How did you get started in the insurance industry?
I started in financial services in 2004 working for First Active Bank. During my time in the bank I had developed my insurance knowledge and understanding, finding that I enjoyed dealing with insurance and assurance products overall. Knowing I was helping someone to provide protection to themselves and their family was really important to me and how I viewed myself in my role at the time.
I was made redundant in 2010 after moving into the branch network. While it wasn’t a shock given the market and economy at the time, I took it as time to reflect and decide what I wanted to do in the future. Renewed and energised I applied for a role in 123.ie, a young company at the time where I saw myself growing and developing my insurance knowledge. There I learned a huge amount about general insurance and got to see how the different functions worked and impacted the life cycle of a policy.
Did mentoring play a role in your career success?
Yes it did indeed, I have had the pleasure and great luck to have had some amazing mentors in my time. I was told “you can be good on your own but to be truly great we need help” - my mentors Brian Walsh, Gavin Macklin, Dave Skelly and Shane Kinahan have all encouraged, challenged and advised me when I was working well and when I needed development. While the perception can be that mentoring is this formal agreement between two people, (one experienced and one not so experienced) it doesn’t have to be. A great team leader or manager will do this for you, as long as you are both open and willing to engage.
How has this early experience of mentoring affected your own management style
In my current role with Blue Insurance, mentoring has had a massive impact on the business and myself. I personally believe that mentoring enables me to give back to my team and allow them to benefit from what I have learnt over the years. At Blue in particular, our approach to mentoring is something we take great pride in and the management team here are very aware of the benefits and [positive impact it has and encourage it at every level. The best teams are built on strong foundations, no matter what mentoring only makes us stronger.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?
For me, it is developing the Home and Motor team in Blue insurance. We have a very unique offering with our two year policies, so developing a team of super star sales and service agents was difficult as there was a lot to take into account. The management team put a huge amount of trust in me, from developing processes to quality assurance practices and beyond. I feel that this level of challenge and trust enabled us to develop into the team we are today. It has been genuinely the most satisfying and frustrating thing I have ever done but seeing the team now, how they are focused on our customers and helping develop those relationships – I couldn’t be prouder.
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Be Patient. At 20 years old I wanted everything to happen yesterday so I could move on. Remember your career is a marathon not a sprint - sometimes you will walk, sometimes jog or run but once you keep focused and keep moving forward you will get there.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the insurance industry?
Insurance has been around for centuries, it is a subject that is constantly evolving, growing and changing – Don’t let the volume information overwhelm you - be patient, learn the basics and focus on getting it right. Use the supports you have available to you and never assume anything. Ask questions…. Lots of questions!!! The better you understand what you are doing or working with, the easier your job will be and the more you will be in a position to truly help your customer.
What do you think are the benefits of working in insurance?
There are a few. It’s a dynamic industry that is always innovating and growing so you will be exposed to many different areas you might not see in other industries. Insurance will always be needed and people will always need it. Because of that it’s an industry you can grow and develop your career with, as there are so many different areas and subjects available, that you won’t get bored and have no reason to let yourself stagnate.
Also, that feeling you get when you have helped someone never gets old. Be it developing a new product, helping them choose the right cover, assisting with a claim or simply to understand their insurance better. At the end of the day we are selling peace of mind and most times it’s those days we are in it for.
What’s been your most rewarding professional experience?
The day an agent of mine got her APA. Obviously I have others, but this stands out the most as every possible scenario was against her. The day before the exam, I was finishing up in 123.ie and we sat in a training room and went through the syllabus question after question. Being honest I didn’t make it easy for her. I was intent on making that session harder than the exam so she would be in the best position to pass. The weekend passed and I started in my new role but admittedly forgot about the exam until I got the call to say she’d passed!
In the insurance industry we are all connected in one way or another – previous jobs, networking or business relationships. I am big advocate of professional development in all its forms and I still remember the sense of achievement and pride I felt getting my APA and CIP. However, to be part of someone else’s journey and hear I helped in whatever minor way makes me happy to know my knowledge and experience was of some use and not just for a customer.
How do you spend your free time?
If I am not running around St Anne’s park or Dollymount beach after my 4 year old son, I am in the gym picking things up and putting them down again. I read a lot which is very cliché but in my case it’s true. I read everything I can get my hands on and most times it can be work related. My team is still growing and expanding so I always want to be ahead of the curve on new ideas and theories I can use with them.
Do you have a favourite quote?
CFO - “What happens if we train them and they leave?”
CEO – “What happens if we don’t and they stay?!”
At Blue, we want everyone to stay!
Stephen works for Blue Insurance, an Irish award-winning insurance provider that specialises in a range of insurance products, including car and home insurance. Find out more on their website; blueinsurance.ie
Want to learn more about starting or advancing your career in insurance?