Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the business woman, Inga Beale. She has been the CEO of Lloyd's of London since January 2014 and was the first woman to hold the post in the 325 years since the insurer was founded in 1688. She is the middle child of a Norwegian mother and an English father and grew up in Newbury, Berkshire. Her career in insurance began in London in the early 1980s, but she tired of the predominantly male culture of the industry and left the City in 1989 to go travelling for a year. On her return she worked for the Prudential and then for GE Solutions, the insurance arm of General Electrics, where the work took her abroad. She left GE in 2006 to turn around a failing Swiss company, before joining the Zurich Insurance Group. Her last role before joining Lloyd's as CEO in 2014 was as chief executive of Canopius, a privately held Lloyd's insurer. In 2015, she topped a power list of the world's leading 100 LGBT executives. She is openly bisexual after coming out in 2008 and has been married to her husband since 2013. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, I'm kirsty young! Thank you for downloading this podcast of desert island discs from BBC radio four for rights reasons these choices are shorter than in the radio broadcasts for more information about the programme. Please visit bbc dotcom, dont uk slash radio for. The the. My castaway this week is the business leader inga bill. She runs lloyds of london, the first ever women to hold the post in the insurers. Three hundred and twenty two year history, measuring risk is her specialist skill and has taken up to the very top of her profession, but its tempting to think it served her pretty well in her personal life too.
Eight years ago, having invested a lifetime's, hard work in the highly traditional male dominated world of insurance, she took a chance and came out as bisexual in years gone by that might well have crippled a career instead timing and timidity only burnished her reputation. She's been hailed as a refreshing force in a business world striving to become accessible and relevant She says, inclusion is the foundation of innovation and having an open, accepting and diverse workforce will enable us to succeed in a changing and challenging worlds who welcome in the bill highly accomplished, it was very, very hard working and, yes, you are, I guess, the poster girl for diversity. I wonder how that feels that feels like there's a lot of pressure on me. I have to admit, but it's a wonderful pressure, and I've been working in insurance for thirty four years and never
Did I imagine when I started out in the eighties that I would reach a position like this, that I could be such a role model and when I started I didn't have, the female role models, and I just gosh how my life might have been different. If I had and now here I am I can be one of those and actually feels fantastic and and the pressure, then comes from being expected not just to performing your job, not just very, very good, but also to to have pinions. To give speeches to talk about your personal life in a public forum is. Is that the pressure that? Yes, the pressure, is about being out, while a being by public about it and continuing to have the courage to talk openly about topics that are? quite difficult and particularly when you're running such a global business, because of course attitude. Foods, and views of eight different all around the world. Save you ve always got that pressure on. How far can I go what's appropriate to say
in this environment, but I also have a hunting job. Yes, lloyd's is a fantastic patient steeped in history, but in order for it to be around for at least another three hundred and twenty eight years, we've got to modernize the place, so I've got and I've got a really big, tough day job to do as well as trying to talk about an open up. People's minds to a much more inclusive environment. I hope you know take offence at this, but most people don't get very excited by insurance. What are we missing? Well, I started off as a tree beyond writer, and I was in a global environment. So one moment I was looking at something from chile. The next thing I was looking at something from Australia than I was moving, japan and No, we see dreadful scenes of awful catastrophes around the world and they are in it and it's so tragic to see loss of life, but when you think that actually we can help put people's lives back together, because that's our job when something goes wrong
were there to support them fund, rebuilding their lives. Rebuilding towns, cities, countries that makes you feel very, very good. Tell me about your first piece of music. What are we going to hear my first piece of music? Is respect by with the franklin and more features, and this I think what she did with this song was empower women and that's a lot about what I like to do, and what I'm sort of seeking to do very impact for sort of, took her song a bit about sex and love and turned it tat quarter political movement,
the that was a real franklin and respect so inga view. It was three hundred and twenty five years before a woman was appointed to run lloyds of london. It was nineteen. Seventy three before a woman was even allowed to be a broker at low
aids. How would you characterize the culture in the city today for women? Its change dramatically since I've been working really has is a very, very different fields of it now, but there are still behaviour that go on that mean that if you tell me you just did feel you fit in. You can't have the same, perhaps lavish conversations and it, Don't just mean for women and women might feel excluded. It's it's all types of other behaviors that people, perhaps they don't associate themselves with, and so when you ve got up a lot of people together, he will behave in the same when have this in the same thoughts, which is what's happened over there, the sort of centuries, if you like the yolks club together, that's normal for them, so that when someone comes in is a little bit different, you two stages. Fit in. You. Ve got a workforce yourself of about eight hundred people when you are recruiting force senior roles, how much
You yourself consider somebody's ethnicity, religion or there sexuality or the potential disability. Does it come into your mind? What we're trying to do, of course, his blockhead that unconscious bias felt very, very difficult yes, but we all fall into the trap. So I was just as guilty when I was running a team in the city in the nineties. This was a trading environment and the broker walked in one day, and he said. Ah, I got the short straw today I got told I had to come and see the spice girls, So I'm looking at him saying what do you mean any says? Look and I realize I've got five women there and we ve done exactly the same. We fall into the trap of being a little club because we have some sort of affinity, if you're comfortable with each other. So what I do now said, I've learned the hard way said right now. We could try and banish those unconscious biases think much more openly and say right. Is this person any good? Are they the right fit and will he do good
and so should it be to do with targets being imposed from the outside or do we it's up to the individual businesses to to take that responsibility themselves, and do we punish them if they don't well, there is a a a lot of debate around quotas, targets and then punishment. All I can say- and I I, where we're not going out with any particular from view in the market at the moment, but I was very very lucky to work for an organization that had target set for its manager is to promote women and benefit from that. I didn't know it at the time when I said no to the very first promotion I was offered because I didn't think I have the confidence a very senior woman, came and sat with me and said Why did you not take the job, and I said I I can't hurt I'm not good enough. I had absolutely no confidence. I was part of a specific programme to promote women and she was determined
Let me take that promotion, something else. You ve said that strikes me as very interesting previously. Is that what you said? there is evidence that productivity is thirty percent lower among workers who hide their identity and where she proof for that's, that's a bold statement Well, there is some analysis, that's been done, but I personally suffered without myself when I was first with
woman. This was in the days no mobile telephones, so any phone call went through the receptionist. I worked for quite a small firm at the time I told my partner. You cannot phoned me in the office because I was so fearful that if she kept phoning me, people would be suspicious. Now. How ridiculous is that that meant? There was a whole part of me that was sort of left outside. I felt I was had to de gender eyes everything I was saying and if you look constantly trying to be on the god beacon careful what you say that affects actually how engaged you can be at work and the most productive teams and the most successful teams particular you're, going into new areas, new markets, a diverse teams, you need the challenge. No sea areas will the answers for business. More music
bill? Tell me about this. My father always play the piano at home. I used to love it when I begged him to give me panel lessons and eighty seven. I started on his play. The piano and one of the sunset he used to sing and play. Was there a new body here, but us chickens, and it was one of the first songs when I was good enough, I learnt to play and I used to sing it out loud, and I m just reminds me fondly of my father one. My mom was to love the barn. With the greatest of gas down in the in house. Something stood when he shouted move. This is what they know that again, but as chick, if they know that again so calm yourself and stop us
it ain't nobody, but us chickens, trying to sleep and you, but in an horrible horrible horrible horrible, with your chin thing, nobody, but us chickens, ain't. Nobody here at all stomping around shaking the ground. You can get a banal who does It is time to sleep and you, but in an apple, its assent tomorrow is obesity. We got things to do we got externally. We got round the day and worms to scratch. It takes a lot of sense, given chicks to handle that. In Jordan and there ain't nobody here, but us chickens. You chose that interview because you say it was the first song that your father taught you to play on piano and you sang it for many years. What were you something of a daddy's girl? Were you close to your dad? Oh yes, I was very much daddy's,
I have an older brother when the youngest sister and they both had blonde hair, and I was the middle child and I had dark hair. So from a very early age I always felt I was the old one out my brother and sister, possibly because of the age difference between them. It's close to some when my sister was born. My brother was a bit older, so my brother and sister I felt at the time, were very, very close and they used to actually tell me that I was adopted because of the color of my hair. So I thought of then attached myself to my father, and I was always accompanying my father to things. Had some vintage cars. I used to be in the carriage with him helping him and he was tinkering away. They were buying my sister guinea pig for her birthday somebody needed to help dad build the hutch. I was that person
I was the one he was with my dad. I would accompany him to the school library he was the school librarian. I was always doing things with my father and was quite a lot true hustle. Do I get the impression from stuff that I've read? Yes, my and my father? I suppose he was a little bit of a rebel. I think when he was younger. He never quite wanted to behave so he actually went to Oxford university, but then the first thing he did for a job was: he worked for marley tiles and he was a roofer, so he he always had this sort of feeling in him son, as he didn't quite want to conform to things now
have picked a little bit of that up. I think you might have a guy, that's it made him actually was. He was also very, very, very liberal and he actually funding of its kind and eva during the war, because he was posted in in finland during the war and he met his first wife in Finland married her brought her back to england that didn't last, and then he was soon thralled by scandinavians that he was a member of the scandinavian society at oxford. My mother came, I was a student from Norway. He met her. One of their events chased her down wade asked her to come back and said, come and marry men come and move to. England tell me about your next piece of music venom and indeed, why you've chosen it. Yes, my mother, coming from norway, meant norwegian things were very much part of our our life at home, and every year we went to norway on holiday to meet.
For the rest of our family. She died in two thousand and nine and we wanted to reflect that norwegian ancestry. So this is a peaceful, greeks, piquant and it's cold morning mood the The
the, that was morning mood from greeks, peterkins plate, thereby the Ulster orchestra conducted by van handling social mobility He remains, must stubbornly intransigent heat in the uk, most of the people who get the top jobs, And, as a result was to people who are most have been private school educated. You went to a state school
but what was it? You were learning their inga bill. That made a difference to your outlook in your ambitions. Do think when I went to an old girl school. It was at the time when I started, however, who I was rather a rebel so after about no twelve. I didn't study very hard, and so for me, it's quite difficult to actually say that the school itself had a big impact on me and the rebel would mean we're not doing homework. We're not turning up a class. I never play truant, but in my first year we had our exams and I was pretty good at french, but I came second in the class and I think I scored something like ninety six percent and my fee well. There was a teacher at the sort of parallel school, the boys grammar school and he was a language teacher. He spoke many languages and when we had the results come out, the teacher said I will.
Caroline think cunning was caroline. She got ninety percent. She was first, Inga was second with ninety six percent. Unfortunate. Isn't it inga because should have been first because, of course, your dad would have been much prouder and she said something like that to me and it gave me so I mean I had such an adverse reaction and from then on it was quite difficult for me, Two I dont know work hard at school. Had of profound impact on the impact was what you you felt angry at her for presuming to make such a statement, or you felt worried that you would have disappointed your dad. None are not, and I would not have lied about disappointing. My dad used that life, my mother and father with very, very supportive. I was so angry than I thought I had done really really really well and should basically told me I hadn't, let's go see the next piece of music and we're gonna hear your fourth tell me about this. So when I was a teenager, I got him with a group of friends
and many of them are not at school, so I might have been fourteen fifteen sixteen, but I was with some friends who were much older had already left school and I got big time into reggae, and I had some friends you played in a ragged band was white reggae in new brain. At that time they went to Thirdly, many black faces around. So we were all white, but we played in this ready, but we love the musical and I used to listen but molly incessantly in those days so chosen bob marley track which she could be loved
that was pulled. Money could be loved interview. You didn't go to university, but you did start a job as a very junior under reiser just described to me not the job, but the the office culture. That was in the early eighties in eighty two I started now. Having not had any money. Really up until then and suddenly or in the city and yearning so
suddenly had all this money and it was so exciting and you were looking at fascinating with small over the world. It was a very male culture and I was at one time I was one female out of thirty five underwriters and I I started to behave very much like them, because I wanted to fit in which meant doing what? What sort of things and going to the pub and and having to drink with them, the same drinks that they were doing. And things like that, and I did start to play rugby. It wasn't because of the male behavior. I just happened to get into rugby, but it did enable you to be thought of as quite strong and tough and they would often talk about me being a rugby play. You know you don't don't mess with her, so in a way it sort of helped me feel that I actually belong to this very male society. Come about your next piece of music
we're on your fifth disk of a day? Yes, so in the late eight is, I was working in this very male chauvinistic environment in the city and one day up, two key sexist thing happened and I decided to quit. Oh come on what was well, we were hosting in the office. We were a series of cocktail parties for the cricket that was going in the west indies and the manager's wife worked for the jamaican tourist board and she'd managed to get all these posters for jamaica and time. You can imagine what they were. There was a woman in a bikini. There was a woman in a bikini with a whit t shirt. There was a woman with me Bikini bitter wet teacher, so had them all around and we were having a series of cocktail parties celebrating the cricket and after about three weeks the posters, stood up on the walls, and I went into my manager, and I said I really think you should take them down. Have been really in a really good sport he said.
Yes, it will do that immediately. The next day I came in I walked around the corner, and so my desk on my desk was wrapped up in the posters, and I thought oh, this isn't for me and I turned around and I walked out and then I disappeared for three days and then I find it all my manager. I can't do it anymore, I'm leaving so I left the city, but around the world ticket didn't know what I was really ready to do and before I left a dear friend of mine, he made a cassette tape and put a lot of music on for me and this body peace music. I used to pay a lot as I was travelling on my own, all around the world and I say- would have imagined that one day I would come home and really be loved by somebody said this is called a man is in love by the water boys. The
Watch me. A man is in love, the warsaw boys. He said and good deal. That was only a cassette tape. Remember those so you bought the tickets. As you say you you didn't have a. I travel itinerary and you didn't have any money, so you you had to get jobs on the way. Yes, so a really important part of that trip was working for the bbc as it happens, sydney every day,
in sydney they used to have a a place. You could go very early in the morning and they would hand out jobs on a unit. First come first serve basis, and I went their one morning and I got offered on the BBC need of receptionists. I sat in the beauties office sidney as receptionist. And, interestingly, at that time the manager of the office was a woman and, of course, that was quite alien to me. Having come from the city here in london and the most important thing was, she was respected as the manager. Nobody made a comment that she was a woman She will trousers to the office and she wasn't. She was herself and she was confident- and I just thought, wow look at this look. What you can achieve. This is incredible. She totally inspired me came back and I ended up back in insurance
You? U progressed through injuries by the time of the nineties, you were a company called g solutions, and you said to me earlier: you know you at one point you had turned down promotion when it was offered that that was the company. You turn down promotion I think my right, but that was a g, so you see Imagine you not be confident enough to accept a promotion. What did you think when you would offer this promotion? I'm his passion, There is no way I felt that I was equipped or or good enough actually to do the job. So I did have this surf mentor. Who came along and she spoke to me and I said: well, maybe I just need a confidence building cool, so I went on a week's course old assertiveness for women. One of the exercise we had to do- and I remember it quite vividly they asked you to take all these men, genes and in silence on your own cut out just for magazines, newspapers and build a collage of how you viewed yourself, and I can remember
pictures on their make me out to be some ice queen untouchable unapproachable and yet when we then had the feedback from each other as to how they will perceive to you. Everyone had complete different perception of me than I did of myself. They gave you some ideas about how to dress excess. I mean it sounds a bit corny, but I honestly, I had a profound impact on my life and I came out of their feeling, like a different. As Dt yet felt like a million dollars, but, like I could do anything, I went straight into the manager's office and said I'll take the job. Thank you more music in gubbio. Tell me about this. You sick! Yes, so I'm someone who who's not terribly good at routines, I'm not very good at going to see a film for the second time, let alone a third time, but this musical grabbed my attention.
Nothing else. It was the queen musical. We will rock you and I saw it three times in london and then I even saw it a fourth time when I was living in rick. We went along to see it. It was actually holding germany is the next disappointing experience, but none the less there's some fantastic uplifting songs in there and the one I have chosen is called, don't me. Now me neither May god for
when the original london cost recording of the musical, we will rock you that was queens. Didn't stop. Meantime angle: it was two thousand and eight. Then, when you made the decision to come out at work, what why then I going for a new job and I decided that I've had enough of have- miss jewel life and then actually, not only was it not pharaoh me, but it certainly wasn't fairer. My partner and I remember when we moved to Kansas city that was way before two thousand and eight the state that did not allow same say recognize him six relationships. So my part, to come in as a student, so we lived a secret for so many years then I have the opportunity to be interviewed is needed when I said I'm no longer doing this straining its sorting absolutely not fair on my partner some, that decision and during the very first interview I
hold the ceo, who is sir interviewing me and he didn't bat an eyelid, and I thought why why. Why did I not say it area you were high, achieving highly intelligent woman. Why didn't you say it earlier? You think people will judge you, but I think it was more the fear of the unknown. I mean you just didn't know what would happen to you there, they won't role models, there wasn't somebody there already working there. Who was out that I thought, but look what they're doing because successful they ve been. It hasn't hum and there was nobody for me to see in that position, so I was so fearful of what the repercussions could be in october. Last year you talk to power list of the world's leading one hundred algae bt, executives, are no married to a man. How important is is that people who interact with you know your back story.
Because you would prevent you would present as an entirely sort of typical heterosexual couples. Are you with your husband? Yes, I suppose, being in this position there I didn't often meet people who don't know about me boss, okay, so it is, it is quite well known. Would we bring it up in conversation? The first time we meet strangers? Probably not actually it's not something that we sort of constantly talk about between us. My husband, amazin artist, is very different to me. His is is not in the business world, but it isn't like a topic that Where is, as consensual, gets in the way we just get on with life, and I think that's that's. What's important individually, have you found yourself since
and you came out and you lived a more honest life in your in your business life? Have you found yourself more productive? Are you better at your job? Oh, I think I'm much better at my job yeah. I really do it. It does impact you if you can bring your whole self to work, and I know there are boundaries and and people people have their own levels of what they want to reveal. We all do we all do with our friends. I mean it's not just in the workplace, I tell one thing to one person: you might tell a slightly less full story to another. We all do that all the time to whatever makes us feel comfortable, but I certainly feel that with 'em but not having had half having to have any secrets, and not having to disguise where I was at the weekend or who I was with, and it's just much more fulfilling it's more satisfying and bring your whole self to work. Nothing more invigorating time for some more music and mobile. Tell me about your seventh disc. What's this so my my husband's from south africa and through that
I had my very first trip to south africa and we went to this amazing restaurant that was right on the beach the waves were crashing in the windows were eva me at this fantastic dinner and then the live music started and we d. Most and danced and danced, I dont, really remember any of the specific songs that were played. But I've checked one that reminds being conjures up under four members of that fantastic evening and its two patter by Miriam makeba
Miriam, look either and passive pass. Britain's possible exit from the EU is fully the single biggest fact. Tipping debates would write my here Uk in a previous castaway said to me that they were on balance in favour of getting out lloyd's position. As I understand it is firmly, in the remaining camp. Why is that
so it is a very global business and nearly twenty percent of the business that we have in the market comes from continental europe and the reason we are able to access that business is because we're part of the eu, so we have automatic passport in rights and insurance is highly regulated, so you have to be regulated trade and all of those countries. If we were not to be in the eu, it would me would have to intervene negotiate access to those markets, and we cannot guarantee that we would have the same rights to do that business and is an important part of actually contributing to the gdp of this country. A little bit more of the personal. Before we go to your final disk, you said that, as far as you are concerned, the keys were successful. Career is, in your words, performance image and exposure. I wonder if you would also accept that for people like
yourself who who rise above the crowd, who are highly successful. There is also that key ingredient of a very purse. In a drive that gets you there? Yes, it's! It's is. So fascinating. No because where did it come from? I have salute you no idea. I just know now that I am very, Term in very resilient- and I just want to continue to empower people there's nothing more fulfilling than seeing other people be successful, and it is one thing you can do as a c o you conform teams, you can give them goals, objectives and get them to liver and then they feel that success, and that is the most fulfilling thing that I see my job the way to this island. There will be no team to motivate table just
you all on your lonesome. I imagine you'll be fine. What do you think? I'm not very good at my man, I get a buzz walking through the streets of london, because this is so full of people. So I imagine I might struggle a little bit for music in the bill tell me about your eighth disc. What are we going to hear so? I made it through to fifty a few years ago and I was so joyous that I'd made it to fifty in them. Is going to have an yet another decade decades more to go. However, I do know that you know I'm quite tough. I have to be, I guess too, to be. Business and so this song I've chosen because it was typical of how I was feeling at the time it's called sweet about me
the Gabriel Chill me and sweet about me sewing a bill, I'm going to give you some books. Now you get to take the bible and the complete works of shakespeare to this island. What else are you going to take my father loved books, and he was always trying to get me to read them- I'm really really didn't meet them, and yet it was much
life, and I was in my twenties, I left home. I went one day to collect all my books from home. I started looking through them and one of them caught. My attention is the last of the mohicans and it was particularly designed to attract children to it. I took that on the train. One days I was commuting into the city and I couldn't put it down. Why did I not read before and that book has just said I stayed in my memory, probably also because of the connection with with family and and what a lovely happy childhood I did have, even though I was a rebel, will give you that, then you are allowed to luxury as well. I do travel a lot with my job and when I What about a luxury? I thought. What's the one thing I miss when I'm travelling and it happens, Have you go outside of the uk Miss my lovely warm sweet cup of milky tee, so you could.
One of those every day so could I q probably could an if you had to save one of these eight discs from the waves which one would it be? I wonder just one patter patter, because it would make me keep moving. It's the one there that really gets to my feet and would keep moving. It's yours ingle. Thank you very much for letting us EU desert island discs. Thank you. The
You ve been there into a download from the bbc you'll find morning, formation on the radio for website bbc co uk slash radio for the.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-19.