You’ve been with Global Benefits Group (GBG) for over three and a half years. What have been your biggest challenges or successes in your career?
It has certainly gone quickly – time flies, as the saying goes. I made the decision to move to GBG in December 2019, just as Covid-19 was becoming increasingly recognised as a global threat. As such and notwithstanding the hurdles any new role presents, my biggest challenge (and success) at GBG has to be successfully launching a business in the midst of a pandemic. This was a major piece of work and one that was made both achievable and fun through the hard work and dedication of many amazing colleagues.
Prior to my time at GBG, I faced many obstacles, from being seen in my very early career as ‘not old enough’ to justify evidence-led progression (I was even asked to wear non-prescription spectacles to a client meeting to make me look older) to navigating what is arguably a very male-driven industry – something I can already see rebalancing with some of the amazing women leaders in our sector.
I have also enjoyed many successes, from winning awards with previous employers – some at a group level – to historically participating in various emerging leadership and talent programmes. However, whenever I am asked what my proudest achievement is, my answer is always my daughter. She is only nine but she has such a strong presence; she is kind, caring, intelligent, funny and responsible and I am blessed by her every day.
You’ve also worked for Bupa and AXA Health. What drew you to the medical insurance and healthcare sphere?
The global health insurance marketplace is diverse and dynamic so whilst this is a cliché, no two days are the same. I also resonate with the ethos of the sector as many, including GBG, have an authentic desire to make a positive difference within the marketplace. This aligns closely to my personal value set.
What does your current role entail?
I oversee two GBG business entities: Global Benefits Group UK Ltd (GBG UK Ltd), based in London, and Global Benefits Europe (GBE), with a presence in Belgium, Denmark, France, Serbia and the Netherlands.
My role entails managing GBG UK Ltd and GBE’s business operations to ensure financial and strategic goals are set, understood and met. It also involves executive sponsorship of valuable relationships with broker and intermediary partners, and all local authorities or regulators either business works with.
The global health insurance marketplace is diverse and dynamic so whilst this is a cliché, no two days are the same
I also take pride in maintaining a culture that is inclusive, diverse, accountable and, most importantly, fun. It is my firm belief that the strongest asset of any business is its people as they embody values and are in one form or another responsible for delivering all products and services to customers.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
When not travelling, I tend to mix my week between home and office working – I am typically in the office two days a week as this helps me to balance my family and professional commitments.
When I am in the London office my alarm goes off at 6.15am. As a rule, I have a working log of items that need closing out that day, week and month that I review (and invariably add to) once I have checked though new emails during my commute. This helps me to ensure deliverables are not missed and that I can proactively flex my diary based on emerging priorities.
I like to make a stop to buy fresh pastries and fruit for the team and to spend time catching up with everyone in the office on arrival. Once I have caught up with people, my day then opens into calls or meetings to support my working log and where there may be a need for strategic, tactical or operational direction or decisions that may arise during the day.
Before I leave the office I like to ensure I have quickly cleaned up my inbox and translated any new or amended actions or outcomes from the day into my working log. I get home in time to say goodnight to my daughter and enjoy dinner with my husband.
Has the huge increase in digital nomads impacted the products you offer?
Yes, I think it has. Our products provide people with access to private medical care that follows them globally and is not constrained to the country they reside in. For digital nomads, this means a lot of geographic flexibility and reassurance that they can access this care globally. Travel insurance is great but doesn’t provide the same level of care and is normally limited in how many days in a year you can utilise it.
Do you think the industry has taken sufficient advantage of the ‘revenge travel’ trend the market is seeing?
Our target customer segment is company business, where the employer pays for the product to support an expat assignment or globally mobile senior members of their business.
I can certainly say we have seen the business travel and short/medium-term overseas assignment market open up again almost to pre-Covid-19 levels. We are also seeing a change in attitude to healthcare products, with people expecting a high level of cover for health and wellbeing. The impact of Covid-19 has been a big driver in bringing health and wellbeing into sharper focus, not just in the consumer segments but also what businesses want to provide to their employees.
Attracting and retaining talent, for any business, is one of the biggest challenges employers now face. How is GBG responding?
I would say attracting talent, especially at the mid- to senior management level, is no longer about who can present the highest bid; it is increasingly about mutually aligned cultures and values between companies and prospective employees.
In recognition of this, GBG has created a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion, and a value-driven environment that allows its employees to thrive. I would also say we have a robust selection process when recruiting and seek to employ individuals that are not only highly proficient in their field but people that have self-starter energy, ambition and motivation, as well as independent workers that communicate and collaborate well. You may argue these are typically sought attributes; however, individuals that meet these criteria will only be offered if they have authentic flair. By this I mean those that can demonstrate integrity and honesty, those that have the right personal values and will fit with the dynamic and culture of the wider team.
Once a part of the GBG family, we rarely suffer unwanted attrition. We view employees and our business as having a symbiotic relationship, we encourage learning and development and enable people to follow their professional passions.
I can certainly say we have seen the business travel and short/medium-term overseas assignment market open up again almost to pre-Covid-19 levels
What does the future of medical and travel insurance look like for you?
The sector has battled a number of largely unforeseen challenges in recent years, not least access to care locked down globally due to Covid-19, and the aftermath of ‘catch-up care’. Other material factors include evolving and tightening regulatory change and increased policy-level customisation expectation, while economic uncertainty and competitor consolidation are heightening commercial pressures on customers.
Throughout, customers are continuing to expect top-quality, personalised, quick-to-access, easy-to-use insurance policies. Trends have seen investment in digitalisation facilitating greater self-service options, from electronic/app-enabled reimbursement claim filing, wearable fitness or diagnosis aids to virtual primary care, counselling and prescription ordering/delivery services.
Global nomads and a general move away from long-term, expensive expat assignments have created an emerging demand for a more globalised approach to insurance provision designed for use in home countries and overseas, i.e., for local nationals as well as international assignees. I also see a stronger value being attached to appropriate insurance by consumers post-Covid-19, which I believe will compound the surge in demand we are currently seeing in the sector.