Kirsten Britland joined NFU Mutual’s Actuarial department as a graduate in 2008 and was recently promoted to become the first woman on the company’s Pricing executive team. We caught up with her to discuss her journey with the business, and how it feels to be a leader in pricing.
Kirsten, congratulations on the promotion! Can you tell us about the new role?
Thank you! I’m now the Head of Pricing Analytics, which has been described as the engine room of the Pricing department. We supply the technical analysis that underpins our prices. This requires in-depth analyses of the drivers of claims costs and customer demand, providing the best possible insight to set an accurate target price for our customers and predict their reaction to price changes.
There’s a lot of collaboration with other areas of Pricing and the wider business to set the final price, but our insight is the starting point. I like to think of it as holding a mirror up - saying “here is what this policy will cost the business, and here’s what we need to charge to align with sustainable profitable growth”.
Tell us about your career leading up to this point.
I’ve actually spent my entire career at NFU Mutual, ever since I first joined as a graduate back in 2008. I started my career in what was the General Insurance Actuarial department, mostly focusing on Reserving. Over the years I’ve had a few promotions and sideways moves, so I’ve worked in quite a few different actuarial roles.
That’s a long time to be at one company! What’s kept you here?
People always ask why I’ve stayed for so long - probably because in this industry it’s normal for there to be a lot of movement. But for me, there’s always been something interesting around the corner to keep me at NFU Mutual - whether that’s a promotion opportunity, or an interesting project that I can impact and shape. Not to mention the people that work here. We often talk about how being a mutual attracts a certain type of person. We all have that common goal to do right by our customers, to set a fair and accurate price. We’re all united in that sense, so everyone’s willing to work together, and we have a really good level of collaboration.
The amount of support I’ve been given has also kept me here. NFU Mutual has always helped me through my development, especially with this latest promotion. I’ve had people supporting me every step of the way – helping me prepare for the interview, giving feedback at each stage. Everyone has shown such confidence and belief in me, which helped me believe that I can do it too.
How else has NFU Mutual supported you during your career?
One way they’ve supported me is by giving me access to some pivotal training courses, especially the Henley Leadership Development Programme that I did in 2019. The support I got in attending that and then the coaching conversations that happened as a result, really helped me to develop my strategic thinking and confidence. It was a real turning point for me.
I’ve also always been encouraged to be open and honest about what I want the next step in my career to be. That level of communication is helpful because people can keep my name in mind when opportunities come up. And it also means that we can tailor my personal development plan towards those roles. So, when this opportunity came up, I was ready with examples of all the material I needed to get through the interview. People in senior roles were always willing to have conversations and mentor me, so it’s just such a supportive environment.
From here, there are even more opportunities to grow too, like executive coaching. It’s still quite early in the role but I’m already thinking about my development plan, trying to incorporate things like building stakeholder relationships, re-contracting existing relationships, storytelling, influencing and building out my strategic thinking. Knowing I’ve got the backing of the senior leaders gives me that remit to think about the future of the department and my own future too.
What most excites you about your new role?
I think the biggest thing I discovered as I went through the process was my passion for the role. I believed I was the right person for the job and that I could bring a lot of value to the team. I’m really excited to collaborate with my colleagues, because I want us all to work together to drive Pricing Analytics forward.
I guess it feels good to have a seat at the table now, and to help influence decisions. Especially as someone who came in as a graduate who has only known NFU Mutual and doesn’t have that market experience that some people think you need. And the other big thing for me was being the first woman on the Pricing Executive team. I’ve always been the kind of person to lead by example, and I wanted to show that you can get to this level in your career as a woman with two young children. It is possible to progress in your career while still choosing to have other things going on in your life.
That’s a really impressive achievement. What does being the first woman on the Pricing Executive team mean for you?
It makes me feel really proud. I always wanted to see female representation and it feels even better that it’s me! Being a woman in an analytical role challenges gender stereotypes too. I’m confident I can contribute something different to the Pricing Executive team. And it’s not just about me being a woman, or a working mum. We need diversity in the team to be able to view things from every angle. Some of us bring a more people-focused approach, while others think about the technical side. I’m bringing my long career with NFU Mutual, which balances against the people who have a lot of market experience.
Historically, insurance and financial services are quite a male-dominated field. I’ve seen statistics that show more of an equal balance in junior positions, but it does fall away as you go higher in level. Here at NFU Mutual, the level below me is 60-40% male to female, but at my current level, it's 25% female - so we still have some work to do.
In Pricing we set up a diversity and inclusion group a few years back, and it’s expanded into a network group across the entire business. We do a lot to make sure our external recruitment is inclusive, and not just from a gender perspective. There are a few different things we need to think about to get a balanced workforce, and every people manager goes through extensive diversity and inclusion training to make sure it’s always something we’re thinking about.
But I certainly feel I’ve earned my place at the table. And again, it’s great that I’ve shown other people that it can be done. I’m proud of that.
You certainly should be proud. Do you have any advice for women considering finance as a career?
I’m a massive advocate of a career in Actuarial, because it’s an area where you can maintain a good work-life balance while still making progress in your career. You can have a lot of responsibility and still have other things going on outside of work. I would also say to just keep pushing yourself to develop both your technical skills and your soft skills. It’s those people who can combine the two who’ll really be able to take their career far.
I know I would have appreciated seeing more women in senior roles when I first started. So I’m happy that I can be that representation now, and maybe become part of someone else’s journey. It’d be fantastic to have the opportunity to mentor some women at the start of their careers.
Thank you for talking to us Kirsten – what do you think is next for you?
I don’t like to limit myself too much. I never say, “this is exactly what I want to do”. But for the next couple of years, I definitely want to get to grips with this new role and drive the Pricing Analytics agenda forward. Show the business what we can do and provide even more insight and influence. Other than that, it’s always just about continuously learning, growing, and doing new things. I don’t know exactly what the next challenge will be, but I know there will be one.