jessica melville

jessica melville
MEET Florence Budge

Willis Re, Broking

Team Willis Re, Broking

Segment Investment, Risk and Reinsurance

Location London, U.K.

Experience level Intern

University        University of Edinburgh

Why did you pursue an internship with Willis Towers Watson?

During my summer vacations from University I participated in various work experience placements within the insurance industry, both in broking and underwriting. Broking really appealed to me given the diversity of the role. As a broker, you get to see the whole insurance transaction and gain expertise from both the client and the underwriter perspective. Reinsurance specifically caught my eye as an area with a wide scope. I was particularly interested in exploring reinsurance as capital management. Willis Towers Watson is one of the largest and most respected reinsurance brokers in the world and I found that they had a great and diverse internship programme. I was also aware of the positive reputation of the organisation within the industry and was keen to experience this myself.

What was your experience of the application process?

The process was vigorous, but very rewarding. There was an online application, some tests and then a video interview. Once I had been invited to an assessment centre in Willis Towers Watson’s London offices, the communication from the Willis Re recruitment team was fantastic. The interview day was a good opportunity to ask questions and get a feel for the industry and the company itself. There were two individual interviews, and an assessed group activity. 

What were your thoughts/apprehensions about completing a virtual internship? Did they change once you joined the programme?

I was curious as to how an internship would work online; however, I have been very pleasantly surprised by its efficiency. We were issued laptops and headsets and for the first few days had a chock-a-block itinerary of introductions and seminars to occupy us. The last six weeks have introduced me to many different areas of the reinsurance world, including a Solvency and Financial Condition Reports benchmarking project, preparation for the UK market update seminar, a Willis Re market overview compilation and my own personal project on the impact of COVID-19 on the UK (Re)insurance industry.

What training and development opportunities have you enjoyed as a result of the internship?

The interns at Willis Re are enrolled onto the REACH (reinsurance achievement) programme during their time with the company. We attended the training sessions with graduates, specifically focussing on Catastrophe modelling. Similarly, we were invited to global virtual seminars throughout the scheme. A particularly impactful session discussed the problems of diversity that exist within the insurance industry and the efforts that Willis Towers Watson are making to change this.

Is there anything about the internship that you found really challenging? What support did you have to overcome those challenges?

I think one of the most challenging aspects of a virtual internship is overcoming the small problems that, in an office scenario, would be rectified easily by a nearby colleague. From a distance, however, these inconveniences, such as technical glitches or issues of wording, are harder to deal with. Luckily, we were encouraged to call fellow team members for help – even for the most minor queries. Also, I think having to deal with problems on the spot and without a more qualified guiding hand in the room, we were encouraged to think and work more independently than we might have done in the office.

What were the highlights of your internship experience?

From a professional point of view, I really enjoyed researching and presenting my end of internship project. I was lucky enough to present on the impact of COVID-19 on the insurance and reinsurance industries – something very topical which everyone was keen to discuss with me. Socially, the grads were kind enough to organise a quiz night for the interns, which was really good fun, despite my teammate and I doing abysmally in most rounds… I also enjoyed participating in the UK Motor team bingo – it was a great way of getting to know colleagues in a different context. I am looking forward to meeting a few of my teammates for a catch up later this summer!

Do you think you gained anything extra/different from having your internship online? What were some of the benefits of not being physically in the office?

I think that the virtual nature of the internship allowed me to meet a wider range of people than I might have done in the office – including some in other countries. Members of different teams and areas of expertise were willing to carve out their time for me to have a chat and answer some of my questions. Similarly, I was able to gain an insight into different areas of business that my team might not have daily interactions with, such as Insurance-linked Securities I felt this this expanded my knowledge of the industry. Additionally, avoiding the morning rush-hour commute in hot weather was a big plus.

How would you describe the culture at Willis Towers Watson?

The culture I experienced within Willis Towers Watson, specifically Willis Re, was inclusive, friendly, professional and fun. I never felt as though I was a less significant part of the team given the fact that I was an intern, I was given responsibility straightaway and was able to approach anyone no matter how senior for their advice and insight. People always made time for me, no matter what other things they might have had on their agenda.

Were you able to build your network with your internship peers and Willis Towers Watson colleagues, even though you weren’t physically together? What things were in place/did you proactively do to achieve this?

The sense of team within Willis Re is strong. I was made to feel part of the team from my first morning on the job. I pushed this further by reaching out to as many new contacts as I could, filling my diary with virtual coffee meetings and question sessions. At the end of the six weeks I had sat down for virtual introductions with nearly 30 colleagues, including the Willis Re CEO. 

The other interns and I had weekly catch ups to share our experiences across different lines of business, which I really enjoyed.

What is your hope for your career in the future?

I would love to pursue a career in reinsurance broking, specifically structured lines of business.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone considering an internship at Willis Towers Watson?

I would thoroughly recommend applying for this scheme. I have learned an extraordinary amount even under quite unusual circumstances, and the internship has certainly increased my appetite for a career in this industry. Practically, I would recommend grasping every opportunity, talking to as many people as you can and asking every question you have – no matter how silly you fear it is! For reinsurance specifically, expect an inordinate number of acronyms, and invest in watching a quick YouTube tutorial in how to do v-look-ups!