Hello Hayley, thank you for taking the time to talk about HIPO with us today. To get us started, could you tell us how long you have been working with Specialist Risk Group (SRG) and what you’re responsible for?
No problem at all. I have been with the company for about twelve years now. I’m responsible for managing the Miles Smith Renewals Team, specifically for non-motor. As well as looking after a few larger corporate clients.
There are about 25 people in the renewals team, and they are managed by me and two others. Together we deal with Wholesale UK Commercial Business, with a focus on Waste and Recycling clients which is our ‘flagship’ proposition. For the most part, I deal with those clients.
We deal with large waste and recycling plants. We offer solutions to insuring commercial buildings, plants, and the liabilities of these risks. A large part of this is having a good relationship with a surveyor who helps us determine the risk of the site and works with the client to enforce better risk management and housekeeping.
The risks themselves are complex by nature. Inappropriately managed sites with poor housekeeping, heatwaves, and incorrect disposal of batteries, are just a few examples that can cause fires and potential major incidents at waste processing plants.
And why did you choose to join SRG?
I joined when SRG was only known as Miles Smith, and that company had about 100 employees at the time. I have seen a lot of change and growth over the years, but a strong sense of a team environment has always been at the forefront.
I chose to join Miles Smith because they were focused on hard-to-place risks like asbestos and waste and recycling. It appealed to me because it seemed like a fast-paced, challenging environment that would keep me interested and learning continuously.
What roles did you have before joining SRG?
My first role in insurance was as an Account Handler. From there I moved into Retail, working on corporate risks and then moving into the Waste Renewals team as their team leader.
I really enjoyed working on retail corporate risks. It is partially the reason I’m still involved now; it gives you the opportunity to get to know the client and their business, working directly with them and building strong relationships.
How did you come to join the High Potential (HIPO) programme?
I applied for the programme in 2020, when we were all at home during the pandemic. I knew the programme was on the horizon, and I had already made the decision to apply.
What was the process like and what were you looking to take away from the training?
In the beginning I was curious to see how it would work, and what I would get out of it, especially with the pandemic. A lot of the programme was discussion-based learning, which I really enjoy.
The senior management team spent a lot of time with us throughout the process. I really valued this time, with many of the stories feeling relatable. One session stood out to me: we spoke about what kind of leader we wanted to be, and that you don’t need to shout the loudest to lead. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for management, and you can see that in practice with how my team is set up for example.
We were also paired with mentors during the process. I’m still in contact with mine even after the programme. While HIPO sessions were one a month, I met with my mentor bi-weekly throughout the process. Together we would discuss any challenges I was facing at the time, focusing on people and relationship management, as well as the journey and skills required to becoming a leader. We would also talk about their experience, including the path they took to becoming a CEO.
How has the HIPO programme impacted your personal development and your career within SRG?
It set me up well for a promotion actually. The point of the programme was to help us focus our progression towards leadership with the behaviours and skills required to set out on this path. It also meant we got an insight into the day-to-day running of the senior team, and other teams too – notably the finance and M&A teams, which normally I would not come across in that kind of detail.
Fully understanding the value of teams you aren’t directly working with gives you a new appreciation of your colleagues and it helps you to understand how the business as a whole works together to achieve its goals and targets.
HIPO also gave me a strong focus in a very isolating time. As the nationwide lockdown came into effect, I think a lot of people would agree that the days became quite monotonous. The HIPO programme and the other participants in my group became a brilliant disruptor during this period. In a time of uncertainty, it helped anchor me in my professional purpose, and remind me of what I’m working towards in my career.
What do you feel is your greatest career achievement to date?
I would say competing the HIPO programme and getting promoted to Renewals Manager in January of this year.
If you could give some advice to your 18-year-old self, what would you say?
I would tell myself to own the fact that I am not the loudest in the room and to see it as a strength. It is all about confidence in who you are, there is no one set path to success, and I would have liked to have realised that fact earlier.
Could you summarise working for SRG in three words?