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Empowering women to go for the roles they want

We talk to Stacey Sim, Senior Underwriter, Middle East Branch, QBE about how women can climb the insurance career ladder

Women take up many challenges to progress their careers in insurance, even more so when they choose a male-dominated field.

Stacey Sim did just that, when she went into Automotive Protection (AP) – four in five roles in the motor retail sector are held by men.

And in an industry where 57% of women do not perceive a desirable career path for themselves in the sector[1], she lets her technical expertise speak for herself, unfazed by gender stereotypes.

Senior Underwriter Stacey manages the AP portfolio from QBE’s Dubai office, providing Extended Warranty and Vehicle Replacement products to car dealerships and manufacturers across the region. The authority to underwrite these risks in the Middle East are all signed off by her.

Having underwriting authority on the ground is not common in this market or region, and Stacey has led the development of this proposition since she was headhunted by QBE back in 2018.

“When I joined, there was the discussion of a possible secondment to the Middle East, but for the first three years I was underwriting the AP risks from London,” she says.

“That is how a lot of insurers in this market operate. But we recognised the benefits and opportunity of having the underwriting authority where our clients and their dealers are.”



The importance of female role models


It was in October 2021 that Stacey went to Dubai on secondment. Even though she’d been managing the Middle East AP account for two years, she found herself in a work culture where authority is often assumed to be held by male members of the team. It’s a culture she’s been keen to change.

“We’ve visited dealerships where the manager has instinctively addressed my male colleague to ask them the questions.

“However, the support I’ve received from the local QBE leadership has given me the confidence to lead these discussions,” she says. “If I am the person who has done the preparation and is driving the proposition, then I am best placed to answer the questions.

“The men in my team have no hesitation putting me forward to present, whether that is to a CEO of a global manufacturer or the manager of a dealership. I’ve always been strongly encouraged to showcase what it is I do and what I can bring to the table,” she adds.

Stacey says the influence women have on insurance is growing with every senior appointment, and she believes that it is the visibility of these roles that will make the real difference in getting more women into the sector: “It’s encouraging for other women and gives us something to strive towards.”

QBE’s approach to developing female talent is starting to produce the role models that can inspire, motivate and tutor other women like Stacey.

“Seeing Cécile Fresneau [Managing Director, QBE Europe, Insurance Division] have the level of responsibility and authority she does is pretty inspiring. But what is really important for me is that Cécile does this and has a family. Her example shows you can have the family and the career you want,” she says.

“That’s where I want to get to, and Cécile’s example shows that it’s not a risk to your career if you want to take time off to start a family.”



Unlocking the value of secondments

While Stacey says she has not considered whether women look to her as an example, she does enjoy mentoring women, particularly on the value of going on secondment: “You have nothing to lose – it’s for a fixed amount of time and you get a different perspective on the market, and life in general, it’s a really great opportunity.”

Now entering her third year in Dubai, Stacey has no thoughts of returning to the UK and is focused on delivering her five-year plan for the business.

“We’ve just recruited our first UAE-based claims engineer for AP and over the next couple of years we are going to expand the team by bringing in more underwriters. AP is a global business, and we are growing our global footprint in the region,” she says.

“It’s a really niche market and is very data-driven and analytical. Rather than pricing by benchmarking against the market, AP gets down to the core fundamentals of insurance and individual risk. It’s full of different characters and has the kind of culture where you are judged on your ability and what you bring to the table, rather than who you are or where you’ve come from.”



‘It’s about pushing women to go for the roles they want’

One of the main barriers to greater gender equality, Stacey believes, is that women are less likely to put themselves forward for senior roles and tend to doubt their abilities. Unlike their male colleagues, women often wait to be promoted – a story familiar to Stacey, who hadn’t considered a leadership role until she was headhunted for one.

“A year or so ago, I wouldn’t have been planning the next step in my career to necessarily be in a leadership role,” she says. “But now that I’ve had my first opportunity to manage within my role, my five-year plan (which details how we’re going to develop the team whilst growing the business) is also about developing my own career.”

As more women begin prioritising their professional development, Stacey believes it will become increasingly commonplace for them to pursue and secure senior roles in insurance.

“It’s about pushing women to work hard, go for the roles they want, but also about them understanding that the opportunity won’t always just come to them.”



Your contact

Your contact

Stacey Sim

Stacey Sim

Senior Underwriter

+971 4 508 1432