WeAreTheCity talks being a woman in insurance, gender equality & career success with Nicola Dryden, Sedgwick

Meet Nicola Dryden

Chief Client Officer, Sedgwick UK

Nicola leads the CRM, marketing and bids teams at Sedgwick International UK. Her focus is to ensure that Sedgwick meet and exceed client needs as well as longer-term growth plans.

Nicola has over 20 years of experience working in the insurance sector with her latest role being at AIG.  She has a wealth of expertise in the management of strategic accounts, financial results, partnerships, new business deals and contract negotiations.  She also has extensive international experience from working in Canada and supporting deals in France.

In this piece, WeAreTheCity talks to Nicola Dryden about being a woman in insurance, her journey into the industry and how businesses can accelerate the pace of change for gender equality.

I have over 20 years’ experience working in the insurance sector and am currently UK Chief Client Officer at Sedgwick, a leading global provider of technology-enabled risk, benefits and integrated business solutions.

I have a wealth of expertise in the management of strategic accounts, financial results, partnerships, new business deals and negotiations as well as extensive international expertise, having built, and led a team in Canada and supported a range of deals in Europe.

In my role I’m focused on ensuring our clients’ needs are delivered, as well as the company’s longer-term business and growth strategy.  I lead Sedgwick’s client relationship management team, responsible for managing relationships with over 550 clients and focus on the development of Sedgwick’s digital proposition.

Journey into the insurance industry

I undertook a master’s degree at City University, which equipped me with a broad range of transferrable business skills across Finance, PR, marketing, organisational change and business development.

Upon finishing my degree, I took a bold step approach and wrote to the CEOs of all the big consultancy firms, simply asking them for a discussion about different roles and what they entail.  Off the back of this I met with most of the big consultancy firms and was offered a few different roles within a month.

I decided to take the role at Ernst & Young as part of the management consultancy team and did lots of work with a large insurance firm.  It was fast paced work where I made a lot of good contacts, and I was offered a job with them.  A lot of people say that no one chooses to go into insurance, and I was no exception to this, it was simply a natural progression.

Following this, I had the opportunity to move to Sedgwick.  At the time, I didn’t know much about the Sedgwick brand, but after initial conversations with the team I was immediately impressed.  The business is global, results driven, has strong individual business areas and a market leading digital proposition – all of the great things needed to ensure a firm’s success.  However, it was really the people that attracted me.  

Everyone I met was professional, open and genuinely welcoming.  Most importantly, they talked about Sedgwick passionately.  It was everything I was looking for in a company culture.

Level Up Summit

 

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

Being a woman in the insurance industry

Women have made important gains in the industry in recent years, and this has been accelerated by the pandemic and the rise of flexible working.  However, there is no denying that many boardrooms and leadership teams in the insurance sector remain male dominated.

My own experiences in the industry have generally been positive.  I owe this to the support I have received from managers, who have been fundamental to my development – explaining to me how I can progress and giving me opportunities for promotion.  However, I cannot underestimate the importance of taking ownership of your own career progression – pushing hard to ensure these opportunities present themselves and not just sitting back and expecting things to happen.

It’s important to push your case in conversations and increase your visibility through networking at events and other forums.  I am a member of the Women in Banking & Finance Group and have found groups such as these incredibly important in bringing together women who have a broad range of views and opinions on different issues – to network and develop their careers.  At Sedgwick, we’re excited to have launched our women’s global colleague resource group. With the support of our executive leadership team, the group aims to provide our female colleagues with opportunities and support for both personal and career development, networking, business engagement, community outreach and member engagement.

The best advice I have received is to never think you’re not good enough or that you can’t do something.  Studies have shown that women are less likely to apply for jobs unless they meet every single qualification, and this is something I have had to work through.

Even if you don’t have every attribute that employers are looking for, you should have faith in your abilities and your capability to learn new skills.

 

What do businesses need to do to accelerate pace of equality change

Equity should be embedded into all parts of the employee lifecycle and begins in the attraction and recruitment processes. Businesses need to educate younger people by going into schools and universities to explain the opportunities that different careers can offer and then need to craft their recruitment process to ensure that women and people from diverse backgrounds are effectively included.  It must also be part of the culture of an organisation, where it is talked about at a senior level and taken seriously by all employees.  And talking about it is not enough, leaders need to model the inclusive behaviours they expect to see throughout their organizations.

Alongside this, businesses must be transparent in sharing gender disparities and pay gaps and have clear targets so they can be tracked effectively. At Sedgwick we’ve made a pledge to the Women in Finance Charter to improve female representation in senior roles in the UK.  To drive change, we need to challenge ourselves and set aspirational targets and having enrolled in the 2022 cohort, this is exactly what we’ll be doing over the coming months. 

The path forward is clear. Businesses need to recognise and reward women who are driving progress.  And they need to do the deep cultural work required to create a workplace where all women feel welcomed, valued, respected, and heard.

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