A role model for women in insurance

Jackie Hyde is the Director of Stanmore Insurance Brokers and also of dot2dot, a nursery insurance business. She has acquired a wealth of knowledge during her 30 years in the insurance industry and is passionate about getting more women into the sector. In recognition of her services to the financial services industry she has just won this year’s Enterprise Vision Award for Financial Services which celebrate the achievements of women in business. She spoke to Workingmums.co.uk.

 

Career Progression

 

How did you come to be director and a majority shareholder of Stanmore Insurance Brokers?

The business was formed in 1962 by John S. Gorton, a Chartered Accountant who decided there was an opportunity to add an insurance brokerage to his developing accountancy business and building society agency.

The original business was called Life and Home Services and the main target was to provide personal insurance to the local community of Radcliffe, Manchester.

I joined the business in 1988 and was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1999 and purchased 26% shares in the business in 2000.

In 2002, Stanmore became a member of Broker Network as it was felt that an alliance with a network would enable the business to secure improved terms with insurers.

Stanmore switched alliances to The Brokerbility Group in 2007, who then bought a 33% share in the business.

From 2003 to 2008, Stanmore committed to a growth plan that pushed the business beyond organic growth as we acquired several smaller practices, including Doherty Turner Insurance Brokers, Royle Tyrer Insurance Brokers and Beecroft Insurance Services.

In July 2015, after a difficult restructure due to my business partner sustaining a serious accident resulting in him being away from the business for 19 months, I increased my business shares making me the majority shareholder with 66% ownership.

Following the mergers and acquisitions Stanmore has grown organically, but the emphasis is to provide insurance and business solutions to businesses rather than private customers.

What were the main challenges?

There have been lots of challenges over the 27 years I have worked at Stanmore and the 15 years as a business owner.

The first would probably be changing my role from employee to owner/director which was a difficult adjustment for me, but also for my colleagues who had to understand I had a new position.

You have to earn your stripes, so to speak, and show that you will make a difference to the business in your new position, but also demonstrate that you are still willing to roll your sleeves up and work with them.

At the same time, my boss became my business partner and that created the odd issue between us. We were both always passionate about the business, so we found the answers and adapted as the business had to come first.

Other challenges have included the loss of a major account that grew over seven years to pay us a substantial income.

When it left there was a big hole in our earnings so we had to find a solution. This is probably the reasons why dot2dot became so successful, as I focussed on driving this aspect of the business forward to fill the hole in our income.

At the same time, I chose to work with Jane Kenyon, my business coach who helped me with a rather challenging period.

My biggest challenge happened on the 2 January 2014 when my business partner was involved in a serious accident and was subsequently away from the business for 19 months.

Overnight the business needs changed, as I had to not only service my clients but immediately needed to understand the requirements of my partner’s clients and build relationships very quickly.

In addition, the whole of the responsibility for running the business became mine with the need to have a greater understanding of regulatory matters and finances which had previously been my partner’s area.

To add a further challenge I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months later, so treatment took place with two weeks off for surgery and radiotherapy outside business hours.

During times like these you realise the support that is around. I have a fantastic team who did
whatever was needed to ensure clients were not neglected. Insurers provided renewal terms for us well in advance, which helped us with planning.

Clients were so understanding with what was happening and were prepared to be flexible where needed.

Business peers were amazing, providing reassurance, guidance, understanding and the occasional stern word whenever it was needed. The business needed looking after alongside my own person situation.

We never took the foot off driving for new business or ensuring our clients still received the service they expected. The business not only survived, but had the best financial year for a long time with an increase in turnover and profitability.

Many lessons were learnt personally. The business had to undergo changes, but this predominately brought opportunities to lots of individuals to develop within our organisation. I had some really tough days, but there were lots of good ones too and I am so much stronger for this experience.

How important has having a business coach been to you?

I can honestly say my business coach transformed my life and without doubt played a major part in helping me be who I am today.

I met Jane Kenyon in 2010 following a recommendation from a close business friend. I was having a tough time following the loss of the major account which had dominated my career over the seven years we had looked after them.

I had lost my mojo and was feeling unsure about what I wanted to do or what steps to take next.

Jane mainly works with businesswomen so understood the guilt feeling the majority of women carry with them. She also understands the challenges of the business world and in particular the difficulties you have if working in a predominately male industry.

The first work I did with Jane was to understand my profile which meant we both got to know my strengths and weaknesses, amongst other things.

When these were identified, we started to understand why I was so fed up and came up with a plan to fix it. In fact, part of the process was to take six weeks off work as there were doubts as to whether a complete change was needed.

After the time away from the business, I knew Stanmore was part of me and when I returned, I had no regrets and had a renewed vigour and passion for the business.

I had 12 months’ coaching with Jane and I just love working with her. She develops the person so they understand who they are and in turn find their own answers to problems.

It is great to be able to share your inner thoughts, whether business or personal, confidentially with someone you trust. A good coach listens, doesn’t judge you and wants to help you grow as a person.

Jane and I didn’t work formally with each other for a while, but we always kept in touch and went for many coffees and lunch catch-ups.

However, following the challenges of the last 19 months, Jane was one of the first people I turned to. We are back working together, she has coached me through the difficult times and we are working to introduce the changes that are needed to take Stanmore to the next stage of its development.

With dot2dot, which you founded in 2003, was it easier since it was the second time around for you as a director?

dot2dot is still an insurance product so in some ways, yes, it was easier. One difference is we are working with one industry so I have had to understand the real depth of the nursery sector.

This has taken time and commitment, but the people in this sector are wonderful.

They are keen to help you and are also interested in ensuring they have the right insurance solution. I am a perfectionist so this has suited me and my passion for dot2dot has just gone from strength to strength.

The other difference is the majority of businesses that we look after with Stanmore are local to our office. dot2dot is a national facility so I spend a lot of my time in the car travelling up and down the country.

We also needed to understand how to market our product which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Stanley, the dot2dot teddy mascot, has had so many guises, from town crier to builder, and who knows what he will be up to next.

We wanted to demonstrate that we were in tune with this very visual industry so in addition to Stanley, we have a child-friendly name, give stickers and children’s CDs to our clients and there is lot more fun on the way.

dot2dot celebrated its 12th birthday on 1 September 2015 and we have learnt so much during this period. We are now using those skills to market Stanmore as we feel we can offer a lot more to our local community of businesses.

Why do you feel so passionately about getting more women in the insurance industry?

The insurance company world has some incredibly talented women heading and managing those businesses. However, for some reason there are just not enough director/owner positions held within the independent insurance broking industry.

When I became a Director of Stanmore, I found myself in the minority as a female in a senior position and this is still the case.

Men and women do work differently and I have the experience to prove this as I have worked with a number of male business partners. It is the responsibility of both parties to try to understand how each wants to operate and find the answers together as there are strengths from each viewpoint.

When I started working in the insurance industry over 30 years ago, I would have never envisaged doing what I do today.

There isn’t a typical day for me, but that makes every day interesting. There are some really tough days, but overall I love what I do and know I can make a difference.

You can juggle being a mum and having a career, you just have to be resilient and determined.

How important are positive role models?

Positive role models, whether male or female, are vital. I am also an advocate of reading good quality books about business and in particular positive ways to believe in your ability to succeed or overcome adversity.

There are lots of these books available and they can give you great tips or sometimes just reinforce you are doing a good job.

Unfortunately, young female students do not always have the opportunity to meet with successful women business owners or others in senior positions.

I visited a girl’s school a few years ago with a number of other businesswomen. The students had the opportunity to quiz us on what we had done, our typical day, what qualifications we had etc.

When I was being escorted back to the main hall at the end of the day, I asked my escort what had been the most important thing she had learnt that day. She answered that there was only one businesswoman who had gone to university – interesting!

Why do you think there aren’t enough women in the industry? What are the main barriers?

There is lots of discussion around as to why women are not reaching board levels and I don’t have any real answers, but we need to instil belief into our young females that they can achieve whatever they want.

Insurance is considered not a natural choice for any young person to choose as their career. I believe that this is because they do not understand what is involved.

The insurance industry is working hard to encourage young people to join us through apprenticeship schemes, but there is still a lot of work to do.

There are lots of women in the insurance industry as a whole, but not many are reaching board level within the independent broking industry. Working mums will always find it difficult. Whether you are a man or a woman you have to make sacrifices as it is really hard work.

Many men who have demanding jobs do not see their young children until the weekend as they are often in bed when they come home late at night.

This was the case for me, but my children always knew I would be there for them when they needed me. I am delighted to say I have a fantastic relationship with my children who I think are proud of what I do.

It isn’t easy, but to be successful in whatever you do is not easy as it takes hard work and often long hours.

Do you think many drop out after having children? What can be done about this?

JH: Yes, this is often the case. It is difficult juggling being a mum and having a career, particularly if your husband and partner wants to have a career too.

I have a lot of very capable women working for me who are also mums. We try to ensure they do not miss out on sports days, leaver’s assemblies etc as you cannot go back and do those days again.

At the same time we hope that these women will have the support of their partners and share the responsibility for childcare, particularly when the unexpected arrives, such as illness. Everyone has to work together to find the answers.

As a mother, how have you personally managed running two businesses and being a mum?

I am a mum of two children, although they are adults now, aged 28 and 22 years. Managing home and work has never been easy, particularly when the children were young.

I am fortunate as I have had a supportive husband from the day my career took off. I also have a strong relationship with my children and have tried to ensure that when I am at work that is my priority and vice versa when I am at home family comes first.

This is not easy and guilt has played a large part in my life, but, as time has gone by, I have got better at managing this and my family have got better at understanding the importance of the business to me and to their security.

What would be your main advice for women in a similar position?

Find lots of other women in the same situation. There is nothing better than sharing thoughts, feelings and problems.

Also, communicate well with your work colleagues/business partners when there are demands at home and equally with your family when there are demands at work.

Communication is key to success. You will get it wrong from time to time – you are human after all so allow yourself to make mistakes and, more importantly, forgive yourself.

We all try our best and never deliberately want to do badly.





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