Shannon Lima Cert CII, Zurich Insurance

Shannon Lima Cert CII, Zurich Insurance

A levels I Apprenticeship

Tell me a bit about yourself

My name is Shannon Lima. I am 20 years old and I work for Zurich Insurance Plc. I am on a Level 3 apprenticeship working in the Global Corporate Underwriting Services department.

What is your role?

I am an Assistant Underwriting Services Specialist. My team supports the underwriters by ensuring that insurance policies are correctly set up on all relevant systems. This allows our customers to settle payment and ensures our claims teams have all the correct information in the event of a loss.

I am based in Whiteley, Fareham but am currently on secondment to the Underwriting Services team in London.

What were you doing before this role?

I studied Maths, Chemistry, Biology and English Literature at college. I applied to study Biology at university and after getting my results I decided to defer university for a year. I started working full-time in a shop. I worked there for a year before deciding to reject my university offer. I was accepted onto the apprenticeship scheme with Zurich in September 2015.

Why did you decide not to go to university?

My decision not to go to university was actually based on a gut feeling. I had followed the traditional route and applied for a course that looked relatively interesting, but I wasn’t quite sure if university was for me. My parents wanted me to go and my sisters had both gone to university and done well, but for some reason it didn’t quite feel right.

I decided to defer for a year to give myself more time to think it through. I found that I really enjoyed working, much more than I had ever enjoyed studying – and I was learning new skills every day and meeting so many interesting people.

The more I thought about university the more I realised I didn’t want to go – I think it is not worth the hardship, money and time if it is not something you are passionate about studying. So, instead, I thought about what it was that I enjoyed about the world of work, did some research into areas that looked interesting and soon enough was going through the application process to become an apprentice at Zurich.

What do you do in a typical working day?

On a typical day, I arrive at the office at 0845 so that I am sat at my desk with a cup of tea ready to go at 0900. We have a daily morning meeting to discuss what we each have to do that day and then crack on. The tasks are varied and I usually work on multiple things in one day – chasing brokers for payment, liaising with the finance department when there are premium discrepancies, talking to the underwriters about the setup of the policy, calculating taxes for the foreign premiums, inputting information into different systems, cross checking work for errors, handling queries from other teams and ensuring everything is set up for accounts that are due to renew.

Some tasks are more exciting than others, but the variety of tasks mean that no two days are the same. I often attend meetings to discuss particular processes or complex accounts. A lot of people perceive an office job as being sat behind a computer all day – but I often only spend a couple of hours at my desk a day as I am up and about talking to different people about work queries.

The benefits of working in London mean there are millions of great places to go for lunch, so every day my friends and I try a different place or take walks along the river and around different parts of London. 

How does your role fit into the wider insurance picture?

My team is responsible for setting up an insurance policy on the relevant systems and ensuring that all information is correct.

If we did not do our jobs correctly then our customers would not be able to pay us the premium; we wouldn’t be able to locate the policy in our systems for reference; and we wouldn’t be able to pay out customer claims – which is the whole point of the insurance policy in the first place!

We can also act as a contact point for certain queries from brokers, freeing up the underwriters' time to focus on other tasks that require underwriting decision. We are a supporting team, so we are there to support the underwriters with any additional tasks, again giving them more time to get out in the market and write business for the company.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy many aspects of my role – but probably most of all the fact that there are opportunities everywhere.

I am enjoying my current position but know that if I wanted to develop skills in other areas or even spend a day with another team just to see what they do, my manager would support me and support my development.

I don’t like too routine or mundane tasks, so the variation of the work is good for me, and I honestly learn something new every day. I work with a great team of people who are a variety of ages and come from different backgrounds. This lets me work in a really creative and diverse way.

From a lifestyle perspective, I enjoy having a stable income as it allows me to save, and I like having set hours as it means I can plan to spend time with my friends and family on evenings and weekends without having to worry about working different shifts. 

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Organising my week in a way that ensures deadlines are met and tasks are prioritised correctly. I can go from having one day where I have enough to do and can work through my to-do list at a comfortable pace, to being absolutely swamped with emails, having brokers on the phone, a lot of new work coming in and six meetings booked in your diary – and it’s a struggle to get it all done!

It is a challenge at times to make sure that all tasks are completed on time and to a high standard, but I enjoy the thrill of working under high pressures and I know my team and manager will support me when needed.

What do you need to be successful in your role?

I think you need to have a good attitude and a willingness to learn. Some tasks are technically challenging too, but my training from day one was very thorough and I have referral points to ask for help if I get stuck with complicated cases.

If you want to succeed and are willing to work hard and go outside the confines of your job role, then you will do well. Volunteering for things, doing 'extra-curricular' activities and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone will develop you both professionally and personally.

There are so many different things you can get involved with – WIN, the Zurich Community Trust Group, sports teams, lunch and learns – if you put yourself out there you will meet so many people. Networking is definitely important for career progression as it is about raising your profile as a professional individual. 

Have you taken any professional qualifications?

I have now completed my CII Certificate in Insurance, which is the first qualification you can work for from the Chartered Insurance Institute. I was supported through this as part of my apprenticeship. I am now beginning to study for the next level qualification which is the CII Diploma in Insurance.

What have been your career highlights so far?

My career has so far mainly consisted of learning about my role and about the world of insurance as I have only been with the company for 16 months. However, I was given the opportunity to travel to the London office once a week to work more closely with the underwriting support team there which was a great experience.

I was then given the opportunity to transfer to this team on a secondment which has been incredible so far and I have met some great people along the way.

Another highlight is the team that I work with – having such a close network of people around you every day is great and makes my working life a lot more enjoyable.

Other highlights include attending a graduate Creativity and Innovation workshop, travelling to Birmingham to meet our entire apprentice cohort, meeting with our Group CEO, achieving my Cert CII within one year, getting involved with one of ZCT’s charities Clic Sargent and making welcome hampers for the poorly children staying in their homes, getting a role on the ZCT’s Future’s Council (a group of individuals working on corporate responsibility projects)  and of course enjoying the social networking events!

Why did you choose a career in insurance?

After researching the company and the industry, I could see there were loads of different types of job in insurance so I would be able to move around and try different roles until I found the right one. The role I applied for looked interesting and I was looking for a change of environment and change of work.

I enjoy customer-facing work and knew there would be elements of this in the role. I also enjoy problem-solving and technical challenges so thought a career in insurance provided a great balance. It’s not as glamorous as working in fashion but it provides me with a good mixture of tasks and leaves me feeling satisfied every day, so I can’t ask for much more! 

Any advice for students stuck between university and an apprenticeship?

Do your research before making a decision, and don't follow the crowd or bow down to social pressures. Pressures can come from all sorts of places – your parents, family, friends, teachers – but never forget that it is none of these people that have to live with the choice you make, but you. 

My entire education experience was geared towards getting a science degree – until I took control and chose my own way.

A three-year degree is £27,000 now purely on fees – so in reality it will be almost double that when you consider your living costs, rent and the student loan. If you are passionate about a particular subject and want to work in that area for your entire career then university is the best option for you. But if you just aren’t sure or are only going to university because your mates are and you don’t know what other choices you have – do your research into apprenticeships because it is so worth it. You get to learn new skills every day in the field you’ve chosen, you meet so many new people, you work towards a recognised qualification in that industry, all whilst earning a great salary! And if you are in an office environment, you can usually have fixed hours and guaranteed every weekend free, as well as being able to enjoy the company benefits like paid holidays, healthcare and even annual bonuses and pay reviews. The big picture? A rewarding career with endless opportunities...and no debt! « Back to case studies