• Role: Strategy Associate
  • University: Bath
  • Degree: BSc (Hons) Mathematics
  • Organisation: Direct Line Group

Jonathan Howell

What does your role at DLG entail?

I work within the central strategy team, which offers support to all areas of the insurance business. Our work can involve preparing answers for investor Q&As, to supporting the development of strategies for the different product lines, or updating the board on market trends and their impact on Direct Line Group (DLG). With the variety and nature of work undertaken, the team gets great levels of exposure to senior managers around the company.

Analysis
My involvement so far has included analysing the international insurance markets, helping to develop our motor strategy and undertaking competitor analysis. Most recently I have led ‘deep dives’ on a number of competitors, identifying their strategies and its potential impact on DLG, as well as analysis of FSA returns and Annual Reports.

Communications
I am now beginning a piece of work on our Rescue arm (Green Flag) and on a weekly basis I am also responsible for circulating the ‘Weekly Headlines’ to update hundreds of employees around the business on the latest goings on in the insurance market.

Given that many graduates don’t know about or consider applying for COO graduate roles within Insurance, what made you decide to take this route?

Despite having a Maths degree, I didn’t want to dedicate my career to numbers, I wanted exposure to the workings of business. COO (the Chief Operating Office) had a wide variety of roles which would give me the opportunity to do this and the chance to influence the focus of the business going forward and make a real difference.

What qualifications/qualities would an applicant need to get onto the COO grad programme or achieve in this area generally?

I think the variety of roles will each, individually, attract more specific skill sets, but having the ability to analyse a problem and arrive at a solution is vital for all positions. A structured thought approach, the ability to break down a problem and communicate with colleagues is also vital.

What prospects and opportunities could a career in COO lead to?

There is an ‘obligation to dissent’ within COO which encourages team members of every level to speak up and put their point across, enabling talented individuals to be noticed and have an opportunity for progression. The business has a strong culture for promoting internally, with a large number of senior staff members having worked their way up.

Why is the COO important?

The different areas within COO work together to deliver business improvements, helping to drive competitive advantage for customers.

  1. Firstly, areas within COO will identify opportunities for the Group and helping to shape strategic themes into change initiatives.
  2. Others will then manage the delivery of change, ensuring the required business outcomes and benefits are realised.
  3. It then provides the required services to ensure the smooth running of the business.
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