Lloyd’s first-ever female chief executive tells her story of reaching the top and why diversity is important for the industry

Inga Beale

When I was appointed chief executive of Lloyd’s at the beginning of this year, the fact I was a woman caused a stir. I made headlines not only in the UK but across the world. Journalists would start conversations by stating: “So you’re a woman in this top job!”, as though telling me something I did not already know. To an extent, I could understand the reaction as there are not many female chief executives in the insurance industry.

As many others, I started my career in insurance almost by chance. I was offered a couple of opportunities and chose reinsurance underwriting, rather than accounting. I became hooked on reinsurance in those early days – almost every major news story involves (re)insurance and I soon realised how important insurance is in supporting society.

I have been given some great opportunities to work in different countries and cultures. Some of the toughest decisions during my career were about moving out of my comfort zone and taking on new challenges. These are the decisions that test you and take courage. I have learnt so much about how important the PIE model is: performance, image, exposure.

Keeping an eye on each element will help your career progress. Performance is a given and we must all perform to get on. However, taking care of your image and how others perceive you is also important and will affect your career progression more than you might imagine. The last one, exposure, is about getting involved in things to get noticed. This could be networking, project work, making presentations or taking on new challenges. 

One of the biggest career breaks I had came about through taking on a non-market facing role in the US headquarters of the company where I worked. It gave me direct exposure to the group chief executive and lots of interaction with the senior executives of the company. Through that, I was offered my first big business to run back in Europe with a diverse team that spanned Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Including people from different backgrounds truly creates a more successful business. If we are to remain relevant in a global arket, then Lloyd’s needs to attract a diverse talent base. If we are going to reach new customers, we need to speak their language, understand their culture and look like them. The bottom line to all of this is the market’s bottom line – being more diverse is good for business.