Alexandra H-C Borgnis wants you to know that a career in insurance is definitely not dull. She admits that her high-school self would probably say that her job sounds “boring”, but she’d like to reassure her younger self (and anyone else) that “It really isn’t, and you’re going to love it!”
Alex says about her role as Head of Motor Underwriting at LV= General Insurance:
“People think I deal with numbers a lot, but actually my job is a lot more like putting together a huge puzzle – knowing what pieces you have and don’t have, and focusing on the areas you can make the most impact.”
The Underwriting team Alex heads up identifies the risks associated with different types of customers, to ensure they offer the right insurance for their needs. They then develop products that fit emerging trends, that they know their customers will love.
Getting to where Alex is now has also been like solving the perfect puzzle: putting together different parts of her experience to land her in her ideal role.
Slotting together your professional puzzle
After a Business Management degree connected with the equine industry and a brief stint running a Polo Club, Alex moved over to work in customer sales and service in insurance at Petplan, part of the Allianz family, without any actual insurance experience but with a real passion for animals. She quickly progressed to team leader and then up through the claims area of the business. After a decade working across different underwriting and trading leadership roles, Alex took on her current role, where she has been for 18 months.
Alex says that when she was starting out in her career she really valued the opportunities she was given to broaden her experience:
“I was fortunate to work for managers who had faith in me giving a wide range of things a go. Working with people who say, ‘why not?’ is a real gift early on in your career. It’s the best way to learn and leads to good-quality and rapid development.”
Alex says she knew before starting at LV= General Insurance that it was a company that would align with her ethos. Knowing people who already worked there meant she could get first-hand accounts of the day-to-day environment. Hearing that it was “welcoming” and that “everyone chooses to work to a high standard because they care about what they do and are passionate about the outcome” made her decision to join the team an easy one. A decision that was cemented during her first few weeks on the job.
Slotting into a new role during the pandemic has its unique challenges and when she experienced a wobble in confidence during this time, she sought feedback from her seniors “which really helped squash any imposter syndrome.” Knowing that those above her had her back and wanted her to succeed made her feel a really valued member of the department.
Mentorship: the corner pieces of the puzzle
Alex believes having great managers and mentors is the key to learning and progressing and she attributes much of her success to the mentorship she has received at all stages of career.
“I have had so much opportunity to develop as a leader, and I really feel without this I would never have been able to progress as I have. I’ve been supported with leadership development programs, mentoring and technical training on the job.”
This is something Alex now strives to give back to her own team, passing on the support she has experienced along her own career journey.
“I have a huge responsibility to help lead and develop those in my wider team. A lot of leaders forget that the small decisions they make and the way they behave can make or break someone’s week.”
She encourages everyone to take advantage of the mentorship opportunities available to them, as they are a great way to learn and develop. And then to remember to give back that experience whenever you’re able. This is something Alex feels strongly about and so she was thrilled to have been nominated for this year’s Women in Insurance Awards, as Mentor of the Year.
“I hope to impact those around me with good-quality mentorship, coaching and leadership, as well as opening the doors to help them on the career path they aspire towards.”
Networking: the secret to joining up the pieces
We all know the feeling of not having enough time in the day or struggling with a difficult part of our job. That’s when Alex believes your “network really is key.” Building connections with others has never been more important than over the past 18 months and being able to pull on your network to help you deliver a work project can really help take the pressure off. But it’s more than just about getting a job over the line, it’s about feeling supported and being able to talk to people who understand your working environment.
“It’s easy to feel isolated so it’s brilliant to have a couple of key sounding boards in your professional environment to help you clear some mental space when something is on your mind.”
Take a chance
It may sound counterintuitive for a Head of Underwriting to encourage people to take risks, but Alex believes that taking calculated chances can often pay off when it comes to career fulfilment. There’s no reason to stick to one thing if you’re not enjoying it and she reminds us:
“Don’t be afraid to make a massive career change. It’s important to love what you do, or the environment you are working in. You may have to work your way up in something new but focus on the types of things you like doing or are good at, not the job title.”