In spite of entering a typically sexist workplace of the times when women were supposed to know their place and stay there, Branch Director, Adelaide, Charmaine Noble’s curiosity and initiative led to her becoming one of Australia’s first female insurance associates.
Utterly professional and meticulous in her own work, Charmaine applies the same approach to identifying and fostering strengths in her staff, encouraging her team to bring their best – and to have fun.
Other professional roles
- Branch Manager, Aon Cairns
- Account Manager & Team Leader, Aon Adelaide Corporate Division
- National Chairperson, Women’s International Network (WIN) at Aon
- Account Executive, Catholic Church Insurances
Years in the industry
- Over 40
With Gallagher since
- June 2017
Describe yourself in 3–5 words
How did you get your start in insurance?
I started in the 1970s straight from school, knowing nothing about the industry or the exciting career I was about to begin. I was sent to an interview by the school career counsellor and offered the job at the interview. I even asked the company to hold the job for me while I finished exams before I started.
The work was interesting, although looking back the industry was quite chauvinistic in comparison to today. Women weren’t offered superannuation, we were made to wear uniforms (with flesh-coloured stockings only) and had to eat in the lunchroom – this rule didn’t apply to men! But I revelled in having a job that was varied and challenging. Every day there were different people and businesses to talk to, and challenging problems to solve.
When I asked to move to other departments so I could learn new things my managers told me this sort of unsettled behaviour would be to my detriment. I worked in both claims and underwriting areas for workers’ compensation, motor vehicle and general insurance: something I do not regret as it has given me a very broad range of experience that has helped my career.
What attracted you to the industry?
The diversity of the work, the people and the challenges we face on a daily basis. The insurance industry has so many facets and I have had the chance to work across several of them – claims, underwriting and broking – and also to see how risk engineering, valuations, risk accounting and health benefits fit together with the rest of the insurance puzzle.
I enjoy learning about businesses and helping people. I guess the people factor is what attracted me – and remains attractive.
- Being among the first women to obtain my insurance associateship, and being made a manager in my twenties.
- The chance to travel all around Australia visiting clients as well as to London to sell a client risk to Lloyd’s syndicates.
- Being selected for leadership programs and as inaugural State Chair and National Representative for Aon’s WIN.
- Mentoring other women and helping them along their career paths. Several now manage state insurance offices or brokerages.
Career path progress
I worked in claims and underwriting and moved across to broking after having children. Broking has kept me in touch with insurance products, meeting and assisting clients, and mentoring and tutoring staff.
Many of the people I’ve worked with have taught me different aspects of insurance and the value of client and peer relationships, and this has definitely helped my career.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone to take on new roles and tasks has also been to my benefit. It challenged but made me realise I can do whatever I put my mind to.
What are some of the challenges for the industry from your point of view?
Insurance has never had great ‘brand’ representation and I would like to see this change. The industry is a hidden gem with so many fantastic opportunities.
It is important to provide quality practical training to help participants understand what they are learning and that this is not just a tick-box process.
Baby boomer retirement will cause a huge loss of technical and practical experience but there are a lot of younger people who bring great ideas – they just need to be patient about advancement: it will come!
Although technology is important, relationships are even more important – so they need to be savoured and strengthened if you want to be successful.
What do you enjoy most about working at Gallagher?
The freedom to operate with minimal corporate interference and the acceptance of everyone regardless of age, gender, culture or background.
Business leaders who are easily accessible and approachable and really are a part of the business. Gallagher really does work by the values it espouses.
Advice for young women entering the industry
The opportunities are boundless, don’t be afraid to seek them out. Your gender is irrelevant so don’t let it get in the way.
Seek guidance from mentors but make your own decisions.
Take time out for family and children, they will make you stronger and you will reap the benefits in the long run.
Treat others with kindness and compassion and it will be returned twofold.
More Gallagher women achievers
You can also read more about some of our female leaders by clicking the link below
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