When NFU Mutual was faced with the retirement of a successful Managing Director of their Channel Islands subsidiary, Islands Insurance, they reached out to the offshore business at Michael Page to find a top tier replacement. Mark Rothery was the successful appointment after working with Emily Nunes. Islands Insurance found the right person for the role, and Mark was empowered to make an exciting move offshore and talks about his new role.
1. Tell us about your background and experience.
I have previously been the CEO of two insurance companies in the UK, Foresters Friendly Society (a life insurer) and CS Healthcare (a private medical insurer). I was also CEO of CSMA for six years which is a leisure company and introducer of a large number of general insurance policies to LV= in the UK. Until recently, I was also a non-executive director of Cornish Mutual (a general insurer) and I am a Chartered Director.
2. What initially attracted you to the insurance industry and your role at Islands Insurance?
Apart from a two-year break in my mid-twenties working in a holiday park (it was great fun and made sense at the time!) I have worked in insurance for 36 years. I think that I was drawn towards a career in insurance as my father died when I was at secondary school, my experience around this time showed me what a valuable commodity insurance is. Probably because of that early experience I have always considered insurance to be of great social benefit whether it be to protect a family unit, possessions or a business.
3. What are your career highlights? And why?
I am one of those fortunate people that has enjoyed almost every day of their working life. This is probably why I get very attached to companies that I work for and I am proud of their achievements, either whilst I am with the companies as well as after I have left, I have a lot of highlights but if I am limited to one, I would say that I am most proud, and got most satisfaction, from my short time at CS Healthcare between 2014 and 2016. CSH was a struggling business with great employees. My challenge was to turn it around. The employees there were not the cause of the problems that the company was experiencing and I got a great deal of satisfaction from working with the most positive and motivated employees that I have encountered. We seemed to naturally make a great team and what we achieved together was fantastic. We were so successful that CSH received two prestigious accolades as a private medical insurer, ahead of all of the large well known insurers; these were the Which? Award for customer satisfaction in 2015 and the Moneywise Award in 2016. I was only at CSH for 20 months and it was a very difficult decision to leave but the exciting opportunity with Islands Insurance was just too good to resist.
5. How do you continue to meet the changing demands of a business?
As a CEO/MD it is vital to have a crystal clear vision for the organisation that you are leading and to define objectives for the business that are valid in a range of circumstances. Then monitor and react to the performance of the business and the impact of internal and external changing demands as they occur. Always ensuring that interventions you lead are aligned to achieving the vision and objectives. It is also important to revisit the vision and objectives at least every three years to ensure that they stay valid.
6. What have been the key changes in the insurance industry in the last three years?
If I was still in the UK I would be highlighting changes to the prudential operation of insurers such as Solvency II and the relatively new Senior Insurance Managers Regime (SIMR). I am still learning about how insurance differs in the Channel Islands, both from a regulatory and marketplace perspective.
7. What misconceptions about insurance would you like to dispel
I am a big advocate of the mutual model for insurers, this means that policyholders are also owners of the business and therefore any surplus belongs to them rather than shareholders. Mutuals are therefore genuinely run for the benefit of policyholders, I am sure that this is not always true for large insurance PLC’s irrespective of what they say in their marketing literature. Ultimately they exist to make a return for shareholders. Islands is part of the NFU Mutual group and in 2016 it is giving longstanding policyholders a significant reduction in premium as a form of mutual dividend.
8. What do you think the long-term future holds for the insurance industry?
I hope that there is a return to customers and insurers building a long-term trust relationship rather than the transactional approach facilitated by online providers. Sometimes the transactional approach can lead to cheap, stripped down products that customers don’t fully understand. Mutual insurers and brokers are on the same side as policyholders. This is important as any form of insurance is a valuable commodity if an event occurs that triggers a claim so it is important that customers have the right product that suits their circumstances.
9. How does Islands Insurance keep ahead of the competition?
Over the next two years Islands is investing in improving its systems and the workplace so that it is even better placed to provide great customer service. Islands is starting from a good place already having been the first insurer in the channel islands to be awarded the externally assessed Customer Service Excellence ® standard in May 2016. However we know we can do even better.
10. What’s the most rewarding thing about working at Islands Insurance?
The Channel Islands generally is a great place to live and work. Islands Insurance reflects so much of that with great customers and employees who are all enjoying the same experience that I am!
11. What’s the best advice you have been given about solving problems at work?
I was on a training course 30 years ago when I was given a phrase that sums up how I genuinely feel about work and life – out of each adversity comes a seed of equal or greater opportunity. I enjoy problem solving, it is why I have had an interesting and challenging career, and there is an upside from every challenge or problem that I have faced in my working career.
T: +44 20 7776 5955