On Her Own Merit
Victoria Carter, deputy chair of Lloyd's, shares her secrets to success.
Having watched Victoria Carter, chairman of Global Capital Solutions, International for Guy Carpenter in action during the last three MMC Rising Professionals Forums in London, it comes as no surprise that she is most passionate about the next generation of talent in the industry.
She is concerned about the toll the past 18 months of remote working has taken on newcomers to the world of insurance and is focused on ways of re-engaging them.
"For me this is one of the most exciting industries to come into as a young person because everything that life touches is touched by our industry. Whatever your interests are there will be something for you," Carter said.
"Working virtually is really efficient, but we miss that face-to-face engagement. Moving to a hybrid model is critical, but what we've got to do is help the younger people in the industry develop their relationships and business connections. We've got to do a lot over the next couple of years to re-engage them."
Carter is hopeful that next year's Rising Professional Forum 2022 will go some way to assisting with this goal.
Describing it as a "crazy idea that mushroomed," the forum has become a firm fixture in the London market – an opportunity for the next generation of industry professionals to network and listen to expert speakers on a myriad of topics affecting risk and insurance.
It is also an opportunity for CEOs to get to know their rising stars at the exceptional gala dinner that concludes the two-day event.
"As a young person, getting an invitation from your CEO to sit on their table at a black tie dinner is a huge thrill. There's never been a forum like that for young people to hear from so many world class speakers and a social event that is a little bit different and of exceptional quality.
"We're all set – hopefully – for the next one in 2022. I'm just about to start plotting and planning that and figuring out how we make it even more amazing than the forum in 2019," Carter said.
You believe Carter when she says she can't sit still. Her energy is infectious, as is her drive and confidence that anyone can succeed in insurance with the right attitude and willingness to graft.
"This is an industry where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It's all about continued learning and every day is different. There will always be a new challenge.
This is an industry where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It's all about continued learning and every day is different. There will always be a new challenge
"Look at how fast the world is changing and how our industry is having to transform and evolve. Everything is moving so fast and that keeps me so motivated – it's a stimulating industry and no one day is ever the same."
She acknowledges it is harder to cut your teeth in today's marketplace than when she started out her career in the 1980s, going into the Lloyd's market as a young reinsurance broker.
"We had the ability to go out with placement slips that had anything up to 90 underwriters on them, so if you lost a line it wasn't the end of the world because it was such a tiny percentage of the overall cover. And you would learn from that why it was declined and adapt your broke accordingly.
"The junior brokers of today coming through don't get that same opportunity to go out and learn through their mistakes. So we've got to get much better at engaging with the younger generations as they come in, helping them learn and build relationships," Carter said.
Work Hard, Be Honest and Fail Fast
In July, in recognition of a 40-year career of professional contribution, Carter was named deputy chair of Lloyd's. The appointment was the "icing on the cake" of her career - a true standout moment.
"It's a huge honour and I feel so incredibly proud. I've spent my whole career in and around Lloyd's and I'm passionate about the market. I want to see its continued relevance and I want it to be the most outstanding specialty market in the world," Carter said.
Despite her many achievements, she has never forgotten one of the first pieces of advice she was given on the market floor.
"On my first venture into Lloyd's as a junior broker I went up to underwriter Elvin Patrick (who himself became the Council's deputy chair) with an endorsement and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing," she remembers.
If you are different, it's great – be different. I don't want to be like the rest of the pack.
"He asked me straight out, 'do you understand what this is?' And I said, 'I've got no idea'. His advice was to always be truthful about what you do know and what you don't know, because if you bullshit people, you'll get found out."
"We all make mistakes along the way, but just be honest about it. If you don't understand something or you think you've done something wrong, don't try to cover up. We all learn by failing – but just learn to fail fast and remember those lessons."
Mentoring has been important for Carter. In an industry that remains so focused on relationships, it is important to seek advice and guidance from those you trust and admire.
The qualities that drew her to the business in the first place – its sheer variety, people and dynamism – endure. But change is constant and tomorrow's leaders will need a bold vision.
"Just because we've done it this way for years doesn't mean it's the best way. We have to be open to bringing in very different skill sets and then continually challenging the leadership by asking, are there better ways of doing things?"
The successful organisations will have a strong culture and charismatic leaders setting the tone from the top, she thinks. "You've got to continue to adapt what you do in order to stay relevant."
Carter's recipe for success is simple but effective: Work hard, build strong relationships, be honest and dare to be different. These are strong words from a woman who has built a successful career in what has long been a traditionally male-dominated industry.
"I want to be judged on my ability and I hope people will say I have deserved the success I've achieved on my own merits.
She hopes she has contributed in some way to inspiring more diversity in the industry and encouraging other women working their way up through the ranks.
"If other people have half as much fun as I have had they are going to have a fantastic ride - it's been the most amazing journey and if I can help other people get there, I would be thrilled to bits," Carter said.
"In my opinion, the only barriers are the ones you put up yourself. There's no substitute for hard work and dedication – but if you work hard and you have big dreams you can achieve anything."