One of the best things about working in the insurance sector is the large scope of roles available, with specialisms that suit all types of preferences. And here at NFU Mutual, we’re always encouraging our people to try new things and move into areas that interest them. We sat down with Tom Murray – a former Underwriter who’s now a Loss Control Surveyor - to talk about why he changed career at NFU Mutual, and the surprising number of skills that he’s carried over from his Underwriting days.

You’ve been at NFU Mutual for over a decade but tell me a little about your background before you joined.
Believe it or not, I didn’t know I’d work in insurance. I used to work offshore as a hydrographic surveyor, which took me around the world, consulting for all sorts of companies from aggregate businesses to oil and gas supermajors. But after a while I thought a desk job might be safer, and hopefully involve fewer pirates! I ended up training in Law, but it was right around the time of the global financial crisis and there weren’t many training contracts available. Then I saw an advert for a position in the Customer Service Centre at NFU Mutual in Stratford and thought “that sounds like an interesting temporary role.” That was in 2011, and I’m still here!

What was it that initially attracted you to NFU Mutual?
Any business can put up a good front and say, “we look after our people, come and work for us.” But from the moment I first walked through the door at NFU Mutual, it felt like a close-knit team. People are always willing to share their knowledge and make the effort to get to know you on a personal level. There’s a caring attitude that runs throughout the business, which extends to our policy holders as well as our people. For me, it just proves why we’re all here. Lots of places offer insurance, but at NFU Mutual we aim to look after our members and give them a first-class service.

You’ve certainly come a long way since that first day. How has your career developed at NFU Mutual?
My managers at the Customer Service Centre were brilliant, especially with how much they supported me to get my insurance qualifications. I continued to study my Chartered Insurance Institute exams culminating in my ACII, following a move into Group Corporate Business (GCB). At GCB we reviewed and managed the company’s largest customers. This could be any type of business from food manufacturers to charities and agricultural colleges.

We reviewed outstanding claims particularly those with significant industrial injuries, in order to get a view on ultimate claims cost. As a mutual, it was important to hit the right mark with insurance premiums. There was a lot of communication with our Agents across our UK-wide Agency Network and with National Brokers to manage the customer journey, and some direct contact with the policy holders too, which I always enjoyed.

From Group Corporate Business, I moved into a role at the NFU Mutual Head Office in Tiddington, which focused mainly on the risk appetite for our agricultural vehicle product. One of the most interesting aspects of that for me was looking at emerging technology, within the agricultural sector. I was also involved in looking at our cover, minimum standards, and pricing for renewable energies – it’s an area that farmers are heavily involved in.

What was it that attracted you to move from Underwriting to a Loss Control Surveyor role?
It’s a move I’d wanted to make for some time. The fact that I’m meeting and talking directly with customers every day makes me feel like I’m making a genuine difference. And after every customer visit, I leave knowing I’ve actively helped to reduce their risk. Sometimes I’m just there on my own, but I’ll often go along with the local NFU Mutual Agent, which is great because it can help strengthen their relationship with the customer too. Overall, it’s a very customer-centred role, but it also benefits the company because everyone’s on the same page – we all want to reduce risk and ultimately cost. Being a fresh pair of eyes on site I can come in, look at the pinch points in their risk model or their physical premises, and recommend solutions.

It feels good to go out to customers and share my technical acumen when dealing with these cases – which also helps improve NFU Mutual’s reputation. It seems like everything is moving towards the online supermarket approach to insurance these days, so I’m proud that we stand out by maintaining direct contact and having meaningful conversations with our members.

What is it like working in Risk Management Services?
I’m genuinely learning something new each day. Working in Risk Management Services has opened my eyes to the variety of businesses we have in the UK. Every week I’m going to a different business and learning about an industry I didn’t know still existed here. I recently visited a company that makes jelly beach shoes – I assumed they were all imported into the UK in giant shipping containers! I get the right blend of customer service and autonomy that exposes me to customers, Management Services Agents and stakeholders from other departments, so no two days are the same.

What were the biggest challenges of changing roles from Underwriting?
Changing from an office-based role to being predominantly out on the road visiting customers and writing reports at home was a huge change to my working day, which took a bit of getting used to. But the team were incredibly welcoming and supportive. That friendly atmosphere runs through every area of NFU Mutual – we’re always talking about things such as technical changes, trends, and emerging risks so we stay on top of things.

But underlying that is just making sure everyone is well. We make the effort to have regular face-to-face meetings together too, to boost the camaraderie of the team. Having that understanding relationship with colleagues is so important. I’ve got a young daughter, and I’m given the flexibility to manage my work around picking up or dropping off at school if I need to – people understand that’s the way I work. My reports get done on time and to a good standard, so I’m trusted to get the balance right.

I would say there are certain core skills you need for a Loss Control role. Technical knowledge is crucial, so my Underwriting background was ideal, but you also need good people skills. You need to be able to explain the nuances of aspects of the policy to the customer so they can understand it. The recommendations we make to customers can often involve a big expense, especially with larger commercial risks, so they need to understand why it’s important to take action. There are the absolute hard-line situations, for example if a large warehouse requires a sprinkler system because of an increased fire risk, but often flexibility is required and we need to work with the customers, the underwriters, and the Agents to work out the best course of action.

The relationship that Loss Control Surveyors have with Underwriters is paramount - you need a strong line of communication, so they have all the details they need to make an informed decision. That’s another reason it was ideal for me to move across from Underwriting. I have a good working knowledge of how everything works, and I keep up to date with all the changes in risk and best practice, so it makes it easier to build these strong relationships.

How has NFU Mutual supported you through your journey?
I talk to other people at different companies, and it’s clear that they don’t get the same level of support that we do here. NFU Mutual really helped me to earn my ACII qualification, by paying for my exams and materials as well as giving some time off to study. I’ve also had the opportunity to take multiple training courses that help me keep up to date with new legislation and risks. I attended an IOSH ‘Managing Safely’ course and I recently completed my NEBOSH ‘National General Certificate.’ I studied one day a week for ten weeks, which allowed me to continue with my work, but also gave me fresh, useful knowledge I could use in my conversations with customers straight away.

There’s also plenty of support here for people who need it – from ways to keep fit, meditation apps and cash benefits for certain treatments such as physiotherapy through to financial advice, and access to a confidential Employee Assistance Programme. It’s wonderful, and all subsidised by NFU Mutual.

But there’s one thing that really highlights for me what NFU Mutual is like as an employer. When we went into lockdown, not only did they immediately provide us with everything we needed to work from home, so that it was an exact mirror of the office environment, but they also rolled out considerable support for our customers and communities. It really underlined how the business isn’t all about profit, it’s about supporting people to do a good job.

Thanks for talking to us about your journey Tom! What do you think is next for you?
Honestly, right now I’m thoroughly enjoying my current Loss Control Surveyor role. That mix of being technical, but also customer-facing and feeling like I’m making a direct impact every day is ideal for me. And I’m still learning, so I definitely see myself staying in this position for a long time to come.

Interested in joining the team?
If you’d like to find out more about the varied work we do in Risk Management Services at NFU Mutual, search our current vacancies or contact our Recruitment team.