Spotlight Interview with Pete Cole
Pete works in our underwriting team as our Senior Underwriter and has been with our ICCI family, specialising in Commercial Insurance, for nearly 2 years. Prior to that Pete worked for Hiscox & Norwich Union in the UK. For Pete, the best part of working for ICCI is the team and when Pete isn’t watching Disney movies with his two young daughters, he can be found dreaming of being a space tourist!
We sat down with Pete to find out more about his career, what it feels like to work at ICCI and get a few handy insurance tips …
PART 1: YOUR ROLE AT ICCI
Pete, you joined us nearly 2 years ago now – what attracted you to move to Guernsey and how did you get into insurance?
My wife and I both wanted to move and work abroad. We had visited Jersey on holiday as we wanted to get our daughter at the time used to travelling and it was only an hour’s flight from where we lived. We loved the way of life and an opportunity arose for my wife to work in Guernsey so we thought we would just go for it. In terms of how I got into insurance, I went to University in Norwich and when I finished university I wanted to stay in the city because it was an area I liked and had friends there and their largest employer there was Norwich Union (now known as Aviva). I started in a broker call centre and then stayed in insurance ever since. There were lots of opportunities to progress and was I there for 10 years.
Describe your role to someone outside the company.
I have two elements to my role. The first aspect is that I look after one of ICCI’s largest accounts, so I am responsible for the underwriting of that, setting the premiums and for the day to day relationship management, working internally as well to make sure we can deliver the best terms for that client. I also look after individual large complex commercial policies as well. For that, I look after the underwriting aspect, setting the terms, looking at the premium i.e. the price the client will pay, and then negotiating those terms through with our Brokers.
What is your most favourite part of your job?
One of the many great things about Insurance Corporation (ICCI) is that there are lots of learning and development opportunities provided. For myself this is my favourite part, attending some of the soft-skill and technical training programmes to expand my knowledge and learn other aspects of insurance in more detail, to understand the reasons why we do what we do and what the risks are. I am always interested and keen to learn and pick up more hints and tips.
If you could switch jobs with anyone at ICCI for a day who would it be and why?
I may have gone a little bit odd ball on this one! I would pick Pete Jennings who is our Business Governance Executive. It’s not necessarily his job that I would be interested in, it’s the way in which he is able to take a relatively dry subject & fairly challenging role, especially within insurance which is increasingly heavily regulated and governed, and he is able to make lightness of that. He tries to bring it alive for the rest of the team and that’s a skillset that irrespective of what you’re dealing with, should be valued whatever the position you are in or message you are trying to convey.
What are the 3 best things about working for ICCI, and what are the 3 best features at ICCI as an employer?
I will start with an analogy. It’s about Michael Jordon being the greatest basketball player of all time. You put him on the halfway line of a basketball court and ask him to throw baskets and he will throw those baskets all day long for you. If you put Michael Jordon, the greatest basketball player ever to play, and you put him on the halfway line of the basket ball court but now you switch out the lights in the arena and you now ask him to throw baskets. He will still throw a lot of baskets because he is the best player ever, but he is going to miss more than he is going to score. I think for me its about the environment which is created for people. Some companies will employ great people but they won’t necessarily deliver what they expect them to do and they will look at that individual and say why is that happening, rather than look at themselves and the environment they have created.
For me, what ICCI do so fantastically is that they create an environment where they can employ great people, but they have also created a great environment to work in. That really allows the team to fulfil their potential, to do their absolute best that they can do. For example, when I came here from the UK I needed a flexible working pattern. A decision was made quickly and just gave me the confidence that I would be happy to work here. I have had to change my hours again more recently and, again, ICCI were really accommodating of that and it just makes you so comfortable working here. A lot of support is also provided, whether that’s an underwriting query, a claims query or a HR query, you always get a quick decision and people here are very supportive of you and just make sure you are set up to do the absolute best you can do, rather than set up to fail. This is what makes ICCI a great employer.
PART 2: PETE’S INSURANCE INSIGHTS & TIPS
Having worked for a UK insurer previously, what USP do you think ICCI offers local customers and brokers?
When I was working for a UK insurer, even though I was regionally based, it could still be a 2-hour drive to see one of the insurance partners/brokers. In the Channel Islands you are never more than 10-15 minutes away from our brokers. UK insurers would bite your hand off to be no more than 10-15 minutes from all of their customers and I think that’s a real thing for us – that real closeness, those face-to-face meetings that we are able to have and set up quickly. Also, the brokers who we deal with are important to us. Having worked for a large UK insurer previously, you may have a much larger insurer panel and not have the same focus on local brokers like we have here.
What benefits do you feel there are from ICCI being part of the RSA Group?
There are two really key things that help. One is their expertise, as there is real breadth and depth of knowledge that you can get from being part of a very large company like RSA, and we are lucky to tap into that. Also, the way we are governed and regulated; to provide the capacity and write the risks that we do, it is really important to have the backing of a larger group behind you, more so than it ever has been. We have the backing from RSA but they are also really comfortable with our knowledge and local expertise that we have, so they allow us to use their capacity in the way that we feel is best to use it. So really, it’s the best of both worlds.
In addition, through our connection with RSA we are also able to provide customers with specialist risk management support. This might be a site visit where our consultant can see and discuss the potential risks and mitigation methods with the customer, a phone consultation where our consultant can talk through the risks and improvements with the customer or maybe just a specific risk management query where the consultant can offer advice or guidance.
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry? How do you think we can overcome it?
There are several significant challenges out there, some of which we can’t go into in great detail now, such as climate change, cyber risks etc. I think the greatest challenge is people looking for the lowest price and that’s completely understandable as we all do it, but that is without understanding that the lowest price, sometimes, comes at a cost. This could be a higher excess that you were not aware of, or something that you thought was covered turns out not to be. Insurance shouldn’t be about what is the best price, it should be about ensuring you have the right cover in place for you. Where you don’t engage a broker and you are just looking for the best price, you are not going to get the cover that you specifically want or need. Brokers are able to provide advice and guidance on these aspects for you. The other area is that all of us should talk about value rather than price – what’s the value that you are getting out of your insurance product? The other challenge is investing in technology and both brokers and insurance companies need to make the journey a lot simpler, quicker and slicker so we can look to make the price and the cover something that the client is looking for.
What is the main advantage of taking out insurance with ICCI?
The massive advantage is our local underwriting knowledge and claims expertise. We fully understand the local risks and know that there are a lot less risks than UK insurers think. But our expertise isn’t just limited to the underwriting expertise, it’s about our claims proposition too. Before I said ‘what’s the value that you are getting out of your insurance product?’ This is where ICCI excels. We have a local claims team and loss adjuster partners who are able to go out and assess risks quickly. Our claims team understand the environment and understand the contractors who work on the island.
If you have one piece of advice for someone considering a career in insurance, what would it be?
I always think that it’s probably best not just to think about it as a career in insurance. Understand what it is you want to do and even if you think that isn’t an insurance type role, it probably is a role you can do within an insurance company. If you want to be a project manager, a business analyst or an IT specialist, all of these jobs are available with the insurance industry. I would actively seek to work with an insurance company, as I think general insurance companies look after their staff a lot better than other organisations. They are also generally fairly sizeable, so there is plenty of opportunities to develop and progress or swap roles.
PART 3: FUN FACTS ABOUT …. PETE
When you are not at the office, what do you like doing?
I have 2 young daughters so I spend most of my time with them and it is more about what they want to do, rather than what my wife and I would like to do!! Having come over to Guernsey we love spending time at the beach, the island has such fantastic beaches.
What’s your favourite sport to watch, and which team do you root for and why?
Before children, I would enjoy nothing more than to settle down on the sofa for 5 days watching a Cricket test match but nowadays I’m lucky if I can squeeze in 90mins of watching Leicester City on the TV!
What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing your role at ICCI?
I have always been fascinated by space so an Astronaut is what I wanted to do and to be honest, if an opportunity arose, I would still love to do that now.
What’s the top destination on your must-visit list?
My wife and I love travelling around the world. We never got to see Brazil on our honeymoon, and Japan would be second on our list. I love Asia and the culture over there.
What’s one totally irrational fear that you have?
I don’t like sponges and I can’t touch them; it makes me feel really weird.
Do you have a favourite motivational quote?
“Life isn’t a rehearsal”. I heard this when I was 15 or 16 and it stuck with me. A lot of what I choose to do in life and the decisions that I make, I base on this phrase. Let’s just do it – let’s give it a go, as the opportunity might not come around again.
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