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Episode 26: Linda Cooke, CIO at Chaucer
Episode 265th December 2023 • Behind the Desk... with Mark Thomas • Eames Group
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Welcome to another episode of the Behind the Desk podcast. In this episode, I’m joined by Linda Cooke, group CIO (Chief Information Officer) at leading specialty (re)insurance company, Chaucer.  

Linda has been working in technology for over 25 years and joined Chaucer a year ago in a newly created CIO role. A year into the role, and with over two decades of experience behind her, Linda and I talk about the challenges she’s faced in taking on the top role in technology and how the learning she’s taken from the last 20 years has helped shape how she’s tackled those challenges.  

In this episode, Linda gives some brilliant advice to those just starting out in their careers, graduates and those hovering at levels just level CIO. We get to see how she’s shaped her career by taking sideways moves and always trying to be brave when taking risks in her career moves.  

Linda was a great guest, and I loved to hear her talk about how her career has evolved and her candid insight into the good and the bad she’s experienced along the way.  

So, let’s get behind the desk with Linda Cooke.  

Connect with Linda on LinkedIn.  

Connect with Mark on LinkedIn.   

Transcripts

Mark (:

Linda, welcome to the podcast. How you doing?

linda cooke (:

Yeah, really good, thanks, Mark. How are you?

Mark (:

Yeah, I'm really good, thank you. Well, thank you very much for taking some time out to speak to us. I know we've been trying to get this booked in for a while, various holidays and things have stopped us getting it in. So thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us. As with all the start of the podcast, I always get people to give themselves a bit of an intro. So if you could tell the listeners who you are, your current role, and then we'll really get into it.

linda cooke (:

Sure, yeah, good to be here. So I'm Linda Cook, the Group CIO of Chaucer, which is a specialty insurer. I've been in the company for a year and two weeks. I did say I was gonna stop counting, but yeah, just recently had the one year anniversary. And prior to that, I was at Chubb Insurance for 10 years, and then prior to that, I was at Lloyds Banking Group for 18 years.

banking to insurance and in terms of how did I get started, I did a degree in biology, didn't use a computer to write my dissertation, had to get somebody else to even use the word processor and so really my journey into technology was kind of a happy accident as I would describe it.

for Lloyds Bank at the time, been working in the infrastructure side, said they were looking for trainees. So I was persuaded to apply and thought why not, I'm trying to get my first big grown up job. And I applied for it, they rang back and said we haven't got any graduate positions left but would you consider taking an IT trainee. So I was kind of mixed, mixed feelings, you know, delighted to have been offered something but mixed.

that it wasn't a graduate position.

But I thought, what the heck, let's take it. I'm ready to do some work and see where we go with that. When I joined, there was actually 50% of us were graduates. And I started in service operations, fixing the computers in the middle of the night, setting off the batch, opening up the CHAPS connections to the outside world, putting tapes on, tapes off. IT was quite manual back then.

linda cooke (:

then as well. So anyway, that was my first foray into technology and I soon realised that I really, really loved it. And each move with my career as I've worked through project management, a little bit of coding, project management, service introduction, I suppose the majority of my career now has been geared around the relationship, business, technology, partner, manager, working with the business.

understanding where they're going, how we can support from a technology perspective. So yeah, a bit of a happy accident really but 29 years later I look back on and think you know, brilliant, what a great and exciting time to have joined technology even back then and goodness knows where we're going in the future given what we're all talking about these days.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, I mean, that's, I'm amazed actually at how many people, certainly that I've interviewed on this podcast.

kind of fell into technology. I think partly it's down to the kind of time that it was for most people that was in the kind of, in around the 90s. And so therefore technology wasn't necessarily identified as kind of a proper career for people because it was a bit of an unknown in a lot of areas. But yeah, I mean, so did you have any interest? I mean, I'm guessing from the response you said about the fact you didn't do your dissertation on a word processor or anything like that.

linda cooke (:

Yep.

Mark (:

had no real kind of interest as a child in technology or kind of technology aware or anything like that. It's just something that you kind of fell into and fell in love with in your kind of 20s.

linda cooke (:

Yeah, I can remember one of the neighbours having a ZX81 and my brother and I used to go round and type a few words in and then the screen would do something which we found amazing but that was probably my first introduction. I've always been a person that wants to know how things work, why things work that way and I think doing a science degree really gives you the similar sort of mindset and thought processes.

really started on day one in:

linda cooke (:

that showed me what a PC was, what early days of email was, so no real exposure to it up to that point.

Mark (:

Yeah, so 18 years at Lloyd's CSB, I mean I know that from doing my research before this, there was a whole raft of different roles there. But it'd be interesting to know what the kind of evolution was there in regards to what you started doing and which kind of route you took because obviously the route to a kind of a CIO role is different for everyone. It'd be kind of interesting to know how that evolved from there. So did you go into kind of pure technical?

linda cooke (:

Mmm.

Mark (:

Did you move into management quite early? What did that evolution look like?

linda cooke (:

Yeah, so as I said, I started in service operations and I had three years of working on shift, days, nights, weekends, and I realised that I was looking to do something that was a little bit different to that, given we were working on a tick list of yes, I've kicked off the batch job, yes, I've closed down the links, I've done this, that and the other. And I

linda cooke (:

you can't just sit around waiting for that excitement because in the main things didn't massively go wrong. So I explored opportunities to move on to days as we called it, so not having to do shift work and started doing a little bit of automation. So I automated some of the batch commands that I'd previously been sat there typing and ticking off on a clipboard.

From there I moved into what were the early days of service introduction, which is about the transition of project to service, so understanding what it's like to receive a brand new project delivery, software delivery, and then have to support that. We knew that if you didn't get the documentation, if you didn't get the training, a project doesn't turn into a service very comfortably. So I had a number of years working in that area.

area and then gradually moving more towards the business partnering roles. So each move I got closer to the business and the requirements of what is it we needed to deliver and what benefit and outcome was it going to have to the business.

I did run some platform teams, so I ran the Collections and Recoveries team, I helped set up a brand new PEGA automation team and going through one of the biggest banking integrations was an amazing, amazing experience and I don't think I'll ever experience anything that big ever again. So moved.

in:

Mark (:

Hmm

Did that, that's interesting you say that, because obviously after a long time working at the same business, I know Lloyd's is a huge organisation, businesses within businesses and divisions etc. But it's interesting, so you actually made that conscious decision to say I've kind of had enough of this industry, I want to kind of test my skills and learn something new. And so did you have other options when you were looking at that, or was insurance the kind of the sole focus for you to kind of move?

into.

linda cooke (:

Well, it actually came about Mark through what we now label as sponsorship. So it was an old boss of mine that had worked in insurance for a long time, came and worked in banking, went back to insurance and two or three years later, rang me up and said, would you consider, I've potentially got a new role coming up, would you consider applying for it? And I'd already made my mind up at that point that I needed to explore. So, yeah.

all those things aligned and it was quite interesting during my interview process for making that transition. A lot of the questions were around will you understand insurance, you understand banking and it's like I understand technology that's my expertise and my expertise is to understand your business sufficiently to be able to you know apply the technology against that. I'd looked after many different departments in

Lloyds Bank, tax, finance, company secretaries, all sorts of different ones. So you quickly get to learn the business, learn the lingo. So yeah, I was confident that I would be able to talk like an insurance person.

Mark (:

Thanks for watching!

How did you find that? Because I think, obviously, in my line of work, there's that constant battle in insurance of hiring people with domain knowledge, especially in technology, rather than technologists. Obviously, the way you put it brilliantly just then is that you're an expert in technology, and that's fairly generic across industry. That the extra 20% you need to learn around the business is kind of, should be the easy part.

linda cooke (:

Mm.

Mark (:

But I don't think that's necessarily an opinion that is always followed through in the insurance space. So how did you find that? Did you find it more difficult than you thought? Was it relatively straightforward? And what's your kind of thoughts on the industry as a whole and kind of how we integrate people from outside of the sector?

linda cooke (:

Yeah, I think for me my transition, you have to work hard at it, right? So you have to work hard at understanding, you know, what does that three-letter acronym mean in the context of this organisation, in the context of this industry? And you have to ask a lot of those very basic questions. You probably don't get too many opportunities to ask those basic questions on a repeated basis because obviously then it's demonstrating it's not sinking in and you're not understanding

So yeah, work harder, ask the simple questions, absorb that, talk to your teammates within technology but across the business as well.

If I look at my own team, we've hired a number of individuals from outside of insurance, so I'm still very open to that. I certainly think in some of the spaces that we're concentrating on now as an industry, we've got other industries where they've been there, done it, not just within the financial services, but into big data, for example, within the retail space.

They've got a huge amount of experience and expertise to bring into the insurance world. So I think we have to have a bit of an open mind and I think there has to be a little bit of patience. But yeah, it's our job as technology individuals to understand what's the purpose of what we're delivering and that therefore is really about understanding the business.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, I totally agree. I think it's interesting. I get lots of requests, as you can imagine, from people with specific insurance experience. Often it's in areas that insurance either hasn't done or only started doing very recently and people are looking for depth of knowledge. It's an interesting one that I certainly think if there has to be some people who are very much like yourself, who know the technology inside out and can pick

up the industry but you've just got to give them the chance haven't you? So the first role obviously moved into Chubb and I know you were there for a long time as well. So what did that transition look like and what were the, I'm always interested to find what the kind of big differences you found moving from banking to Chubb. I mean obviously size of organisation is a big one but what was that like?

linda cooke (:

Absolutely.

linda cooke (:

I found that I'd gone back in time a little, just to be sort of mild about it. There was challenges on culture, there was challenges on the technology side. Yeah, I felt like I'd rewound the clock by about 10 years. I think making that transition as well was understanding how fast-paced banking was in comparison to insurance back then.

and the criticality of the banking systems to the whole nation and people buying houses and if the mortgage system is not working or the CHAP system is not working you can't actually make the final transaction to buy a house and you're sat in the lorry with all the furniture. It's very real time, you can't get money out of the bank, you can't make those online payments etc.

insurance.

not so real time in terms of going into the commercial space. I know, you know, the personal lines is now fairly real time, but you generally buy your insurance once a year. You might buy your insurance once a month if it's mobile phone insurance, for example, but it's not a critical transaction every single day. And that was the big difference moving from banking to insurance. So yeah, that was most noticeable, but

culture I think, you know, while we have massively accelerated in insurance, you know, on the DE&I, the way we behave to each other, the way we respect each other, and also the investment in technology. I mean, you know, it's still a long way behind, but I think in the last, you know, five, six, seven years it's massively accelerated. And it's been really good to

linda cooke (:

accelerator pedal so I'd say those were the main the big differences that I saw them on.

Mark (:

Do you think that, because I totally get what you mean in regards to the critical nature of an insurance purchase. If I go to get my car insurance today and the website's down or whatever, then generally speaking I'll just come back tomorrow and buy it and it's probably not that much of an issue. Kind of the large majority of the time, obviously if I can't make a transaction with my bank account or I can't get money out of a cash point, that's a problem.

on the kind of Sky News is the top story as well, so it's kind of high profile stuff isn't it. Do you think that kind of, that as a concept has held insurance back in the past, in the sense that because it isn't a critical transaction, people have, and the systems that are in place work, they might not be perfect and they might not be cutting edge but they do still work. Do you think that's kind of been a problem that it's kind of just about enough from technology?

linda cooke (:

Yeah.

Mark (:

rather than bleeding edge type stuff.

linda cooke (:

Yeah, I think so. I think the other thing that's been very noticeable is regulation. So banks were far more regulated, I think, than insurance companies. Now, you know, the big NatWest technology disaster and more recently the TSB one has really driven extra regulation around operational resiliency and that's where it's come from and that is also within insurance now.

That drives a different mindset around, you know, but for CIOs in terms of their regulatory responsibilities but also from a board and in exec perspective. Obviously there still isn't that real time transaction and vitality to it from a banking sense but it's, I think the transition, the transition of the regulation from banking

what bankings learnt and what bankings had to experience through some of the big disasters has really pushed us in insurance and is in the main very welcomed.

Mark (:

So, nine or ten years at Chubb, what did that look like towards the end? What kind of roles were you playing then and what was the catalyst to moving on from there?

linda cooke (:

Yeah, so when I joined Chubb it was old Chubb and then two years later Ace came along and it became new Chubb. My first thoughts were, oh no here we go again, having just gone through the LTSBH boss merger. My second thoughts were, excellent I know how to do this, this is good and we had a couple of years of doing integration work.

became head of digital for EMEA.

which was about putting a digital platform together for the SME business and had three years of doing that. And then I moved into the consumer lines, so the personal line space, looking after three different business units across 24 countries. Those business units were different in their nature in terms of their distribution. One was very broker driven, one was very affinity and white labelled driven.

so my belt phone insurance for example and the third one, yes, Saltory, other partners. So I had three or four years of doing that and then I was starting to think about, you know, what next is it? One more gig, two more gigs, you know, what do I really want to do with my career? And I was looking for a, you know, smaller organization

was looking for a different sort of insurance because I was looking after the consumer insurance so you know specialty really piqued my interest and I had a wonderful opportunity of this being a newly created CIO role. So those three things together.

linda cooke (:

really led me to where I am today, which is quite different working for an organisation that's around 600 people rather than 35,000 people. It still feels big and corporate, but we certainly can interact with each other a lot easier. As I say, newly created CIO

So that was probably the most exciting aspect.

Mark (:

What did you have, obviously you've had a long career albeit only with two companies for the bulk of that period. Did you have ambitions at any point throughout that period to become a CIO? Was that always the kind of north star or were you just kind of going to the, because it seems to me you followed interesting roles where there's kind of interesting stuff to do, change going on, integration's obviously been a big,

linda cooke (:

Mm-hmm.

Mark (:

the stuff you've done and so did you kind of have an ambition to kind of move into that top tech job or was that just something that kind of evolved naturally?

linda cooke (:

Well it evolved naturally I would say over the last five years. So prior to that as you say I've always sought out the interesting programmes, the change programmes, the opportunities that give me something different to think about for me to acquire new skills.

Mark (:

Yep.

linda cooke (:

I've always had Linda's crystal ball by my side, which is if I take this role, what role might it lead on to next? And that's primarily from what skills and additional experience am I going to get from the role that I'm doing now that may lead on to the next role. And that wasn't always about going upwards. I've done a number of sidewards moves because the topic was interesting, so I moved over.

not always been about the out and out career progression. I mean you can progress your career on many levels. But I'd say over the last four or five years I've always had this attitude of you run your area like your own business. So you look after the people, you look after the relationships, you look after the budgets, you have to put the plans together, you have to monitor where you are today, where you're going.

etc. So yeah, I was effectively running every area like my own business, so you know, different labels and different organisations. But yeah, ultimately, you know, a CIO role is...

There are certainly a lot of other aspects to it than roles that I've done previously. So working with the, across the complete exec, working with the board, repairing your board papers, what are you reporting on, educating the organisation on various technology topics, making sure technology is front and centre of people's minds. There's other aspects to it.

I did get some exposure to that within CHUB because I was representing the European CIO on the board. So I was getting that opportunity to be the deputy which was great. And I suppose if I look at my life outside of work, I've been a trustee on a medium sized charity for the last four years. So you know, operating on a board in a charity.

linda cooke (:

environment is similar but yet quite different from a corporate environment. So yeah I didn't sit there going I must be a CIO so yeah I mean it's a delight to be one and it's for me it's been an interesting

journey to see how my team and the organisation have appreciated that we now have a CIO role. As prior to myself we didn't, so that gives everyone a lot more exposure from how important technology is to the organisation and that we are having a conversation at the executive board level that is technology representing technology.

Mark (:

Yep.

Mark (:

Yeah. I mean, how have you, so you're a year and two weeks in now. So how's the first year been? What have the challenges been? What have you?

were there any parts of the role that were unexpected that you've had to get over? Or what's it looked like? And so I think a lot of the people that listen to this podcast will be aspiring to be where you've got to. And actually, I think I know from speaking to people and having placed multiple CIOs over the years, the biggest challenge is often getting that first CIO gig. Even though actually a lot of places call it

role and like you've pointed out you've probably done 70 80 percent of the role before getting the first getting someone to take that leap of faith from you to give you that top job is often the difficult part so I think it'd be really interesting to understand what was different what the challenges were what what's good bad etc.

linda cooke (:

Yeah, so I think the first thing is the realisation that you are the technology, you are the technology boss, right? So where do you go after that? Who do you talk to? So one of the things that I've noticed that I've done with that in the back of my mind is I've networked more than ever, right? So and I quite often say the more senior you get, the more networking you need to do because you need to keep a...

Mark (:

test.

Mark (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

temperature check on yourself, that you're doing the right things, some of the things that you might be doing too much of, you might be doing too much of the operational low level detail and you're not operating sufficiently at the exact level. So the networking within my peer community, across the industry, some really good people that I've worked with before, but also outside consultants.

support as well has all helped to ensure that I am focused on what I need to be but you know any given moment you could be right down in the bits and bytes and then the next minute you're at the very strategic level and as human beings I think we tend to we tend to like getting our sleeves rolled up and especially if you come from a background where you started out with all the exciting stuff is when it goes wrong you know you become very operational

Mark (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

and trying to remember to get that balance. It's hard when you first start because you need to, you need to know the organisation and you're expected to know it thoroughly. So I need to know how many vulnerabilities have we got. I need to know where we are on SLA. I need to know where we are on our budgets. They're kind of hygiene factors in one sense, but they're hugely important and critical.

some of them are obviously regulatory stuff and if you don't care for you can spend all your time focusing on that detail and not operating it at the more strategic level and I suppose that's been a big learning curve but what I'm comfortable with having had the experience that I've got in the past but it's remembering to balance that out.

Mark (:

Yeah, and I guess in a smaller organisation that's even easier to get sucked into that, right, because there's not the teams of a hundred odd people like there would have been at Lloyd's doing that kind of stuff. So it's quite, I imagine you're naturally closer to the people that are doing that kind of stuff at the Colface. But has the, so the kind of challenge, that kind of challenge, have you found, because

linda cooke (:

Mm.

linda cooke (:

Yeah.

Mark (:

mentors, stroke peers that are in similar boat. How have you found that in the industry? I know we've got some kind of mutual connections that we know as well, but have you found people have been open to that? Because I think that's often, for me, it certainly is a challenge for people to find the right person to kind of be mentored by or to just bounce some ideas off. Because I can totally resonate with the fact that suddenly you would have always had a boss or a senior figure that you-

could go and have a chat with and now that person's the CEO or something, he doesn't know anything about technology potentially. So how have you found finding that kind of your kind of group and your kind of clan of people that you can kind of use as trusted peers?

linda cooke (:

I think, well it's been relatively easy in terms of if you make sure that you attend the appropriate places to go and network, i.e. somebody's hosting or facilitating an event and there's an interesting topic, you will always connect with somebody that you would like to have a follow-up conversation on. So I think that's where I've made some new relationships, that's where I've rekindled some relationships that, you know, I've gone

or let's have a chat and they've been hugely useful.

I think also one of the things I really like about working in technology is that we do share stories. So there aren't barriers to us having those conversations. We're not giving trade secrets away. We're generally trying to achieve similar outcomes with similar technologies and there are some great opportunities for us to say, look, we went down this route and it didn't work particularly well, or we went down this route and it worked a bit

amazingly well and so you know you take note of that and so thank you and you know store that away in the back of your mind for when you might be considering those topics. So I really like the fact that we can share those conversations as technologists and maybe you know from a business perspective you know that not so much on their side.

Mark (:

Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I think people in technology generally tend to be quite open about that stuff. Certainly, I think the London market type thing helps with that a little bit as well because there's some serious commonality in what everyone's trying to do, especially at the moment with Blueprint 2 and all that kind of stuff. That certainly helps. I wanted to move on. I was going to mention it earlier, but I want to come back to it really. When you started, so you finished your degree, went into Lloyd's.

linda cooke (:

Mmm.

Mark (:

the drastic assumption, but I'm sure I'm probably right, that there weren't too many females in that IT technician group of 50-odd people that you said. I might be totally wrong, but it'll be a first. So how was that? The last series of the podcast I did was all about women in tech. We heard loads of stories about the challenges that people had, but I'm always kind of interested in people's journey.

linda cooke (:

Yeah.

Mark (:

that front and kind of moving that more onto where we are now and kind of what we can do to improve that. But how was that in the early days and I guess how have you found it throughout your career? I imagine it's a challenge you've been faced throughout most of it.

linda cooke (:

Mm.

linda cooke (:

Yeah, definitely. I suppose when I think back to when I joined in the late 90s, I was one of 20 on a shift and there was four shifts and I think there was three women across those 80s. So obviously unsociable hours, etc.

But I wasn't conscious of the fact that the workplace looked like that. When I was at school, it didn't look like that. My family environment, friends and family, didn't look like that. So to then arrive in a work environment where it just didn't look like my experience in life up to that point in time, I suppose was a bit of a, this is a bit strange.

linda cooke (:

I don't see myself any different. I've never knowingly had any negative experiences from a gender perspective throughout my career. And I think it has got a lot better. So it's got hugely better and I'm going to contradict myself now because in one meeting that I was in earlier this year there were eight senior people.

Mark (:

Mm-hmm.

linda cooke (:

and there was one male and I sat there and I thought, crikey, the world is looking a bit different. And then of course the next so many meetings was back to the imbalance that I experience every single day and I took that moment to say, well this is completely turned on its head but it's only one reference I can give in over 29 years.

Mark (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

But when I look at the diversity that we have all around us in society today and within our organisations, it is growing. It is growing and we are seeking to provide opportunities. We have to work much harder to open up the fact that, we were just talking Mark about

you must have insurance experience. Well, why? You know, you are a technologist with those skills. Why do we say you have to be from insurance? So if we can open up into some other industries where perhaps gender balance is maybe even screwed completely to the other end, then it opens up a more diverse candidate pool. And obviously it's not just about gender. There's all sorts of other protected characteristics

actually it's great to see that we're getting a better balance. So it has improved, but then I do have moments of, crikey, this hasn't moved on that much. But I think the...

you know the more senior leaders that we have with more diversity then more role models people coming through have got and you know I didn't have too many of those through my career. What I did have, Lloyds Bank had a women's network very early on in my career so I don't know probably you know 20 plus years ago.

And it was really interesting to hear some of the things that I probably didn't even have my eyes open to. Things like, you know, females read job descriptions in a different way than the male brain does to say, yes, I can do these things, but I can't do those things. And, you know, having heard that 20 years ago, every time I read a job description,

linda cooke (:

I talk myself out of it. No, no, don't be that person that reads it that way. Read it and then go, okay, these are the things I can do amazingly well. These things I can do these things I know. And these things are opportunities and learning opportunities, not, I just can't do them. So therefore I went apply for the role. So

I didn't know my brain or the female brain worked like that but being told that 20 years ago made a huge difference in my career because I applied for everything that I quite fancied and I've been successful in those applications.

Mark (:

Yeah, I think that's really interesting. I was talking to someone more recently about a client of mine actually, about that kind of thing. And sometimes I think people focus on the really big problem and try and find a big solution to it. But that what you just said there is I think is relatively common knowledge now about the way the female brain reads it. But I don't think it's been common knowledge for years. I think it's maybe a couple of years maybe.

Mark (:

makes a drastic difference because actually like you rightly pointed out, 20 years ago people had that knowledge they would read the job description with a conscious understanding of the fact that actually if they do know 70% of it then actually they should still apply. So I think yeah the kind of breaking the big problem down into some kind of smaller one to try to figure out some smaller solutions is where insurance has started to do things more

linda cooke (:

See you.

Mark (:

just awareness around some of it I think is definitely changed. But do you think, having been in the industry for kind of 10 years or so now, do you think there is definitely a kind of a conscious understanding of the need for diversity, not just for quota sake but actually just to run a successful business? From the kind of top down, have you seen that in kind of real time or do you still think there's some work to go on that front?

linda cooke (:

No, definitely. It's something that we work on enormously hard at Chaucer. Our diversity and gender stats have been massively improving. I'm proud to be one of those stats. It filters down to make sure that we embrace and give opportunities for people to feel comfortable.

comfortable in the environment and feel comfortable to put themselves forward to say, hey, I'd like to apply for that job or I have applied for that job. So, yeah, there's always going to be some laggards in any industry, but I think the diversity that we do have is...

It's definitely improving and I look at age as well and I look around at my IT colleagues and think well there's a lot of people that are my age, we've had a very poor middle gap where we haven't taken on graduates and trainees and I'm talking generically across the technology industry and that's really starting to open up as well. I've got my second data.

apprenticeships, you know fantastic, giving people opportunities at you know 17, 18 years old. When I look back on it I would perhaps have taken that rather than go to university because I was wanting to know how the world worked, I was wanting to work and I didn't feel like that there was those sort of options back when I was making those decisions so I think injecting

Injecting those opportunities for graduate and apprenticeships will help because the world looks a bit different now.

Mark (:

Yeah, I think you're right and I think the other thing is that the pace of change, I've certainly noticed it, the pace of change is gradually increasing with more people that have a diverse thought process around hiring people and the types of people they can hire. Naturally the pace of change will skyrocket over the next few years. Obviously people leave the industry that retire that maybe didn't have quite diverse thinking and it's a kind of snowball effect, isn't it?

Hopefully, it's certainly on the route to improvement. I wanted to talk a little bit about Chaucer now and what's on your agenda, but also the kind of insurance industry as a whole. Obviously, you would have seen the sector kind of change quite drastically over the last 10, 11 years or so, I would imagine. What's the kind of big thing on the agenda for you when you started at Chaucer? What was the kind of big mission that you undertook and kind of how are you guys getting

now.

linda cooke (:

Yeah so it's data cloud digital. Some people might think that all of those are the same thing but actually they are separate but not mutually exclusive. So making some really big inroads in the data and the cloud space, also on the digital space. So executing on those at pace.

there's some real big foundational elements that organisations across the specialty market, those three particular topics are certainly being pushed on all fronts by all of the carriers. I think they are vital to sustain the growth and demand that we see as an industry. So

linda cooke (:

formed in well-shaped and some of them you know we've been shaping over the last year or year or so that's what that's what's in front of me and you know what I landed in as well so

Mark (:

What about the industry as a whole? What do you see the kind of the big challenges for the set for the kind of London market sector over from a tech perspective over the coming years?

linda cooke (:

What?

I'd say it's adaptability. So with that, I mean, we need to be able to integrate and adapt as others integrate and adapt around us. So, you know, API connectivity into various distribution channels, various means of delegating our business, just operating as a market, really, that we that we get the.

the straight through processing, we get the flow of information, we get the flow of the data. I think that's what we're all going to be experiencing over, well it's already happening, but over the coming years, to then really be a digital marketplace, completely end to end.

Mark (:

And what about?

What about it, from a kind of, I always like to get, you've given some brilliant ones already and it's off in the way, but you touched a little bit about your kind of apprenticeships and bringing young people into the sector, which I think is kind of, everyone agrees is something that the insurance industry haven't done well in the past and need to do better. What advice would you give to kind of young people now about, and kind of around getting into insurance, what, why they should kind of join it?

and how they should position their career moving into it.

linda cooke (:

you know, it's things similar to what I've lived my life by, which is, you know, be brave, take a chance, take a risk on, you know, well that job sounds good but I'm not quite sure, you know, is it really going to be the right thing for me? And if it isn't, change it, right? There's no disgrace in that. You have the opportunity to, you know, because there are so many opportunities, you know, we don't enter insurance and banking these.

days thinking it's a job for life. Hopefully people are entering into the industry thinking it's a lifetime of opportunity rather than one particular company or one particular job. So you've got to be brave, right? Otherwise you'll never push yourself forward, you'll never be at that opportunity. You might not be brave enough to talk to the person at the

office but if you do you might find out that they're about to start a really exciting project that you'd love to be involved in. So I think it's about being brave and we have to continue to be brave all the way through our careers just because if you've got a C in front of your title doesn't mean that you're not still working on being brave.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, I think it's a great advice. And I mean, this may be a similar kind of question, but what about advice? I mean, you've mentioned a few kind of that you've, I'm sure you've had some mentors when you were in more junior roles and obviously some peers now that have kind of helped you and I'm sure acted as a sounding board. What are some of the best bits of advice you've had throughout your career along that thing? Obviously the be brave thing is definitely a good one, but are there any others that you've had

early stage of career or more recently.

linda cooke (:

Yeah, one of my early stage, the early stage of my career was keep your CV up to date. Now from this podcast you'll know I've not moved around an awful lot, but I have changed roles every three, four years. And in order to do that I've kept my CV up to date. So when those opportunities arrive I'm like, yep, there's my CV, I know it's up to date,

night sweating over oh my god what did I do five years ago I can't remember I've got big gaps in my memory can't remember it's not written down so keeping my CV up to date was and I think that came from the early engagement with the Women's Network in Lloyds you know 20 years ago and I've always done that and I've always felt quite smug when I've had the opportunity to be putting my CV in because it's like excellent I didn't have to you know lose my whole weekend

Mark (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

trying to remember what the heck I've been doing over the last X number of years. So that one has definitely stood me in good stead and I still do that to this day.

linda cooke (:

One of the other pieces of advice is, you know, people value for your experience and not for your ability to work hard. And I took a long time to think about that, thinking, well, what does that actually mean? And I think that's, you know, respecting what you know about your subject in yourself and that people see that in you, that they respect you for your experience.

sweating over emails at midnight all the time just to prove that you're who you are and what you know.

Mark (:

Yeah, I mean I think that CV one that you mentioned is really interesting because it seems so basic but someone we both know actually gave me the advice not so long ago that you should always be, not necessarily actively applying for jobs, but you should always be kind of ready for something like that or always keep in your eyes, especially when you get to a senior level because you never really know when something might go wrong at your

linda cooke (:

Mmm.

Mark (:

come up and they've got a CIO role and they need to move quickly or whatever it might be to kind of always check those checks and balances and I think yeah keeping your CV up to date not only makes you realise what you have done and remind yourself of it but means that you can kind of move fast when the opportunity arises. If only every candidate that I ever dealt with was like you Linda then my job would be a lot easier. So look I think we're coming towards

linda cooke (:

Hahaha

Mark (:

at the end of the podcast now, I always, at the end, I always ask the kind of standard questions and then we have a bit of a kind of quick fire around for a bit of fun. But one of the ones I always like to ask people is, what is the best thing about being behind your desk right now?

linda cooke (:

I think it's all about growing the people, attracting new talent.

and the amount of excitement and buzz that there is around, you know, what technology can do for the market. It's a great time. It's a great time to be here. I can feel lots and lots of momentum. I see lots of momentum and that's a nice window into the future.

Mark (:

Yeah, I completely agree. I think insurance is really at a kind of tipping point, isn't it? I think the next five, ten years is going to be big. So the next one, it kind of leads on nicely to that, is what is it you love about the insurance space? You've been in it for 10 or 11 years or so now. There must be at least one or two things.

linda cooke (:

Hmm. Yeah.

linda cooke (:

Yeah. I think I, well one of the things I love is the variety. So the variety of the products, the variety of the markets that we operate in, the way that we distribute our goods and services, if you like, and sell our products.

It's, I think it's hugely complex, which for someone like me, I enjoy. I love finding out about new products. Barely a month goes past and I go, oh, I didn't realize we did that, or another company does that and we work with them on it. So the variety is really fascinating.

Mark (:

Amazing. So, the quick fire round, just as I say for a bit of fun. So the first question is, what is the one piece of technology you couldn't live without?

linda cooke (:

Well I've realised it's actually Alexa.

Mark (:

Really? Okay.

linda cooke (:

and this is because a lot of my lights in the house I control by asking Alexa to switch them on and off and then when she went wrong and I couldn't find my phone, I'd obviously left it in the garden or somewhere, I could not control the lights in the house. So yeah, I actually appreciate her a little bit more and talk to her a little bit more politely after I couldn't switch on any of the lights in the house.

Mark (:

Yeah.

Mark (:

Thanks for watching!

Mark (:

Yeah.

Mark (:

Yeah, I think that's a... I have to admit that was one of the things that kind of technology advanced and I never thought would catch on. I just didn't think it would ever work properly. But now I've got it in my house. It is an absolute game changer when you're kind of dimming the lights and all that kind of stuff. I have to...

linda cooke (:

I mean who would have thought that I didn't want to touch the light switch? Yeah.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, that would be such an issue. But it's just a minor improvement, but actually when you just get used to it, it makes a big difference. The second one is, which brand or company do you really admire and why?

linda cooke (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

So I'm going to give you a selection of companies, but it's the companies that become a verb. So, you know, Hoover. Well, we do Hoovering. We don't do vacuuming. We Skype, we Zoom, we Google it. Maybe we'll AI it in the future. Those companies have, you know, pretty much changed the face of the world, really, haven't they?

Mark (:

Yeah.

Yeah.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, totally agree. Google's massive with that, isn't it? That's definitely the one I would say, and Uvoo especially, I call it that as well. So yeah, I think that's a good one. Next one, what's your favorite business related book?

linda cooke (:

Well I went to the bookshelf and I found two of them. So one's called Beyond the Boys Club, which I read a very long time ago, 20 plus years ago, and that was a fascinating insight. So that relates to what we were talking about, and I think this is pretty much a popular one amongst the CIOs, the Phoenix Project.

Mark (:

Right?

linda cooke (:

I don't get much time to sit and read them these days but I dip in and dip out on various topics.

Mark (:

Very quickly, what are those two about? I've not come across either of them.

linda cooke (:

So the Beyond the Boys Club is strategies for achieving career success as a woman and again this is working in a male dominated environment. I read it about 20 years ago and as I said I found that going into a male dominated working environment was just like a little bit alien and to be honest it doesn't matter whether you're female or male or what, this is a good career book.

to cope with that.

This is all about working with your business, you know, the IT disasters and how you overcome them and how you become a better organization. And I think Rebecca Wormsley, CIO of Lloyds also recommended this one. Because it's written as a story, it's written as a novel rather than a, you know, a management book as such. So yeah, it's a long time to it's victimized.

Mark (:

I'm up.

Mark (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

but I do occasionally just open them up at a chapter and read it and go yep I remember that.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, just a bit of that. I like books like that where you can just kind of open up bits and remember it pretty quickly. The next one is favorite film or TV series. More than welcome to have one of each if you want to.

linda cooke (:

I'm just going to go straight for a film. It's Officer and a Gentleman and specifically the scene where Richard Gere comes in and sweeps Deborah Winger off her feet and takes her away from being in the factory.

and the reason I'm very connected to that is before I got my first grown-up job at Lloyds I was working in a factory sticking on bows as things went past on the conveyor belt and thinking about would my then boyfriend now husband please come and sweep me off my feet yeah

Mark (:

Yeah.

Mark (:

Here's a Richard Gere moment. The next one is, if you weren't a technology leader, what would you have been?

linda cooke (:

I'd love to have been a tree surgeon or a florist.

Mark (:

Wow, a tree surgeon, okay, explain, I'm gonna need a little bit more context there. Obviously into the floristry thing I can understand.

linda cooke (:

Yeah.

linda cooke (:

Yeah, I love being outside. I spend a huge amount outside. I love working with wood. So I don't do any refined woodworking but if I get some hammer and nails and build something out of an old pallet or something, I love doing that at the weekend. But yeah, I mean trees, they're beautiful to look at. They provide us with some beautiful, beautiful things as a result of, you know...

wood. Yeah I'm not sure I could shinny up a tree quite as well these days but yeah those are the sort of things that are completely the opposite from what I do now.

Mark (:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's often the way to be honest, the amount of people that I've had some, some definitely some ones that I wouldn't have predicted. And then the final one is, who is your number one role model or person you admire?

linda cooke (:

I spent ages thinking about this one because I don't pick one person out. I think it's a set of values, behaviours and I look at my mum, I look at my sister-in-law, I look at various other people. I think the people that I admire are those that have...

Mark (:

Ha ha ha.

linda cooke (:

segwayed their careers into something completely different and being hugely successful. There's one lady that I work with in the city in terms of I volunteered to do some mentoring, she was a broker and then she set up a network and mentoring and personal development organisation called the Insurance Breakfast Club, working with junior female

junior females and I've been helping to mentor within that and I just admire that you know when you change when you decide to make quite a big career change that's when you need to be brave. So yeah I'm not going to pick one mark it's too difficult.

Mark (:

No, that's fine, that's a really good answer. Well look, that brings us to the end. So first of all, thank you again so much for taking the time out. I know you're really busy and we're getting to that kind of busy time at the end of the year as well. So thank you very much for taking the time out to speak to us. I mean, off the back of this, I'm sure there'll be some people that wanna reach out, maybe even interested in the kind of mentorship around that breakfast club type thing or anything like that. Are you happy for people to connect with you on kind of LinkedIn and reach out

linda cooke (:

That's all.

Mark (:

to know you or know a bit more about what's going on at Chaucer, et cetera. Is that the best way for your LinkedIn?

linda cooke (:

Yeah, yeah, please. Thank you.

Mark (:

Perfect. Well, look, as I say, again, thank you very much. Everyone, thank you for listening again. We're rattling through season three now, plenty more episodes to come up until the end of the year. So do like, subscribe, and keep following us for more information. And yeah, Linda, good luck for the rest of the year. And I'm sure we'll speak again soon. And yeah, have a good Christmas and stuff, and we'll end it there.

linda cooke (:

Likewise. Cheers Mark. Thank you. Bye.

Mark (:

See you. Bye.

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