Answering the question requires a genuine understanding of what a personal brand actually entails and Sheila Cameron, CEO of the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA), emphasised the difference between brand and reputation. Reputation is what others think of you while brand is how you want to be seen and understood, she said, and until you know why you behave the way you do, you cannot articulate what your brand is.
“What truly drives you is what you need to work through, and work through why that’s important to you,” she said. “For me, it’s important to have lots of female leaders in our marketplace, it’s important that the Lloyd’s marketplace stays around for a very long time to come. It’s important for me that I’m trusted because I speak to the CEOs of every managing agent in Lloyd’s on a one-to-one basis… and they need to be able to trust me.”
Insurance as a trust business
Adding to the conversation, Gareth Mutema, digital business manager at Aviva, highlighted the critical role of trust in the insurance profession. Insurance is a trust business built on good faith, he said, and building that trust comes back to Cameron’s point about understanding the ‘why’ of what you do and how you do it.
“What you are you do portray,” he said. “And I think there’s a big piece on perception – how are you being perceived? How are you portraying yourself? When you walk into a room, how do you present yourself, whether that’s your authentic self or your strategic self? Because for some organisations, you have to be strategic about how you present yourself because you understand the hierarchy of how things work.
“[…] And being authentic means that people trust you because you’re not trying to be fake and appear to be what you’re not. People actually respect you if you show them who you are, your moral boundaries, or the principles you lead by. They have to be evident from day one, so that people know exactly what they’re dealing with and they trust you better.”
Bringing your authentic self to work
The viability of bringing your authentic self to work has definitely changed over the years noted Kalpana Shah, president-elect of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. She recalled that when she first started work in the City, there was nobody who looked like her and she felt a lot of pressure to fit in.
“But it was an impossible task,” she said. “It didn’t matter how much I tried to fit in, there were always going to be things that made me different. And it’s only when you embrace those differences that you can feel more comfortable about who you are. I think there has been a shift. People are more able to be who they are and not try to hide anymore. There’s a long way to go but I think it has changed and certainly I’ve got the point where I can see some of [my differences] as an asset rather than something to hide away from.”
Where the conversation goes next
As to how far the conversation around building an authentic personal brand has evolved, Yasmin Carter-Esdale, development underwriter at Hiscox UK, highlighted that it’s an ongoing conversation. It would be great to say the challenges around building such a brand, particularly for women in insurance, are in the past, she said, but there’s still a long way to go.
“Until we have gender parity in leadership, we’re still going to face these sorts of challenges over and over again,” she said. “[Because] for women, if their brand is strong and assertive, they’re called dominant or bossy. If it’s laid back and approachable, someone might say they lack executive presence. And that’s something that doesn’t really exist for men.
“So I think until we have that equality and leadership, we’re still going to face these challenges over and over again. We have to be really conscious we don’t try and change ourselves too much. So, we have to be genuine, we have to be authentic. We can’t mould ourselves into someone that we’re not. And that’s a challenge that I think we’re going to continue to see for a good many years.”
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