Sharon Theobald, who was elected deputy president of the Insurance Institute of Norwich earlier this year, talks about the importance of education in an evolving loss adjusting sector, and her ambitions for when she takes over the president’s role next year
Sharon Theobald’s involvement with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) goes back a long way. When she was starting out in her career in loss adjusting, she was a regular attendee at Institute dinners.
“I can remember sitting there and looking around, thinking ‘Wow, this is amazing’ - I loved all the tradition and ceremony,” she says.
Little did she think she might end up one day addressing the dinner guests, however. Since she was appointed deputy president of the Insurance Institute of Norwich in April, public speaking has been another skill Sharon has added to her toolkit.
“It's not a natural environment for me to be standing up in front of all of those people delivering a keynote speech, but I feel very proud that I'm now that person. It feels like a real achievement,” she says.
Sharon previously served as the Norwich Institute’s education secretary for four years, and education continues to be one of her priorities as she looks ahead to taking on the role of president next year.
“When I first started in loss adjusting it was always a true profession that people aspired to. It's really important to me to reinforce that message that loss adjusters are experts in our field,”
The loss adjusting profession has evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of the insurance industry, but Sharon feels the role of the adjuster should still be centred on that notion of building expertise – particularly when it comes to attracting new entrants. Ironically, it was the restrictions of COVID-19 which added fresh impetus to her educational mission.
“During the pandemic we adapted very quickly and held more webinars, so training became far more accessible, and distance was no longer a barrier to learning from my peers,” she recalls.
"The negative of the pandemic was the lack of networking. Before Crawford, I did a lot of coaching and mentoring, and it was evident that young graduates and apprentices were not getting the same opportunities they would have with face-to-face networking. That's a really important thing that I want to focus on, going forward.”
While her role as deputy will see her supporting the incumbent president, giving her the opportunity to learn from her predecessor, Sharon already has ambitions to further invigorate the Norwich Institute, with a view to engaging more people in the regional insurance sector.
Her outreach work as education secretary has involved partnering with other organisations in the CII group, such as the local branch of the Personal Finance Society, but also regular talks and careers fairs at the University of East Anglia and visits to local high schools and colleges to educate students about insurance and the opportunities available to them in the sector.
“It certainly helps with encouraging people to come into the insurance profession. And by bringing people in and mentoring them, not only can learn from us but I also want to inspire the younger generation. Bringing people in and watching them succeed - I really get a kick from that.”
In Sharon’s view, the role of the loss adjuster has always been about helping people get through what may be a very difficult time, while making sure their claim is settled promptly and fairly.
“I'm really passionate that people understand loss adjusters are there to help,” she says. “If you get that right - if you help the customers get through that journey quickly - that will naturally result in happy customers.”