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40 years in insurance and 20 years specialising in conduct and customer service. Find out more about me.
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I remember leaving university, armed with a steadfast conviction that I didn’t want to pursue a career in law. Numbers were never my thing, so that ruled out Accountancy too. But the insurance industry looked interesting! As a potential career for life, it appealed to my unusually risk averse 21 year old self, and seemed a good way to put my law degree to good use: who could forget uberrimae fidei or contra proferentem? I also knew I wanted my career to be based around helping people and so I found myself in the fascinating world of the Financial Ombudsman Service.
On my first day, my new manager and mentor imparted some sage advice “Make sure you leave this profession after five years. Any longer than that and you’ll become jaded dealing with complaints.”That’s not how it was for me. I love people and I loved listening to their personal stories.
There was the family man who was about to lose his home because the definition of ‘unemployment’ had been incorrectly interpreted under his protection insurances. The complainant who came to the service without those all-important ‘clean hands’ and – were it not for the forensic handwriting report commissioned during my investigation – almost succeeded in insuring and subsequently claiming for the “theft” of his car, a cloned previous Category A total loss. It helped that I was a naturally inclined nosey parker with a forensic eye for detail and, thanks to my law studies, the ability to sift through hefty amounts of documentation. The challenge was always to get to the bottom of what had gone wrong and to distil from that the essence of a resolution that both sides could understand and accept.
I learned a thing or two about insurance and my career at the ombudsman service progressed well. I specialised in resolving particularly complex and entrenched disputes, and became a technical expert before moving into more of a mentor and training role. Again, I loved helping to develop and grow the knowledge and confidence of colleagues.
In my spare time, I practiced Yoga and Reiki; both of which were life changing for me. They helped me to maintain balance and to detach from the stresses that inevitably bubble up from time to time when working in the world of complaints. I’ve always felt drawn to a holistic approach to life and living. Striving for a sense of equilibrium, when the rigours of balancing a career and raising a family in our modern world can be overwhelming. As time moved on and my children grew older, I found myself yearning for something more.
I decided in 2019 that it was ‘now or never’ to strike out and realise a lifelong ambition to work for myself. It made sense then to retrain in complementary therapies, where I could continue to help others. I decided to offer Reiki professionally and to study Traditional Chinese Medicine: learning Tui Na Therapeutic Chinese Massage, as well as becoming a qualified Acupuncturist.
It’s fair to say that it has, so far, been a case of Mission Partly Accomplished! Study hours, practical case studies and exams in Anatomy & Physiology and TCM theory all came, went and were passed. And then just as my fledgling business was about to launch in early April 2020, the world, and all of our respective worlds within it, lurched into a new kind of normal. The invaluable skills I acquired during my time at the ombudsman service (a great deal of which was spent working from home) – adaptability; self-sufficiency; flexibility; pragmatism – have come into play more so than ever.
Sadly, my new business launch is currently on hold.
But you never know what’s around the corner! Three months into lockdown, Sally at Conduct Matters contacted me - not to ask for the return of the Yoga Anatomy books she loaned to me! – but to talk about working together. A number of her clients had asked for complaints management support and she wondered if I might be interested in helping. We’d had such memorable times working together at the ombudsman service all those years ago and it seemed like perfect timing.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I am assured by the certainty that I can continue to do what I love: whether it’s in the world of complaints management or complementary therapies – or maybe a bit of both for a while.
You see, no matter how well conceived and seemingly hatched our best laid plans are, life, as the saying goes, can turn on a sixpence. As life continues to move forward, it is with anticipation that my work will utilise all of the skills I have to offer.
Who needs a rigid career plan when you love what you do?!
Author: Christine Lewis
Christine has 21 years insurance dispute resolution expertise at the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau and at the Financial Ombudsman Service. Extensive knowledge of general insurance products, regulation and compliance and an exceptional record of prioritising and delivering high quality work under pressure. Often used as a technical advisor and referral point for ombudsmen and other senior colleagues in the industry as well as high level external business stakeholders on complaints handling and complex jurisdiction issues.