Meet Louise Hopkins
"Business responsibilities early on and a great place to learn!"
Allianz is a global insurer with a huge international footprint and the potential opportunities within the company really appealed to me. The culture, training programmes and flexibility to move around was key to my decision to join the scheme – and has been one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most. The graduate scheme allows you to build a network of people across the organisation, to share experiences, try new things and gain experience in a range of different business areas. During my time on the Commercial Insurance Graduate scheme (Underwriting), I’ve worked in mid-corporate property and casualty, motor fleet, SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) and I’ve also had opportunities for shorter secondments in engineering and claims, which has given me a breadth of experience – already!
What is a typical day on the Commercial Insurance Graduate scheme? In my current role in Head Office, I couldn’t tell you as it’s so varied and that’s what I love about it! Today, for instance, I’ve been involved in large scheme analysis, liaising with branch networks, underwriting referrals, looking at survey criteria on risks and delegated authority agreements. Other days, I could be working on projects, product offerings or identifying training needs – anything really, it’s hugely varied! When I was placed in the Small Business team in Maidstone, I worked on some of the training programmes and schedules for new graduates coming into underwriting placements which was something I really enjoyed as it was almost like a blank canvas for me to use what I’d learned to help form the best placements possible for future graduates. Right now, I’m getting stuck into many interesting things. Our SME direct arm is in full project mode due to go-live at the end of the year so I’ve been quite involved in that.
I’ve moved around the business a lot in my time because I’ve always been keen to keep learning new parts of the business and continue developing my skills. One thing that every branch I’ve worked in has had in common is its friendly atmosphere! It’s a fast-paced business which brings challenge but people take it in their stride and there’s always lots of laughter, making it a happy place to work. I guess it can be quite challenging because often once you start to feel comfortable in a role, you’re moving off to learn another one. But being open to new opportunities and roles has really worked for me. I think it’s important to be your own advocate; to work hard, think outside the box and try and make a difference in every placement you work in - and that can be even the simplest things like changing a spreadsheet to improve efficiency for everyone.
While you’re challenged and given meaningful business responsibilities, the support you get is excellent whether it’s for exams, workloads or personal development. It’s not silly hours like some people might expect of the finance sector so you can enjoy a great work-life balance. And it’s been fantastic to be mentored by some key senior managers within the business and to get that high level of one-to-one support within such a large, global company. With the open-door culture here, I have regular contact with senior managers. The time they take to invest in graduates is second to none. You also build close working relationships with previous graduates. For example, when I had queries about projects in India, I was able to approach a graduate who had completed a placement out there for some first-hand insight and advice. It’s a great place to learn.
Every Allianz employee has the opportunity to undertake relevant formal training if they wish to do so and this is key on the graduate schemes. I’ve completed the Advanced Diploma for the Chartered Insurance Institute alongside our internal Underwriting Academy. These are great as they stick with you throughout your career and provide a really good foundation of underwriting knowledge. On top of this, I’ve undertaken lots of softer skills courses – both internally and externally – on topics such as personal branding, influencing and negotiation. Continuous development and learning opportunities are very much supported by Allianz. They don’t rush you through professional exams - you are able to complete at your own pace. Their investment in people is genuine and the skills I’ve developed so far have been invaluable.
In my current role, I have regular talks about my personal development and what the future might hold and while I don’t know exactly what that is just yet, there are so many opportunities cropping up within the business that it’s bound to be exciting. What I’d say to other graduates is pick wisely – Allianz is a company that will support you and provide opportunities both on and after your graduate scheme. And be yourself! Never compromise your own personality as its people’s individual traits that drives a successful business.
Louise Hopkins – Commercial Insurance Graduate Scheme