Drawing Inspiration From Inga Beale: Lloyd’s of London’s First Female Chief Executive

 

On first entering the Lloyd's of London Tower, situated in the heart of the city’s financial district, you are immediately met with what can only be described as an infectious rush of electric activity. And if the strict security procedures aren’t indicative enough, then the very building itself reveals an overwhelming sense of foreboding importance. With an urban infrastructure that juxtaposes the historical grandeur of the Lutine Bell, the overall architecture is a contemporary mix of the industry’s 17th century heritage and the modern day insurance market as we now know it. And as men and women alike, flurry past with a meaningful sense of purpose, it is hard to believe that the first woman only entered the dealing floor here as little as 40 years ago.

 

 

With that in mind, it is no surprise that the recent appointment of Inga Beale as Lloyd’s first female chief executive in the insurance market’s 325 years of history has been heralded as a poignant landmark and an exciting catalyst for change. In taking over from former executive, Richard Ward, Inga Beale has torn down stigmatising barriers in one of the most male-dominated bastions left in the UK. And what is best, is that Miss Beale has acquired this prestigious position, not by studying for a University degree, but through hard work and fierce determination from which all young women can draw inspiration.

 

 

So who exactly is Inga Beale and what is the path that she took in order to get here?

 

Growing up within her home county Berkshire, Beale chose a different route than originally expected after studying accounting and economics at Newbury College. In breaking away from conformity, she decided against University and instead perused a career in insurance. And it was not long before she proved herself as a junior underwriter with the potential to succeed.

Soon after joining Prudential as a trainee straight from college, Beale left to travel and later worked as a receptionist within the BBC. And it was here that she was first inspired by the way in which her female office manager commanded the respect of her fellow colleagues.

This unique insight into management, outside of the industry in which she first started, provided her with a life-changing experience that enabled her to return to the world of insurance with a renewed sense of confidence.

 

 

When addressing over 400 women at the 2013 IICF Women in Insurance Global Conference in New York, Beale described this time as a defining moment that channelled her determination during the early stages of her career. In particular, she noted her admiration for her office manager wearing trousers in the office – something that women were banned from doing at Lloyds until as late as the 1980’s.

 “I thought, ‘I’m going to go back and I’m going to be me and I’m going to wear pants to the office’”

And so she returned, but with an entirely different and fresh new mind-set…

 

 

Although it was not until later when she joined GE Insurance Solutions that her ambition really started to take hold. Beale then spent the next 30 years, working her way up through challenging roles in leading companies that eventually led her to where she is today; responsible for the of the most senior roles in the City.

And in the process of clearing her path to power, she has identified some of the crucial factors central to her success that we are all capable of learning something from, as young women entering into the world of work.

When presented with an opportunity in 2001 to lead a risk management department in Kansas City, Beale was initially unconvinced. With an already exciting role in London, the move seemed somewhat unappealing. However Beale told the women of New York in 2013 that;

“The best thing I ever did was to say yes”.

By seizing opportunities and utilising their advantage, Beale has accumulated a wide breadth of expertise throughout her career - which she was ultimately seen to apply in turning around, struggling Swiss reinsurer, Converium; a career move that proved pivotal in leading her to be recognised as one of the most effective female leaders in the UK.

She therefore identifies “exposure” as one of the three ingredients integral to success in her acronym P-I-E; along with image and performance.

“You have to perform your role. There’s no way you can get away from that. It’s a given.”

 

 

Whilst emphasising the impact of personal presentation and the way in which you are received as a professional, Beale focuses on the importance of grasping opportunities that will further yourself as an individual, not just by asking, but by demanding them.

Around 37 per cent of Lloyd’s management staff are currently women and following Beale’s appointment, the number of women on the Lloyd’s board has doubled from one to two. Although The Times claim that senior City women are still comparatively rare, with exceptions including the likes of Chartlotte Hogg, who was hired as the Bank of England’s chief operating officer earlier in 2013, and Ana Botin, the chief executive of Santander UK. It is therefore more important than ever that we seek to make and advance our own opportunities.

 

 

We can draw an immense amount of inspirational knowledge from women such as Inga Beale. Not only has she made the insurance industry and the wider world of business an exciting place to be, she has developed as a role model from whom we can all learn something intrinsically valuable.

Like many of girls out there, she never set out with a clear future mapped in front of her. Nor was she certain of what she wanted to achieve.

 

“For the first 10 years I didn’t really care about the job...I wasn’t focused on my career at all.”

 

But what she did do is remain confident in her ability as a young woman. She never let herself be intimidated, nor her voice go unheard. And better yet, she put herself forward, seized the opportunities around her - and once her goals were in sight, she ran for it.

 Inga Beale is therefore an inspiring example who demonstrates that; with the right attitude in life, we, as young women, are all equally capable of achieving success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:

Photo One: ‘Lloyd’s of London’ www.openbuildings.com

Photo Two: ‘Lutine Bell – Lloyd’s of London’ by Edwin Jones www.edwinjonesphotography.com

Photo Three: Inga Beale becomes first woman to lead Lloyds of London in its 325-year history’ The Times www.thetimes.co.uk

Photo Four: ‘Got Style, Got Courage’ Long and Luxe longandluxe.com

Photo Five: 'Business Woman Walking' e2ein.com

Photo Six: 'How to Get More Work Done...' www.youqueen.com

Photo Seven: ‘Lloyds of London Pompidou Centre www.theleadenhallbuilding.com

Photo Eight: ‘True Success in Times of Change www.bestofyoutoday.com