A CEO’s perspective
06 January 2021
06 January 2021
Premium Credit, Society of Insurance Broking
Interview with Tara Waite, CEO of Premium Credit.
Tara Waite joined Premium Credit as Chief Executive in the Summer of 2019. In this interview we hear about her first impressions when joining the company, her vision for the future and Premium Credit’s ongoing desire to be the premium finance and specialist lending partner of choice.
Q: What attracted you to the role at Premium Credit?
A: When I was offered the position of CEO it felt like a natural fit, a square peg in a square hole. Having previously worked in both the insurance and consumer lending sectors I felt well placed to draw on insights, experience and connections from these sectors in my career to date. And it felt like all of that would mean I could hit the ground running, which certainly has felt the case.
And the opportunity appealed to me, Premium Credit was familiar to me as a major player in its chosen markets, but I could see additional potential. This opportunity made it a role I just couldn’t refuse!
Q: What were your first impressions?
A: My first impressions were good. I saw a dedicated team working hard; the business was strong, with long standing and impressive partnerships in the insurance market, it’s well-funded and comes with a shareholder commitment to investing in technology to further opportunities. What I saw only made me believe that there was so much potential for Premium Credit and its partners.
That started with having the right leadership team in place, and in 2019 we brought in experienced new senior additions at the top table creating a diverse and talented management team. The team importantly has solid credentials in the insurance market which is critical to serving our broker partners in the right way. We developed our strategic plan together, which put seamless customer and partner journeys at the top of the priority list.
What’s important to us is that we know what we are here to do for our customers and partners, that we retain that sense of purpose throughout and that we continue to take the necessary steps now and for the future to remain relevant.
Q: What have been your highlights in the role so far?
A: As well as being re-appointed as BIBA’s accredited premium finance provider and securing some significant new broker partnerships, recognition for the team is always good. We were delighted to win the 2019 ‘Premium Finance Partner of the Year' category at the Insurance Choice Awards - as well as winning the category again in 2020. This award is particularly special for us as it is voted for by the industry.
As this award win and wider feedback suggests our partners value the continuing investment we make in people, technology and operational capability. This commitment allows us to provide that seamless and compliant customer journey when our credit facility is used to pay for insurance premiums. Being viewed in this way is an important step in becoming the 'go-to' partner for premium finance. Winning awards is great but there is always more we can do to improve our proposition - we won’t be complacent.
I’m also incredibly proud of how everyone at Premium Credit stepped up to support our partners during COVID-19. Within a week of lockdown 99% of staff were safely working from home with virtually full access to our infrastructure. To the outside world we wanted our customers and partners to feel it was ‘business as usual’ in their experience with us.
We’d introduced a further wave of tech improvements well before COVID-19 struck which has helped considerably. Pre-lockdown activity included transferring our digital business operations to the cloud; enabling better communication through Microsoft Teams and updating our online self-service system, which has been handling high volumes of premium finance business placed by our partners remotely. These examples, implemented over the last year, have enabled us to function largely unhindered during these difficult times. We’ve been around for a long time, but we operate like a fintech business as a result of all of our investment and that’s been very pleasing to see.
The final highlight I’d like to mention relates to our recent staff survey. The results outline what our people believe we are doing well and what could be done better. The results are both positive and constructive giving me added impetus to take the business forward. My colleagues’ views have been affirming and the icing on the cake.
It’s been a momentous journey so far on many levels.
Q: What has been your proudest achievement at Premium Credit? As well as in insurance overall?
A: It’s difficult to answer this question without the COVID scenario at the forefront of our minds. So my proudest achievement at Premium Credit and in insurance generally has to be how we mobilised quickly to help our colleagues, customers and partners deal with the unprecedented position everyone found themselves in during the first lockdown. Thousands of customers needed help, and quickly. We needed to collaborate with partners and regulators to ensure that help worked for everyone. It was hard work and long hours for our colleagues, but it really brought to life how useful our products are to so many people, and how they need us to be there for them when the going gets tough. A very inspiring experience.
Q: How have your previous roles at RSA, Wonga and EY helped in your current role?
A: Clearly being at RSA for the longest part of my career, has helped tremendously in my role at Premium Credit. Knowing the market and how the products work, the key brokers and software houses and critically the people have all helped me feel like I’ve come ‘back home’. My time at Wonga transformed my capabilities personally in the fintech space, skills that are critical to Premium Credit where technology is how we do business. And of course, my time there gave me the chance to exercise crisis management skills, and I think every business has needed some of those in the COVID world!
Q: Being one of the few female CEOs in insurance, how does this make you feel?
A: It makes me feel proud to be one of those few, but it also frustrates me that the situation still needs improvement. No one ever has the complete set of skills for their first CEO role, you will have come up through one or more areas in a company, but you will have gaps in others. I was appointed to my first CEO role at 33 by people prepared to take a chance on me. I’ve tried to do the same for others in my own career, and it has always paid off.
Q: How do you think the industry can encourage more women to take on leadership roles? Why do you think there are so few women?
A: It’s a complicated question with many angles to consider, whether it’s balancing work and family, or other factors. I can’t speak to all of those angles, but one generalisation that is often made, but sadly I have to agree with is, women are less inclined to positively push themselves forward and present the best of their skills when considering stepping up. When they do, they can spend more time pointing out what they don’t have, rather than what they do. Perhaps that stops women looking at the CEO role, where you will need to manage across the whole business and not just your area of expertise. I think we have to encourage women, and men where appropriate, that filling those gaps is not a problem, that it’s not only expected but there’s a clear way to do it, with the right training and opportunities to gain experience. Those of us in senior leadership positions have an obligation to create the right environment for that.
Q: Where would you like to take Premium Credit – what are your aims for the company?
A: We want to be seen as a supportive, technology-led, helpful financing partner now and long into the future. Even during the most challenging trading environments of late we have remained open for business, playing our part in keeping consumers going and businesses trading. We believe customers who don't usually consider finance to cover their insurance premiums, or taking credit for other specific requirements, may wish to do so increasingly in the future. This is an opportunity for Premium Credit and importantly for our partners.
Q: What’s next for Premium Credit?
A: Historically the premium finance market and Premium Credit have focused on support for individuals and businesses that are based in the UK or Republic of Ireland, but we recognise there is opportunity further afield. We can lend to any UK or Irish legal entity registered with Companies House, so we are open to discussing opportunities overseas for customers who have a subsidiary in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Back home we want to retain an ongoing position as a market leader and pioneer in the sectors we operate in. We are mindful that our domestic market can be developed further and we are always available to outline the opportunities open to brokers and insurers. Our enhanced MI suite for partners clearly demonstrates the opportunity to grow the number of customers choosing to pay for their insurance in instalments. Our Capability Team provide free training, both virtual and face to face, to our partners enabling their sales force to confidently offer premium finance more effectively. Our fully compliant and robust assessment of affordability is at the heart of our proposition so all partners can be confident in that important area. We’re here to help and look forward to developing the market with our partners from the insurance industry.
Specialist lending, another important element of our business, also remains a strong option in these tough economic times allowing customers to pay for major expenditures like travel and sports season tickets, memberships, FCA fees, tax bills and school fees in convenient monthly instalments.
The future is bright. If we can make our partners more successful by providing their customers with market leading premium finance and specialist lending solutions, they will deepen the relationship they have with their customers. As our partners prosper, we of course benefit too.
I remain excited for what’s to come.
This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), the CII group, local institute or Society, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the CII group, local institutes, or Societies.