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Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s of London

Hattie / 17th Nov, 2016 / Success Stories

Meet Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd's of London, the world's specialist insurance market

Q:Why did you decide not to go to university?

A:

After leaving school I did actually start a degree course in accountancy. In those days there was a government grant and if you didn’t like the course and cancelled within the first term, you were guaranteed to get a grant the next year – so I decided to cancel.

Q:First job? Was it more difficult for you having not been to uni?

A:

I was lucky enough to get a job offer very quickly and I became a trainee underwriter in the insurance industry, at Prudential in London. I got the job partly because I had been an intern with them during my A-levels and I was known to the firm.  Also a commitment to studying for the Chartered Insurance Institute exams meant university qualifications were not a prerequisite.

It was a completely different experience to being student – I was working in Lime Street, in the heart of the City of London, and being paid a salary – it was really too exciting to give up, so I never went back to university.

Q:How did you become CEO of Lloyd’s?

A:

I don’t think I could give you any definitive career guide to becoming a CEO.  For me a lot of my career has hinged on having the courage to take the opportunities that came along during my professional life.  Some people plan their careers, but I have never done that.  I’ve been at the right place, at the right time, but I have had the courage to say ‘yes’, to move countries and to do things I never thought I could do.

Q:When you employ people now, how important is a degree?

A:

As CEO, the level I personally employ at now involves people with many years of experience and it is really about what they have achieved at work, and what their output is, which is so much more important than a degree they may have studied for many years ago in a field not particularly relevant to the role.  There are no hard and fast rules here – it will also depend on what level you are at in your career, and of course the industry you are looking to get into and how specialist you want to be.

Q:What are the most important qualities people need in the workplace?

A:

Workplace culture differs widely across industries and organisations.  For Lloyd’s the values and behaviours we expect of our talent are known as the Spirit of Lloyd’s.  We look for collaborative, innovative, responsible people who are committed to excellence.  Those qualities underpin the standard of work we do and the way we go about doing it.

Q:Companies like EY and Penguin Random House have scrapped degree requirement at recruitment, would Lloyd’s ever consider this?

A:

Lloyd’s has a strong and accredited apprenticeship scheme and, although we also have a graduate recruitment programme, we have been actively recruiting people without degrees for a while.

Q:Did you ever regret your decision to not go to university?

A:

Over parts of my career I have at times, but this was when I was much more junior.  I used to have a chip on my shoulder about it, but it is water under the bridge now and I don’t think about it anymore.

Q:As a woman - did you ever struggle being in a predominantly male environment?

A:

Early on in my career I did find it difficult being a woman in London’s male-dominated insurance industry.  At the time I started work – back in the 1980s, women still weren’t allowed to wear trousers to the office!  So to cope with it, I changed my behaviour to be like a man, including drinking pints of beer in the pub with the boys – that sort of thing.  Thankfully times have changed significantly since but I very nearly abandoned the insurance sector altogether after experiencing some pretty unsavoury sexism early on in my working life.

One of the defining moments in my life came when I was working for a woman in Australia at the BBC.   She said what she thought, wore what she wanted, and, importantly, was respected for doing an excellent job.  She inspired me to stop trying to be anyone other than myself and began to realise my value.

Q:What advice would you give young, ambitious people not sure about university?

A:

My own experience is that life passes you by you by very quickly, and it is important to take hold of the opportunities that are offered to you.  Everybody is different.  If you are passionate about a subject and you have the opportunity to go and study, then go for it.  Equally, if you have the opportunity to join an apprenticeship or trainee programme for a company or in an industry that interests you, then it can be a great career foundation, as it was for me.

The reality is that today’s school leavers and young students will have a much different study and career path to those of us who are a decade or more into their working life.  When you look at how the digital revolution has changed the world, with the ubiquity of technology connecting us all in ways we never thought possible twenty years ago, you can imagine how different the world might be in 2030.  There will be jobs that don’t yet exist!  Today’s young people will live much longer and will be working for much longer and will probably be regularly re-skilling and learning throughout their life.  Get out there and grab those opportunities.

It was a completely different experience to being student – I was working in Lime Street, in the heart of the City of London, and being paid a salary – it was really too exciting to give up, so I never went back to university.

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