Each year our Local Councils appoint a new President. We sat down with our 2022/2023 cohort and chatted to them about their priorities for their year, how they got involved with the council and the benefits to their careers. Here is Sligo President, Martin Higgins' interview.
What motivated you to initially get involved with your Local Institute?
I was keen to get a deeper understanding of how the Institute of Sligo could help and assist members. I had completed my CIP over ten years ago and I had not really got involved in anything with the insurance community since. A colleague of mine became a member (of The Institute of Sligo) and was full of praise and this encouraged me to learn more and to seek out information on the benefits for members.
When did you decide to join Council and what appealed to you about it?
I joined Council in 2017 and I did so as I was eager to meet other peers within the community. In particular, I felt it was important to make connections with people within the industry who worked in roles outside of what I do on a day-to-day basis. I felt I needed to gain a better overall understanding and insight into the insurance sector, and networking and building connections was the most effective way to do this. It’s important when working in insurance that you don’t allow yourself to become pigeonholed into the one area, and that you push yourself to broaden your horizons – involvement with Local Council is an effective way to do this as it provides you with a much more in depth understanding of the sector.
I’m sure it’s a great honour to be appointed President of your Institute – what does the role mean to you and what will be your main priorities for the year ahead?
Indeed, it is a great honour and a privilege to be appointed President of The Insurance Institute of Sligo. We have a fantastic and talented group of people on Council, and they are incredibly hardworking – so it is a wonderful opportunity to be given the chance to lead them at a crucial time for the organisation. The past few years have brought enormous change and as a result all our communications and interactions with members have also changed dramatically – post Covid it is imperative that we now revaluate and prioritise how we communicate with our members, and that we do so in a way that works for them. In many ways, it is an opportunity to start from scratch, to reset and to take the Institute and its interactions with members to the next level.
Has being involved in your local insurance community benefitted you – if so, how?
Yes, of course, it has benefited me enormously. It is a guarantee that involvement will help you develop and further your career. In addition, it has helped me to prioritise my qualifications and my lifelong learning – both of which are now essential to a career in insurance. It also provides you with the opportunity to gain real insight into how various educational programmes work as you get first-hand experience from your peers – they can provide you with a realistic understanding of what certain qualifications will entail, and I’ve found that the support and encouragement from your colleagues is sometimes what you need for that extra push. Insurance is changing, and qualifications are becoming more important than ever – you need to think about what you need to do to stand out from the crowd and through investment in professional development you can differentiate yourself.
Starting out in a career in insurance can be daunting, what advice would you give to those just beginning down this path? Do you think involvement with a Local Institute is important at this stage?
Take on new challenges and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. The industry is vastly different nowadays, it’s less about face-to-face interactions with technology now central to the work we do – this is only going to increase in the future and so I would advise anyone starting out to think long term about their career and what potential skills might be needed further down the line. At the beginning of your career, you need to be flexible and adaptive, and you must think about the longevity of your career and what can possibly future proof it.
I think involvement with the Local Institute is important at every stage of a career and especially at the beginning. In Sligo for example, geographically we are very spread out and so you can easily stay in your own bubble without much interaction with peers but if you want to advance your career and interact with other members then becoming involved with your Local Institute is a necessity.
Do you think it’s important for the Local Institutes to give back to the local community? Can you tell me about any plans / activities you have scheduled with this focus in mind?
Yes, in fact if we are not giving back to the local community then I would argue that we’re not doing our job or serving our purpose. In Sligo we have always been assisting charities in the local area, and we even have an appointed Charity Officer who manages and plans these activities. We have done a lot of fundraising with Focus Ireland over the years, and we have organised everything from BBQs to quizzes to charity walks. We are looking at several options for the year ahead and we have a few things in the pipeline – but whatever we do we need to maximise support from our members, these charities need our help and for any initiative to be successful we need members involvement.
Are there any aspects of the local Insurance community that you think have been lost/changed since you started your career (attitude towards education, networking, social)? Is there an opportunity during your year to reintroduce / re-energise some of these?
The social side of things has been massively impacted and has been hugely challenging in recent years because of Covid. I believe we need to reengage with members, and we need to think outside of the box around the ways we do this – we need a broad mix of communications and activities, face to face of course, but also online and utilising platforms such as LinkedIn will be important too. We value our members input and we need to make it as easy as possible to engage.
How can members get more involved if they want?
If someone wants to get involved with The Local Institute of Sligo council, there is always opportunity to do so. We recently welcomed three new members on board, and I feel that it is vital also that we are refreshing Council every few years – this brings new ideas and new energy, and it stops activities and thinking from becoming stale.