Q&A: Claims Apprentice 2019 winner Verity Ross

Verity Ross, motor claims handler for Zurich, was recently crowned winner of Claims Apprentice 2019 by Senior Partner Nick Thomas. In the below Q&A, Insurance Post and Nick caught up with Verity to discuss how she met the challenge, what the experience has taught her now and moving forward in her career.

Nick and Verity

Nick: Having spoken to the others are you content with what you currently do; or have you looked at other parts of insurance and thought actually I quite fancy understanding that?

Verity: Absolutely, this experience has allowed me to think broader than what I do presently. I really love working with people and that’s where I get my drive from – the effect people have on me. But [the Claims Apprentice] has allowed me to return to my current role and make changes – which is really important – as well as potentially opening up new opportunities within Zurich, and it is a great supporter of that. Watching the episodes I’ll be able to show people what I’m like outside my comfort zone and working within teams. It’s the best possible thing you can have on your CV because nearly every eventuality is there in the episodes. I would love to be able to go and do more technical things, but people is a real key thing for me. I want to really make people happy in my job, work as a team and that applies to every class of insurance.

Nick: How do you think you are now different since you’ve done the apprentice programme?

Verity: It has definitely changed me. Now I go into meetings and instead of putting my points across and being very strong with them I sit back and see what people’s opinions are first. I’m not saying that I won’t put forward my opinion, but it allows me to take a step back and really value other peoples’ views and look at different routes – maybe not being as strong headed and determined. Being determined as a team player instead of as an individual.

Verity: One thing I’m not quite sure about is the possibility of leaving Europe. Is that going to make our industry more insular?

Nick: I can’t see it making us more insular. The whole UK insurance market is so innovative and so interwoven all around the world let alone Europe. We’re not leaving Europe. We’re anchored, we can’t possibly leave Europe. We’ll either be remaining in the single market, which people are talking about again, or we will have a bespoke trade deal that looks something like the single market. I don’t really see being in the UK as any sort of disadvantage for someone of your age and your skills, and the insurance industry going forward. Everyone is still going to want to access UK skills so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem at all.

Verity: What advice would you give someone in their early 20s embarking on their career?

Nick: You need to enjoy it and if you’re not enjoying it, especially nowadays, you’re not hidebound into anything. We all get told about millenials and they’re going to have 20 different jobs and probably three different qualifications along the way. The lawyer will become a doctor for example – and that’s true. A piece of advice – if you’re not enjoying it, find something you do enjoy because you go to work for a long time. People go on about a work-life balance, which I’ve never understood because work just is part of life so I believe people ought to talk about work-leisure balance.

Interview with Verity Ross: Claims Apprentice 2019 winner

It must have been exciting when you found out you were taking part in the 2019 Claims Apprentice. Who put you forward for the show?

My direct line manager Kyle Gray. He has been a fantastic supporter during my short career at Zurich. I’ve had quite a number of line managers who’ve all played their individual part in my development but Kyle has really stuck out. He moved from a line management role to a technical role but he continued to mentor me throughout.

Out of all the tasks you were set, which was your favourite and which was your least favourite?

My favourite task was the application task. I really enjoy problem solving and making claims handlers lives easier, so it was really good to get creative with the app, and focus on the struggles we face on a daily basis. But it was also really good to do the pitch from a sales point of view –
that was my favourite. My least favourite was probably the debate. It was quite intense to get prepared for it and [as it was the first task] no one really knew where they stood in the team at that stage, so it was quite difficult. But on reflection when I went back home and thought about it, the debate was probably the best task for us to get prepared as a team [for the rest of the series].

How did it feel constantly having the cameras on you?

It was very unnatural in some cases and pretty tough. You are quite cautious about what they’re going to pick out because they can’t put all the material out so you don’t know what they’re going to use. But when the cameras come back in and they ask you to repeat something again it gave you that opportunity to think maybe I can polish my answer – or we could approach this better as a team.

In three words can you describe how you thought you came across during the process?

That’s a tough question. To start I would say confident and secondly, serious. Looking at the clips I’m quite a deep thinker so sometimes when I’m thinking it either looks like I’m not concentrating or that I’m really serious. So that’s something I took back home, as well that maybe when you’re walking around the office try to not look so serious. And finally I hope I came across as a good team player. Our team emerged as a really strong collective – we worked really well together. We weren’t too similar within the team, which was great. We all had our little strengths which we all played to.

After the diversity challenge it seemed like the team really came together and you were taking the lead on a lot of the tasks. How important do you think it is to be a strong leader and a team player?

It is more important to work as a team than focusing on being a leader. You have to have someone there in the forefront trying to show a path for the team but we were all leaders in our own way. Maybe I came across as being more of a leader because I was often fine tuning the little things but Dom [Sawkiw, motor claims team leader at RSA] took a real key part in making the video [for the talent recruitment task] and he was a leader in that. And Tosin [Omosebi, claims adjuster at QBE] led on many of the ideas about intersectionality in the diversity challenge. So in a way we were all our own leader. A strong leader is important but the most important thing is you take your team along with you.

Have you kept in touch with the other apprentices?

It was hard to really get to know the three members of the [rival] team. We were out at night for dinner but we didn’t get the chance to work as a team with the others. We’ve all got a group chat on Whatsapp so we’re talking about the videos and stuff so that’s really good. I would say Dom was a character, he made us laugh from start to finish and the stories he told was great. He was a bit like myself – he was a strong character so sometimes we did clash but it wasn’t a bad clash it was just that we were similar and we wanted the best for our team. Tosin was probably the quieter one in the team but when she really put her mind to it she came out with ideas that were very strong and made you sit up and listen. She was great in the team to be that balance between me and Dom.

What has the reaction been from friends, family and colleagues?

I feel my friends think I’ve just got a job in Glasgow and it’s not really that exciting. So when they watched the video they were really shocked about how I came across and that I actually do these things at work. A lot of them thought I don’t do very much and then come home and ride my horse or whatever. So it was a real shock for them to see me in a workplace environment. From a family point of view they are all incredibly proud and probably my biggest fans. My dad streams it every week on the big TV so he can watch it.

Why do you think people should apply for the 2020 Claims Apprentice?

It gives you a huge development opportunity. It makes you stand back and see there are other things to insurance than claims. There’s other parts you can get involved with and make a real difference. That’s why I focused on the insurance market in the first place. From a young age I realised that I wanted to help people. I always watched hospital programmes and I would loved to have been a doctor or a paramedic but I’m far too squeamish for that, so insurance was the next best option. We’re there to help people in their time of need.

What is next for you, can you see yourself moving to London or overseas?

I had a short time in Switzerland with our chief financial officer and that really prepared me for this experience because I was over in a country on my own. I’d never travelled alone before but I was with people whose English sometimes wasn’t great so I had to learn to really listen to them. That trip opened my eyes to a different culture and ways of doing things. So I would like to go overseas and experience another opportunity. That’s really essential for me and for my career at this stage. It’s just taking opportunities as they come along. There’s going to be dips in the road but that’s where I’ll probably learn the most.

This article was first published by Insurance Post on 01 May 2019.