International Women’s Day: Caroline King, Operations Director - Real Estate
Published On : 10 Mar 2020
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT PEN UNDERWRITING
I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of Pen Underwriting’s Regional Real Estate business, team and its P&L. I joined Pen as part of the Barbon acquisition in 2013, moving into my current role as Operations Director of Real Estate in 2015.
WHAT WAS YOUR VERY FIRST JOB AND WHAT DID THAT TEACH YOU?
My first ever job was as a waitress in a local tea room on Saturdays, but my first full-time role was as an insurance clerk at high street broker Swinton. It instilled in me a strong work ethic and taught me about taking ownership and responsibility. I also learnt that being really focused supports results - especially when the incentive was holiday vouchers!
DID YOU HAVE A CHILDHOOD CAREER AMBITION?
As a child, it was the fairly typical wish of becoming a pop star (even though I cannot sing). Then, as I reached my teenage years the dream of travelling the world turned me towards a career as an air hostess however my fear of flying, whilst not stopping me from travelling, does mean that this was not the right job for me either.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE INDUSTRY?
I think this is a really exciting time for the industry; it’s a changing market which brings challenges and opportunities. There will need to be a real balance in maximising those opportunities whilst delivering good performance in the current climate for Property Owners. On a day to day basis the winning or retaining of a significant case or deal whether individually or as part of a team, along with being able to support and develop individuals and seeing them succeed excites me. Although it’s not industry-specific, being part of something and making a difference are key motivators of mine.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER HIGHLIGHT SO FAR?
On a personal level, in my previous business I was nominated for and won the employee recognition awards for People. More recently, as part of Pen, I’ve been nominated for and accepted onto the first ‘Runway’ leadership development programme.
On a business level, the financial success we’ve achieved since the reinvention of the business in 2016 along with mine and the teams’ growth as part of this journey has to be a highlight.
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS STARTING OUT IN THEIR CAREERS?
Try not to focus on what’s out of your control and never hit ‘send’ when frustrated. Go back and re-read after reflection. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this advice.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received – use facts not opinions (unless appropriate) to make your point. Facts can often change opinions and break down sweeping statements. Where an opinion or point is made supported by facts, it gives much greater credibility.
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’?
The best thing a business can do is acknowledge where it’s failing and demonstrate that there are actions and controls that can be taken to ensure that all colleagues - not just women - are treated equally and have the same opportunities to progress and succeed.
The recruitment process and selection is a key area: make sure all recruiting managers are trained and buy into the benefit of and need for a diverse and varying team of employees that bring different perspectives and skillsets.
I believe that women need to be more direct in putting themselves forward for bigger roles and opportunities. Don’t be embarrassed to have ambition and push for it.
HOW IS PEN HELPING WOMEN FACE THEIR FUTURE WITH CONFIDENCE?
I have a great manager and leadership team which means that I was one of the first people to take part in the Runway leadership development programme - it really inspired me to think more confidently about my future. As a business there are many opportunities for personal growth, again not just for women but anyone that wants to push themselves further - whether you choose to be mentored, have a career development plan, attend lunch and learns, join committees, or simply get coached from your line manager - it is all available.
On a day to day basis, I get inspired by the small things. Such as the people I work with pushing themselves out of their comfort zones or doing something different to achieve their goals. I find individuals who want to continually grow and develop themselves, reflecting, learning and sharing from their own experiences whether good or bad, really inspiring.