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Inspire and Guide talk with Ian Beaton

Published on 01/11/18

As part of our Inspire and Guide programme of talks, Ian Beaton visited the Senior School on Friday 21 September 2018 to explain his career journey from management consultant at McKinsey & Company to establishing an insurance business of his own.

Ian BeatonIan confided that whilst at school he had no idea what job he wanted to do and, indeed, he still had no idea after leaving university.  He did, however, know that he wanted to work in business and joining McKinsey provided the opportunity to gain experience working in a variety of industry sectors.  It also taught him about people, working environments and it entailed extensive travel. The latter no doubt sounding exciting, but like many he found that hotel rooms and offices in cities around the world are similar and there are only so many bars of soap you can get excited about taking from hotel bathrooms!

Although originally only planning to stay for 2 years, Ian actually stayed for ten, building up experience and contacts in the financial services and insurance sectors, where he found his rather geeky love of maths came into its own!  He moved to a position as Head of Insurance with Aspen, before spotting an opportunity and taking the brave decision to set up a new Lloyd’s underwriting syndicate. He is now Chief Executive of  Ark Syndicate Management, which underwrites $500m of insurance and reinsurance business.

Key takeaways

The most important message which Ian wanted to impart is that for most adults he has worked with over the years, there was no set career path for them - it is ok if students don’t know what they want to do whilst they're at school. It is often a journey and there are few wrong decisions. What is vital, however, is to think about the sorts of things that interest you and to take action. He encouraged all students (including those who think they are sure of their chosen field) to speak to people - teachers, each other, parents, and those working in sectors of interest to explore potential careers.  Ian found his path over several years, determining and using his skills with numbers and people, his knowledge of an industry area and identifying opportunities and a gap in the market.

And if you are thinking that any of this sounds dry, then rest assured that Ian engaged pupils with numerous anecdotes, questions and with tales of his exploits attempting to climb Everest and journeying to the North Pole! (We can report that our Y10 and Y11 pupils are now cognisant of the risks of frostbite and the steps to take to avoid it!). Indeed these challenges provided life lessons and were part of his learning curve and journey - although apparently, following a risk analysis, he has agreed with his wife that he will curtail some of his adventures until his children are older!

Ian’s key career messages:

  • One thing leads to another, and not everything is knowable in advance. Ian has had
    3 careers so far in his working life

  • You develop and experience more when you push boundaries and take time to
    explore opportunities

  • The importance of finding like minded people

  • If you are not sure how to think about what you want to do going
    forward, try the reverse, the deathbed test. What would your future self wish they
    had done if they were looking back on their life?

  • Some mistakes are easily avoided by simply asking others that have undergone
    similar experiences. The vast bulk of people are keen to share their experiences, so
    don’t be afraid to ask them.

  • Failure is a mindset: you only really fail when you stop trying

The best question from our Senior School students?

"How did you raise $150m?!"