The top end of the interim market now attracts senior corporate talent, accomplished executives who choose to pursue interim careers to demonstrate their strategic and turnaround prowess. While candidates can build valuable reputations as game changers, the availability of such high calibre talent on a short-term basis means that clients do not have to compromise on quality.
As a result, more and more employers are taking advantage of interim talent to insure against a number of business risks including: time lost recruiting permanent hires; setbacks in operational improvement programmes; slow reaction to competitor activities; damaging gaps in knowledge; and crippling management consultancy fees.
One advocate is Paul Awcock, Head of Talent Sourcing at Lloyd’s of London, the world renowned insurance market that tackles all manner of risk from space travel to cyber terrorism: “The regulatory environment is in constant flux and we frequently launch new initiatives to respond to change, develop the tools the market needs and hone our service offering. Interim consulting forms a vital part of our talent strategy and has directly contributed to the success of several critical programmes.”
Interview with Helen Crooks, Interim Consultant at Lloyd’s of London
Lloyd’s of London comprises the Lloyd’s market, where members join together as syndicates to insure risk, and the Corporation of Lloyd’s, which oversees and supports the Lloyd’s market. Marlin Hawk placed Helen Crooks as Chief Data Officer on a one year contract starting in July 2015.
Q. How did this role come about and what attracted you?
A. This challenging role came at a time when data management had become more critical than ever at Lloyd’s. Their Chief Operating Officer needed someone quickly, a senior person with the requisite experience and expertise. It was not a straightforward operational role – it demanded strategic input and that is what attracted me. Data strategy is what I am all about. I like to pick up an important problem and sort it out.
Q. Does your interim role insure against any business risk?
A. Lloyd’s has always had an eye on the future and has embarked upon a phase of modernisation and innovation to streamline its operational process and make it more cost-effective. This transformation agenda cannot be put on hold.
Data is at the forefront of understanding market activity and, with insurance information going back 300 years, there was a risk that Lloyd’s valuable data asset would not be leveraged to best effect. Getting the right data to the right people at the right time is fundamental to Lloyd’s vision for the future. Rigorous data practice also underpins the forthcoming Lloyd’s Index, which will require standards that exceed the stipulations of the Solvency II EU Directive.
Q. What has been your chief focus to date?
A. My main aim has been to understand Lloyd’s 2025 strategic vision and to translate that into a data perspective, defining best practice in data management, data use and data exploitation. Alongside that, I have spent time building the right organisation and providing direction such that everyone feels part of a team that makes a real difference. As a leader it’s important to be an integral part of the organisation. You get the best outcome when you focus on partnerships, shared ownership and collective goals.
Q. What will your legacy be at the end of the interim period?
A. The data strategy will be articulated within the context of Lloyd’s broader strategic intent. Crucially, it will be supported by key stakeholders within the corporation. I will scope the remit of the Chief Data Officer and establish a fit-for-purpose team to carry out implementation. There will also be a number of tangible deliverables, including the Lloyd’s Index.
Q. What characteristics does an interim consultant need to succeed?
A. It’s imperative to be strong minded as to where you can bring value and to possess the tenacity to get on with things. You have to adapt quickly to new environments and different cultures, and you must be personable, engaging with those around you and gaining trust. Commitment alone is not enough, you have to immerse yourself in the organisation.
The single most important characteristic is open-mindedness as you may need to pick things up that are beyond your terms of reference. That’s part of the appeal. You may be asked to extend the contract or even to convert to a permanent role. Nobody can force you, but what drives me is doing my upmost for the client – as a professional I don’t want to walk away until the client is satisfied that the problem has been resolved properly.