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From SPARK Leadership Program to Deputy Head of International Pricing – Alok’s story

Tell us about your journey so far at Admiral

“I've been in the company for over five years now, having joined as an International Pricing Manager on the SPARK Leadership Program. When I joined, the team was quite small with the goal of helping our international businesses to grow their pricing capabilities. I spent my first year and a half familiarising myself with the pricing systems through technical pricing projects as I had no prior insurance experience. It was very easy to learn from those around me including the senior managers who were all approachable from the start.

I then started managing projects, working more closely with our international managers. In 2018, I spent six months in the Elephant operations (US) as the Internet Interim Pricing Director, helping the new CEO to rebuild the team there. This was just one example of international collaboration, but I worked on many other projects with our overseas businesses before taking the role of Deputy Head of International Pricing two and a half years down the line. As part of that role, David (Group CEO) asked me to develop analytics capabilities in the team, as machine learning was becoming an important part of our pricing methodology across the Group. We started hiring analysts with specific machine learning and data science expertise and we now have a separate International Pricing Analytics team.”

Can you tell us about a project that stood out for you?

“One that jumps out was in my first year. There was a vast amount of public data available online from the latest government census. Goal was to identify anything that could be useful for us in pricing. I was given a lot of freedom to play around with the data and investigate creative solutions. The result was a new geographical scoring system for pricing, which would have huge loss ratio impact and financial benefits for the business.

The interim Pricing Director role that I undertook for six months in the US was also a highlight. I got first-hand experience of leading a complex department in a fast paced and evolving organisation and I was advising the leadership team, following through with implementations, and really seeing the impact of my recommendations.”

How much international work does your role involve?

“Although I manage a large portion of the team in the UK, our team works with a lot of autonomy which allows me to spend more time on our international operations. I work very closely with international leadership team, including CEOs, to  deliver and advise on key strategic pricing, analytics & data projects.

I go wherever the challenge is. For example, I may go to the USA or elsewhere in Europe to work on a specific project or to spend time with the team to identify opportunities for improvement. This means I can maximise the potential of our team, by identifying projects that will benefit them, as well as the business.

In general, the opportunities to work internationally depend on your capabilities and knowing the language helps, but there is a lot of demand from our overseas operations. We love it when people say they want to travel and work cross-culturally. There is a lot of flexibility and we work around your lifestyle and preferences. It is really tailored to the individual.”

What do you enjoy most about your role now?

“I love the impact and exposure that comes with my role. I get to work with all the CEOs and international leaders on complex problems with exciting implications for the business.

The role is vast and that means you can choose your own career path. There’s so much going on that you have the chance to get involved in a lot of different things, for example international collaboration, data science, project management, people management, etc.

We have people who progress from an MBA position into CEO positions across the Group and with an evolving business there are always opportunities to use the SPARK Leadership Program as a launchpad to move into senior roles internationally.

Covid-19 aside, one of the highlights of the role is the travel. I enjoy spending time in different countries, talking to different people and learning from our international teams.”

Speaking of Covid-19, how have you found working from home?

“I would say that things went much better than I anticipated. In International Pricing, we were used to working in remote locations as part of the role. Working remotely has brought us closer to our international operations because contact with them is now no different to that with our UK colleagues – it’s all virtual. I think the geographical divide  has been blurred. Of course, with travel restrictions we miss the face to face contact and discussions with international managers, but technology has helped us a lot.”

Can you tell us a bit about the training for the role?

“A lot of the training at Admiral is practical, learning by doing. You won’t be sitting and listening passively.

We look for people who are happy to learn from the bottom up and get their hands dirty from day one. 


As we work with international and local teams with a variety of experience and personalities, you have a large pool of talent and expertise to learn from. There are plenty of opportunities for mentoring on projects too. Admiral is a very open company. You can easily go and talk to someone. People are friendly, they like to grab coffee and have a chat. It’s simply a matter of asking and putting yourself out there.

Within my first 18 months, I was already in the USA managing a department, so the learning continued as I progressed. You never stop learning in this role.”

Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like to be based in Cardiff?

“The main reason the SPARK Leadership Program is initially based in Cardiff is because this is where our Group HQ is, our training ground, and home to some of our most experienced people. It is a great place to learn the ropes and get a real feel for Admiral – the business and the culture. Besides that, I think the value for money in Cardiff is amazing. We have all the advantages of a big city but without the expense and frantic pace of life.”

What would you say to anybody who is considering applying for a position with us vs other large employers?

“Simple – do you want to be a tiny part of a big company or a big part of Admiral?

Admiral has the best of both worlds: we’re a FTSE 100 international company with a culture that will give you the autonomy and freedom to innovate that usually only exists in smaller start-ups.

Rarely will you find a company where you get the chance to work directly with the most senior managers and, in many cases, the CEOs on your first project.”

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to succeed in the role?

“I think humility is the first thing. You should be ready to learn and work with people at every level.

The second one is the ability to drive things forward. You’ll be dealing with the unknown, but this means you have the chance to create your own solutions, the freedom to try things out, and to use your initiative.

Finally, a sense of humour is important. People care about your personality and interests and they want to get to know the real you.”

What does the future hold for International Pricing?

“The next two years are going to be a very exciting time for insurance, as we are going through the transformation of machine learning, big data and the cloud. It’s an exciting time for people to join in pricing and data because a lot of big projects are happening right now and will continue happening for the next three to four years. So, if you like numbers, if data opportunities excite you, and if you want to take a leadership position with a real impact on the business, the SPARK Leadership Program is the best way to begin a career you won’t regret.”

You can find out more about our MBA Leadership Programs and apply on our website. You can also follow our MBA Leadership Programs on Linkedin to get valuable insights into the company and culture. 

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