Following International Women’s Day (8 March 2019), we’re continuing our month-long series of placing some of our Gallagher women ‘In Focus’.
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Elisabeth Ibeson

From apprentices and team leaders to divisional leaders and Executive Committee members, we wanted to showcase some of our great talent but also highlight the diverse range of opportunities and specialist areas a career at Gallagher can offer. We’re now pleased to introduce you to introduce you to Elisabeth Ibeson.

Tell us about your role at Gallagher

I head up the 48-strong HR team which supports Gallagher’s UK broking & underwriting operations, to ensure the development and delivery of our UK and Gallagher-wide people goals. I do this through my membership of the UK Executive Committee, leadership of our senior HR team and via my relationships and involvement with my HR colleagues in the US.

What was your very first job and what did that teach you?

I worked as a Saturday Supervisor in the restaurant at BHS in Kingston - doing everything from washing up and clearing tables to making and serving food and manning the till. It taught me about diligence, hard work and the impact of slackers on the rest of a team! Plus dealing with all sorts of complaints and issues… Gallagher is easy in comparison!

Did you have a childhood career ambition — and are you prepared to share it?

I alternated between wanting to be an archaeologist and emulating underwater explorer and pioneer Jacques Cousteau. But ended up loving maths and languages so, by the time I finally learnt to dive, I was firmly in the business and HR space.

How did you come to work in risk management & insurance: choice or chance?

Pure chance. My husband works in the industry and one evening I found myself next to an industry CEO at a dinner, just when he was looking for HR support, and my husband asked if I would do him a favour…

What excites you most about the industry?

I’ve previously worked in both the drinks industry and private healthcare but in insurance we truly do mean it when we say people are our ‘greatest asset’. The industry is full of lovely people and it is all about the relationships and making a difference to those we work with - clients and team members.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Tricky to pinpoint. I love my job. Always have done, so I feel I’ve had highlights all over the place. I had a fabulous time working in the US for six years and led the people integration of two US drinks businesses back in the late 90’s. And I’m also incredibly proud of what the HR team has achieved here at Gallagher over the past eight years. But probably the oddest highlight would be when I launched the ‘Nemo Effect’ (small Disney clown fish) in private healthcare to help drive culture change. Apparently it is still referred to!

What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self or others starting out in their career?

Put the work in, there is no substitute. Get over yourself, stop worrying about what others may think of you and just go for it. Make sure you can laugh at yourself along the way.

The insurance industry as a whole continues to face the challenge of an under-representation of women at senior level — what do you believe could help ‘move the dial’?

It’s incredibly important that females and males have equal opportunities for career development and progression. No doubt however that there is unconscious bias at times and we do need to attract more females into the industry. I would like to see us going into schools and unis, not to sell the industry specifically to females but to enthuse and inspire young people about a career in insurance.

Describe what you like most about Gallagher in 5 words…

People, pragmatism, making a difference.

What do you see as the industry’s greatest challenge?

Ensuring insurance remains relevant for all generations.

Which three inspirational famous people — past & present — would you invite to a strategic offsite to devise a plan to overcome that challenge, and why?

John Cleese, Joe Suggs, Maya Angelou – in no particular order: Generational input, different thinking, intelligence and humour.

And finally, tell us something about you which people might be surprised to learn

Watching people excel at their game, no matter what it is. I love practically every type of sport – apart from cricket and regular league football. During the Olympics I become completely useless both at home and work!