Alice Webb started her career in accountancy and then teaching, before joining NFU Mutual in 2019. After a year of supporting colleagues in a variety of ways, she recently won the ‘Role Model of the Year’ award at the national Women in Insurance Awards. We caught up with her to discover what she’s learned during her time here and how she came to win such a prestigious prize.
Alice. It sounds like you’ve had quite a varied career – how did that lead you to NFU Mutual?
Yes, it’s been quite a journey. I started my career in accountancy, first in a private practice and then in industry. But just around the time that I fell pregnant with my fourth child, the company I was working for went into liquidation. So, while I was pregnant, I started thinking about what was going to be best for the children and decided that I’d train to be a teacher.
Because I had industry experience, I joined a programme that involved working in a school from day one and studying for a PGCE one day a week. I can never sit still, so within a year I became a deputy head of department, then a head of department, a head of faculty and eventually an assistant head. But when my youngest reached the sixth form, I contemplated returning to accountancy. I realised a lot had changed in the field and I’d probably need to restart from the basics, so I decided to do a Master’s in actuarial science.
The tutor for the statistics side of my master’s had a background In Insurance and he really brought things like claims modelling to life. That made me realise that insurance was my desired career path, so I applied for a couple of the NFU Mutual graduate programmes, although I was not selected for those. However, I got a call from a manager in the Pricing team who said they’d seen my CV and would like a chat. Following a meeting, a technical task and an Interview I was offered a position in the team.
So, how has your role developed since then?
It's been a really great journey. When I joined, I was in the right department for my skillset and was able to hit the ground running. With my accountancy background, I picked up the whole of the budget for the underwriting and pricing department. And with my experience as an assistant head, I picked up a number of operational tasks, too. I then started to learn the technical skills I needed as I went along.
Now, I'm in the Operations Readiness and Capability team and I’m starting to use more of my leadership and people skills. Given my technical understanding in the Underwriting and Pricing department, I understand what's involved in the capacity planning and resource allocation across the different teams. So, it’s all gelled together, combining my leadership skills, people skills, accountancy skills and my technical knowledge. It’s also helped me to see a pathway to management. In our very technical department, effective management doesn't necessarily require hands on technical expertise; Instead, a comprehensive understanding of how It functions is key.
Congratulations on winning a Women in Insurance award! What did you win it for?
Thanks! The awards have been running for five years and we've been attending for three. I was actually a finalist for the Unsung Hero Award last year, and this year I was nominated for Role Model of the Year. Every year NFU Mutual has had about four or five finalists, but we've never had a winner before. You must be nominated and then they email you to let you know if you’re made the shortlist. It's a really great honour to be nominated by your peers.
This year, I received a nomination in recognition of my support for both my manager and the entire team during a particularly challenging period. I was delighted the team felt comfortable approaching me, understanding that while I don't have all the solutions, I can guide them in the right direction. Being nominated by two people underscored the extent of gratitude within the team.
What do you think being a role model means? How does it make you feel?
As a role model you like to lead through your actions. You want people to see what you do and how your behaviours have helped you get to where you are. I’ve seen people come into the business who want their journey to be a fast trajectory, often perceiving any delay as a failure.
It's crucial to show them that everybody’s journey unfolds at its own pace, and periods of plateauing are natural. It’s about helping people to see the longer-term, encouraging them to build on their strengths and offering guidance on the necessary growth for achieving their goals. NFU Mutual is an incredibly supportive environment and is committed to career development, but as a role model, it's vital to facilitate a clear understanding of personal aspirations. This involves having thoughtful conversations and providing guidance throughout their journey.
But, wow, winning the award was great! There was a table of ten of us from NFU Mutual and four others were also finalists for different awards. During the evening we were joking about plotting our route up to the stage, not actually believing it would happen. As they went through the categories, the other four hadn't won, so they were all saying it was all down to me. Then came the moment: "And the winner is…" and my face came up on the big screen with my name. And I thought: "How has that happened?" It was the most amazing feeling. I still haven’t come down to Earth.
It’s recognition for the work that I’ve been doing outside of my day-to-day job, really. What’s lovely is that I'd already had a lot of recognition within the team and the business, people at all levels had expressed their appreciation for my contributions. However, being selected as the ‘Role Model of the Year’ is fantastic – it does feel like a huge award. I believe it highlights the visibility of NFU Mutual and the positive impact it's making.
Has Alice’s story inspired you to join NFU Mutual? If so, please take a look at our current vacancies.