Jen Martin - Pen's "Woman In Focus"
Published On : 08 Mar 2019
In recognition of International Women’s Day (8 March 2019), we’re launching 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. First, we introduce you to Jen Martin.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE:
I’m Managing Director of International & Financial Lines at Pen Underwriting. This involves responsibility for a wide range of accounts - Pen’s US Property, International Cyber, UK Professional Indemnity, Directors’ & Officers’ Liability, PA & Travel, and Solicitors’ PI as well as our Recruitment Agency specialism. I also sit on the Pen Executive Committee.
WHAT WAS YOUR VERY FIRST JOB AND WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU?
My very first job was a newspaper round at the tender age of 13. Not only did this teach me to get up early and get out on my bike (regardless of the weather), but also how to take responsibility and manage it. We had a competition at Christmas time for the person with the least complaints on their round, and I won £25 which, in 1979, was a huge fortune for me!
DID YOU HAVE A CHILDHOOD CAREER AMBITION — AND ARE YOU PREPARED TO SHARE IT?
To become an actress. I think the applause following my turn on the stage as St Trinian’s Head Mistress may have gone to my head a bit…
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK IN RISK MANAGEMENT & INSURANCE: CHOICE OR CHANCE?
Surprisingly, perhaps, it was by choice. I applied to various Graduate Trainee positions for different insurers and was offered jobs by three, choosing Sun Alliance which I joined in Horsham back in 1988.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE INDUSTRY?
The way it offers so many fantastic career opportunities to young people and in such varied roles. People can really take control of their destiny - and the industry is receptive to people with ambition.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER HIGHLIGHT SO FAR?
Being externally recognised in 2018 - after 30 years in the industry - as a ‘Woman to Watch’.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?
I’m naturally impatient so I do recall Roger Field, my manager at Brit, counselling me on my first day working for him back in January 2000 that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. In hindsight, I’m not sure I heeded the advice and still get irritated when seemingly simple things take so long to get done.
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 our greater challenge lies in upping the appeal of our industry to all school and college leavers - regardless of gender. Alongside other financial services industries, insurance faces the reputational challenge of being seen as staid. The subject matter just sounds dull. So we need to change the narrative - away from ‘insurance’ and to focus on the many interesting aspects of taking, mitigating and managing ‘risk’.
But if we’re to also tackle the specific issue of under-representation of women at senior level, the industry needs to get serious about flexible working. This would definitely help to entice more women back after taking time out to start or raise a family and retain them in the long-term.
On the plus side, I’m pleased to say today’s environment in the insurance ‘London Market’ is very different to the one I experienced earlier in my 30 years career, including some pretty negative aspects. It may still be male-dominated but there’s much greater awareness today of what is - and is not - appropriate behaviour. This will make things a lot easier for women starting out in the industry today.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE INDUSTRY’S GREATEST CHALLENGE?
The need to be proactive and responsive and not be stifled by bureaucracy - it’s just too easy to say No at the moment.
WHICH THREE INSPIRATIONAL FAMOUS PEOPLE — PAST & PRESENT — WOULD YOU INVITE TO A STRATEGIC OFFSITE TO DEVISE A PLAN TO OVERCOME THIS CHALLENGE, AND WHY?
Steve Jobs - of course! One of the most innovative business leaders of our time.
Oprah Winfrey - Her rags-to-riches story is inspirational. Her ability to be an actress, a talk show host, a business leader and a media executive, fuelled by her outstanding drive and determination and against the hardship she faced as a child and in the entertainment industry - is hugely impressive.
Billy Connolly - Because he stands out from the crowd, even as a comedian amongst comedians. He is a gentleman; a skilled entertainer and musician; relevant; and humble. He has the ability to appeal to a very eclectic group of people - which is just what our industry needs to do better.
AND FINALLY, TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU WHICH PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN:
I renewed my marriage vows in The Chapel of Love, Las Vegas, in the cheesiest of ceremonies, wearing a lovely meringue of a dress and walking down the aisle with an Elvis impersonator singing “Love Me Tender”. Such a funny day.