Can you imagine running a business with 450,000 customers? Jasvinder does! She tells us what its like to be responsible for the B2B clients of Direct Line's insurance firm.
What is it the company does?
Direct Line for Business is part of the Direct Line Group and provides a range of business insurance products to small business such as landlords, tradesman, offices, shops and the wider SME sector. Whether the business is launching a start-up, running a growing business from home or other premises or working as a tradesman, we aim to provide the right cover at the right price.
These small businesses can often be forgotten and be better served when it comes to getting the right insurance product to cover their business and at the right price. At Direct Line for Business we take pride in working with small business owners to help design products that meet their needs.
Direct Line landlord insurance holds the What’s Mortgage Best Landlord Insurance Provider award for 4 years running and our van insurance product has a 5 Star Defaqto rating.
We have over 450,000 small business customers to date.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As director of Direct Line for Business, I have full P&L accountability for the B2B offering from Direct Line. In my role I lead a team of direct reports from various areas in the business including marketing, digital, telephony operations & the commercial and propositions team. It’s great because there is so much variety in each day so we can go from talking about numbers and actuarial models to marketing, all in a day’s work!
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Having graduated with a degree in Mathematical Sciences, I went on to qualify as a secondary school maths teacher before deciding to pursue a career in business. I joined Direct Line Group in 2005 in a junior role looking after Home Insurance partnership schemes including Tesco and Nationwide.
I progressed quite quickly and moved to work in the flagship Direct Line brand. After spending an interim period as Head of Direct Line Home Insurance, taking on more responsibility for delivering profit and growth, in 2010 I took on a role as Head of Pet, running the Group’s multi-brand Pet Insurance portfolio.
Shortly after that, I moved into the commercial arm of DLG as Head of Direct for Business, and in 2014 I was appointed director. Over the last couple of years I have led a great team in growing the business year on year and have helped the businesses repay the initial investment made in setting up. I am proud and pleased to say that business is continuing to go from strength to strength.
In addition to this, last year I was honoured to be on the Northern Power Women’s list of ‘top 50 to watch’.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
A great leader must be inspiring – people have to want to follow your vision!
Caring about the people who work for you is so important. If you have a happy team, you have a happy business. And it’s vital to be able to give clear direction and also empower people, as this will enable them to make the right decisions and do the right thing. Any technical skills are useful but are only part of the story.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Work-life balance. I am a lot better at this now but when I started, it was tough. I live in Leeds and commute just about every week to London. I have people across multiple locations and disciplines who work for me, which can be challenging. In the beginning I found myself trying to get everywhere and do everything because I was accountable for the business. Even though Direct Line for Business was part of the bigger Direct Line Group, I really felt responsible and I wanted it to succeed. I still feel that way but I’m a lot better at managing my time now. I trust the people that I work with and this allows me to live a far more balanced life!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have great friends in London and in Leeds and they put up with me for an evening or two! My family is a huge support and actually my sister has just had a baby which is my new obsession, and a lovely distraction! Around that, I really like to travel and pretty much use all of my annual leave escaping abroad, which stops me from any temptation to check emails!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not I wanted to be an astronaut! I’ve always been a bit creative, so I picked the most unusual thing I could think of. I did Maths at University but I think you need to be a lot fitter than I am to be allowed into space, so I ended up doing something a little more down to earth! That said I still try to aim high with everything I do, which is certainly reflected in how I choose to run my business.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
People who don’t take ownership for stuff! Occasionally you come across people where it’s always someone else’s responsibility or someone else’s fault, which really annoys me. Dealing with this can be a challenge but this is why it’s really important to set clear lines of accountability from the start. Obviously sometimes things can fall between the cracks but it you are able to deal with these issues quickly, they are less likely to escalate and impact the wider team. I love to see passion in the workplace so I try where possible to inspire people to go that little bit further and care about what they do.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Direct Line for Business is about providing simple solutions to small businesses who want to buy their business insurance direct. And we are continuously trying to evolve our products to make them easier and better value for our customers. In five years’ time, I would love to see Direct Line for Business as a household name when it comes to providing business insurance, in the same way Direct Line is for Car or Home insurance.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
You can’t know or do everything by yourself, and that’s ok. It’s about building and being part of a great team and trusting them to do their work well. Delegate where you can and just because someone didn’t do something the way you would do it doesn’t make it wrong! This is so important otherwise you will break, or you will be placing a cap on how far you can go in a leadership role.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
It’s a bit of a crystal ball thing but its how much the internet would have influenced customer buying behaviour. Things have changed so much in the last 12-ish years and it’s really transformed so many elements of our lives and entire business models have had to change to respond – the use of analytics and data being an example. If you think about it, it’s quite shocking just how quickly things have changed in such a short amount of time. I think we have now caught up with the idea that things can change so rapidly, so we’re able to plan for the future - but 12 years ago I don’t feel like I understood that.
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