Michelle Bree - Pen's "Woman In Focus"
Published On : 29 Mar 2019
Following International Women’s Day (8 March 2019), we’ve been running a month-long series and placing some of our Pen women ‘In Focus’. From apprentices and team leaders to divisional leaders and Executive Committee members, we wanted to showcase some of our great talent but also highlight the diverse range of opportunities and specialist areas a career at Pen can offer. Today, we’d like you to meet Michelle Bree.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT PEN
I’m the Director of Operations for Pen. I have responsibility for all of our back office processes (e.g. bordereaux processing and reporting), change projects, offshoring, business continuity planning, operational efficiency and managing the Pen real estate footprint. It is safe to say that no two days are ever the same!
WHAT WAS YOUR VERY FIRST JOB AND WHAT DID THAT TEACH YOU?
My first job was at the age of 14, in a small local hairdressers – there were regular customers, one time customers, young customers, older customers; I learned the importance of getting to know them and what they valued. But most importantly, I really enjoyed who I worked with and recognised just how important that is.
DID YOU HAVE A CHILDHOOD CAREER AMBITION — AND ARE YOU PREPARED TO SHARE IT?
I always wanted to run Heathrow airport – a strange ambition for a child you might say but I always thought it would be exciting to manage so many moving parts. Granted, I thought it would be as simple as sitting in the traffic control tower with a headset on, directing the planes in!
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK IN RISK MANAGEMENT & INSURANCE: CHOICE OR CHANCE?
Like most people, chance. I joined Accenture as a graduate and after a couple of projects in the banking industry I joined a project with RSA to work on Solvency II and have been in the insurance industry ever since
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE INDUSTRY?
The insurance industry is so important, the fact that it touches everyone in some shape or form. In terms of the future, the role that technology is going to (continue to) play is really exciting, particularly in the area of artificial intelligence - I don’t think we have seen anything yet. There was a fascinating, but somewhat terrifying, article by McKinsey in April of last year. It focussed on Insurance in the year 2030, it looked at how ‘Scotts’ digital personal assistant orders him a car to go to a meeting, he decides he wants to drive today so the best route is suggested. The route is shared with his insurer who suggests an alternate route with a lower likelihood of accidents - choosing the original route would result in his premium increasing by 4 to 8% (automatically debited from his account). On the same journey, Scott has an accident, the cars internal diagnostics determine the extent of the damage alongside being instructed to take further photos, his claim is submitted and then appears a drone to inspect it further! There is no doubt that some elements were far-fetched but none of the technology referenced was new, it was just being applied in different ways.
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF / WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Take ownership of your career path and growth. You will hopefully be fortunate enough to have supporters along the way but only you can really drive it. And make sure you enjoy it!
THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE CONTINUES TO FACE THE CHALLENGE OF AN UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN AT SENIOR LEVEL — WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE COULD HELP ‘MOVE THE DIAL’?
I believe it starts with ensuring we are attracting talent early on in people’s careers, perhaps with graduate programmes. Once in the door, with the focus shifting to retention, companies need to focus more on what people have to offer rather than the when and where – flexibility is key, and I think that applies to both men and women. Making it easier for people to do a good job is what’s important because that’s what people want to do – that might not be between the hours of 9 and 5, or sitting in the same location as all of their colleagues.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE INDUSTRY’S GREATEST CHALLENGE?
Continuing to adapt to people’s expectations in terms of technology, particularly around the ability to ‘self-serve’; whether that be purchasing an insurance policy (commercial or personal), adjusting a policy, making a claim or simply accessing policy information. There is an expectation to be able to have all of this capability at our finger tips
WHICH THREE INSPIRATIONAL FAMOUS PEOPLE — PAST & PRESENT — WOULD YOU INVITE TO A STRATEGIC OFFSITE TO DEVISE A PLAN TO OVERCOME THAT CHALLENGE, AND WHY?
Jeff Bezos – as the founder of Amazon and the driver behind its recent reinventions, he could have some interesting ideas around insurance distribution
Katherine Johnson – during her time at NASA, her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights. She helped NASA pioneer the use of computers to perform what were previously complex manual calculations. With the technology available today, imagine what she could help us come up with!
Steve Jobs – for his persistence and never accepting ‘that’s impossible’ as an answer. Obviously, the level of innovation which he drove at Apple was incredible, I’d love to hear what ideas he would have for the insurance industry