Q. Where do you go to university and what do you study?
KP: I finished my bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at Queen Mary University London this year and I’m now looking forward to studying for my master’s in Mechanical Engineering. Some people ask what’s the difference between Aerospace and Aeronautical engineering. The latter is actually one of two branches of Aerospace engineering that focuses on planes and anything else that flies within the earth’s atmosphere. The other branch is called Astronautical which is the one I’ve just studied for my degree and concerns rockets, space stations and shuttles and the like.
Q. What attracted you to the Asta internship programme?
KP: Even though my main interest lies in engineering, I had lots of other interests at university including being co-President of the Banking and Finance Society. The society ran a programme called Discover Careers which gave 1st and 2nd year students opportunities to explore and apply for vacancies across various parts of the financial services sector including insurance. Through this I got to know SEO London who focus on giving young people access to a career in the Lloyd’s insurance market. The SEO Insuring Futures workshops were really informative as they covered a number of different aspects including broking and underwriting and at the end, they made me aware of the opportunity at Asta. I didn’t know Asta or anything about the Lloyd’s market at first, but when I looked at the Asta website I got a better idea of what a Managing Agency would do. I thought it would be a great place to gain an understanding of what a syndicate was and what it took for them to enter Lloyd’s. Asta also supports a variety of syndicates which I felt would give me the broadest experience possible of different types of business models and the expertise and services Asta provides to them.
I applied for a role in the Business Change team which had recently been established and therefore it was a good opportunity to get involved in something new, learn more about their work in transformation and governance and the role they play in the overall business.
Q. What type of work have you done during your internship?
KP: The role of Business Change is to reduce operational risk and look at ways to improve processes across the whole business to make it more productive and efficient. At the beginning I had the opportunity to talk to lots of different people from multiple functions at Asta to find out more about what they did.
As I grew into the role, I got more involved in change projects such as Time at Work which focused on how the time spent working for clients is recorded. Our task was to assess the system and gather information on what each team did, how they worked and what potential improvements could be made to their efficiency while maintaining high standards of client service. As part of the project I spoke to all the managers and talked about how the Time at Work system fitted into their daily tasks and what they did and didn’t like about the process.
I’ve also been involved in more ad hoc work which involved attending meetings with a wide range of Asta’s operational teams. This was a great learning experience as I was able to ask questions to understand more about their work and the role of Business Change in supporting it.
Q. What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you have learnt so far at Asta?
KP: I was surprised at the number of people at Asta who had previously worked at Lloyd’s and had come to Asta to continue their careers. When I spoke to some of them, I understood that they all loved their time at Lloyd’s and the depth and breadth of experience working there had given them. This equipped them to further their careers in the more client-facing and commercial environment that Asta offered.
I also got a strong sense of Lloyd’s having a very different culture from banking or the big consultancy firms. The market is very friendly and even though each syndicate has their own business, everyone collaborates which I think is the main reason why it has been around for so long. Coming together to respond to big events that affect the market seems to drive the unique culture and Lloyd’s and likewise at Asta.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge you have faced during your internship?
KP: Switching my mindset and thinking from engineering to building knowledge and understanding of insurance has been the biggest challenge. I was learning something new from scratch and it took me time to understand how the market works, the different regulators and rules that govern it and some of the customs and traditions at Lloyd’s. I’ve enjoyed it however, as I realised that my future career in whatever industry I work in will benefit from any broad and diverse experience.
Starting a career off virtually was also a big disadvantage. It’s the small conversations you miss by being in the office that can be a barrier to proper learning and learning something that’s completely new is that much harder on a remote basis. It was pretty daunting when I first started but it’s a valuable experience which I can take with me into my career.
Q. How would you describe the culture at Asta?
KP: Asta is a relatively small company, so you will naturally get exposure to people from all parts of the business including senior management. There is a very positive attitude towards doing things right the first time and I think that’s driven by the highly regulated industry Asta works in. They can’t afford to experiment with things as much as an engineering firm or tech company can, but I understood the role of the Business Change team was to push boundaries and innovate where possible as well as manage risk and drive process efficiency.
There is a strong culture of learning, teaching and asking questions at Asta which is great for people of my age who are eager to learn. I felt that people were genuinely interested in my opinion and that my background in engineering could offer a different perspective or challenge to the way things were normally done or thought about. Asta is very inclusive in that respect.
Q. Any advice for students considering an internship in insurance?
KP: Keep an open and inquisitive mind. Be critical about analysing things because I think that’s the way you learn and become a good problem solver. You will be surprised at how effective the 80/20 rule can be at times. Finally, push for answers to better your understanding of key concepts – the people at Asta have been really good in dedicating their time to me for that.
Q. What are your interests outside studying and working at Asta?
KP: I get involved with a lot of things at university – maybe too many! As well as being a Co-President of the Banking and Finance Society I worked on a project called Formula Student which is a competition run by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Over 100 university teams of engineering students from around the world build their own race car and race it at Silverstone. All students taking part get a chance to demonstrate their technical analysis, engineering design and manufacturing skills whilst having to meet a strict deadline. Teamwork, time management, project management, budgeting and presentation are also scored. As well as having input on the technical side, as Head of Finance for the team I also got involved with marketing, procurement, sponsorship and general funding.
Apart from that, after seeing some of my friends Salsa dancing in Hyde Park I decided to take that up too!
Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
KP: I see myself working in the operational side of a business, possibly in the tech or engineering sector. Their activities and the people they employ are typically very technical and I see a need for someone who understands both the technical side while also providing oversight of operational risk to protect what are often substantial capital investments. Engineers aren’t usually interested in that side and after my experience with Asta I can now see a clearer role for me where I can combine my technical knowledge with risk management and a broader view of business operations.
Before I started my internship, I wouldn’t have considered a career in insurance but now that I know much more about the Lloyd’s market and have enjoyed my time at Asta, it is something I might consider. Diversity of thinking is increasingly needed across multiple industries and the Future at Lloyd’s programme will demand that of the Lloyd’s insurance market too. Perhaps a role with a syndicate that underwrites space or aviation business could be one where my technical and commercial skillsets – including what I have learnt at Asta - could add value to the business.