cornmarket in 2011 where I have had the opportunity to broaden and deepen my knowledge and skills, such as designing and implementing our first Customer Service Portal “My Cornmarket”.

In November 2017, I was appointed to the Cornmarket Board of Directors and became the first female board member since the company was formed in 1972. As the Director responsible for HR & Business Change, I am responsible for our Digital Strategy, our business change agenda and driving cultural change.

How would you define being a modern professional woman?

Busy! Getting the balance right between succeeding in your career, your home life and finding time for you – this is a constant challenge. What has worked well for me is recognising and accepting that there will be times when the balance is unequal and when this happens, you have to work hard at trying to get it right.

Who has had the most impact on your professional life and why?

The Managing Director of Caledonian Life, the late Mick Cremin. Mick took a chance on me and gave me a great opportunity. I didn’t have the experience at the time but he recognised my determination, enthusiasm and desire to succeed and mentored me at the beginning of my career. He believed in me and that gave me the confidence to believe in myself.

What has it been like to work and exceed in such a male dominated industry? Have you ever felt disempowered by it?

Insurance is a male dominated industry but in my experience, I have never felt disempowered on the grounds of gender. During my career I have been supported and encouraged to grow and develop, I have sought out opportunities to excel and expand in my role and have been mentored by some great people – yes, all have been male. My attitude has always been about capability, delivery and having the right “Person” in the role, regardless of gender.


Aisling Hayes, Chief Operating Officer at AXA Insurance will feature in Part 3 of the Woman's World series. If you missed part 1, read it here now!
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