In the complex and technical world of financial regulations, it’s the job of our Prudential Governance Team to make sense of current and upcoming regulatory requirements, and make sure that NFU Mutual remains on top of them. All areas of the business, from HR, Customer Services, IT and Sales, to Finance, Risk and up to Board level, are dependent on this small team to manage the relationship with one of the two main financial services regulators. We caught up with Prudential Risk Specialist Rebecca Abele, and Prudential Governance Consultant Emily Comyn – to get a sense of just how important their team is to the operation of the business.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Why don’t you start off by explaining what the Prudential Governance Team does?
“Large insurance companies like us are closely regulated,” Rebecca explains. “The key role of our team is to manage the relationship between NFU Mutual and the Prudential Regulation Authority – the PRA – which is one of the two regulatory bodies we’re supervised by alongside the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). As we’re one of the largest general insurance firms in the UK, we actually have our own supervisory team within the PRA, which we’re in regular contact with, as part of the normal supervisory relationship. In broad terms, our role is to help the NFU Mutual Board and senior stakeholders with that relationship, to make sure they understand what we should be doing to comply with regulations.”

“On a day-to-day level though, the role is really varied,” adds Emily. “That’s one of the best things about it, no two days are the same. We may be responding to information requests from the regulator and need to make sure we get the right information back from the business. To do that, we need to know who to go to in the business to get hold of the right information, and we may need to help our colleagues understand what the regulators are looking for - because they won’t always be familiar with regulatory terms or have as much insight about the specific drivers for the regulators’ queries.

“On top of that, we always keep an eye on hot topics and what regulatory changes might be coming up. We review regulatory publications to keep track of new priorities in the field. It’s our job to break down the regulatory jargon and present it in simple terms to the Board and senior management, as well as colleagues across the business, who’ll need to identify in practical terms how each change will impact them operationally.”

It sounds like your work spans the whole business.
“It’s certainly a broad role. We touch every business area at some point in time,” says Rebecca. “But there are naturally some areas we work with more than others. Prudential regulation has a large focus on financial risk, so we’re tightly linked to Risk and Finance, but we work a lot with the Services side too – especially Underwriting, Claims and Pricing. We touch on HR because of regulations around reward and senior manager accountability, IT because of operational and cyber resilience, and Sales because we also need to make sure the front end of the business understands how the rules affect their role. Mostly, we deal with senior stakeholders, as they’re ultimately accountable for the risks and will therefore have more interaction with the PRA, so they need our support with that relationship."

“The breadth and variety of the work is the main thing that’s kept me in this team longer than any other role in the company – I’ve been at NFU Mutual nearly 16 years now. It’s definitely a good team to be part of, in terms of learning about the business model and strategy and getting a holistic view of the business. There’s only three of us in the team at the moment, although we’re looking to expand, so this means we can get involved with things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. It’s great for development and upskilling.”

“I have been at NFU Mutual for almost six years now, so not as long as Rebecca” Emily explains. “I was working in compliance in a completely different industry before coming here, but I was attracted by the idea of working with stakeholders and regulators again. I wasn’t really sure what Prudential Governance was at the time! But the work has been really interesting. It’s a fast-paced environment because the regulators often need a quick turnaround to their queries, and you also get to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, such as how the strategy feeds into Board decisions.”

How often does regulatory change happen?
“There are peaks and troughs - minor changes happen all the time, but more substantial changes happen periodically,” says Rebecca. “We’re in the midst of a flurry of changes at the moment. There’s been lots of financial services reform post-Brexit, in fact the EU regulatory regime for insurers is being adapted for the UK market, which is bringing a lot of change.”

“It’s true, there can be rushes of regulatory activity driven by the external operating environment,” Emily adds. “Which is why a big part of our job is horizon scanning, trying to be aware of time frames so we can be prepared for when changes might be coming into effect. Although sometimes the regulators will announce new regulation and then the general direction may change, or it will go on the back burner due to other priorities! So, we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball. We publish articles in our monthly compliance bulletin to make sure key internal stakeholders stay aware of the trends and likely future developments. In that sense we do require a degree of technical knowledge.”

Is that technical knowledge important for someone looking to join the team?
“Much of the technical side can be learnt on the job,” explains Rebecca. “The “Governance” part of our role is the lesser side of what we do, but it does require awareness of corporate governance rules. Knowledge of financial services is essential, but you don’t need to have any regulatory experience. For example, my background was in Operational Risk and Sales. It’s more about having the right soft skills for the job – because these are harder to learn and can take a lot longer to develop. You need to be a people person and must be curious in nature, and not afraid to ask questions. You also need effective communication skills, especially when it comes to writing reports. Obviously, you need to be able to speak face-to-face, but a big part of our job is about simplifying regulation, so you need to be able to communicate technical information in a way that’s easy for people at all levels across the business to understand.”

What opportunities are there for training and development within the team?
“Development is a big focus for us, as well as in the wider Risk Division,” says Emily. “We’re always seeking ways to develop our knowledge and identifying areas to improve on – when I joined, I wanted to develop my business knowledge. Our personal development plans are matched with business objectives, and we’re given opportunities to develop specific skills where possible. For example, when I was seeking a promotion, I was given the chance to work with the PRA and assist some of our directors at meetings with the regulator, to help broaden my experience. Opportunities like that show how our access to the senior stakeholders is a big bonus. Also, because it’s a small team, we can have more flexibility to seek out relevant opportunities and tailor those to our own personal development.”

“Development is definitely a priority, and I actively promote the importance of ongoing learning within the team,” adds Rebecca. “I always support people attending courses and training, and I’m careful to map out our goals and expectations. That way we know when we’re performing at a certain level and can set new goals and targets, because there’s always something new to learn. NFU Mutual also encourages coaching and mentoring relationships. I have my own mentor and Emily has a coach, who we meet with regularly one-on-one to keep track of our own growth.”

According to Emily, it’s not just about skill development either – but a general holistic attitude to wellbeing. “There’s a lot we do in the Risk Division to promote mental health. We had a New Year’s challenge, where we were encouraged to do things to support our wellbeing, like meeting up with people outside of work, going on walks or trying new things. The culture here is inclusive and encouraging. You see a lot of promotion within teams or moving across to different departments within the business.”

Before we go, how would you describe the work atmosphere at NFU Mutual?
“The company as a whole is extremely people-focused,” Rebecca says. “People are a core part of the firm’s culture, and you can see our attitude towards development and wellbeing is part of a genuine long-term goal of being a great place to work – it’s not just something to sound nice to potential applicants. That bears out in all the awards that NFU Mutual wins for being an incredible employer. We feel like individuals here, rather than just numbers in the company.”

“For me it’s all about the company culture,” Emily explains. “It’s family friendly and promotes a healthy work-life balance. And while all companies have a hierarchy, the culture here feels very non-hierarchical. People are respected and valued for their individual expertise – for instance, the Group Chief Executive is open to our advice and acknowledges our skills and our role. There is an understanding of how our work supports the business. Because we’re serving our members and not shareholders, there’s a difference in the way people behave. It makes NFU Mutual a great place to work, and a great place to do business with too.”

Join us on our journey
Our Prudential Governance Team represents an exciting opportunity to develop, grow, and learn more about how NFU Mutual operates. Take a look at our latest vacancies or sign up for job alerts by email.