Don’t underestimate the need for talent development – Neil Timberlake

Published on Sun, 29/05/2022 - 18:56

Embracing mentors throughout his career has provided invaluable knowledge, advice and experience for his own professional development, says Neil Timberlake, an Airmic member and risk and insurance professional of more than 30 years.

Neil is a mentor in Airmic’s Mentoring Scheme, which began in 2020 and currently has 70 mentees and 31 mentors registered. His career has included roles in underwriting and broking as well as risk and insurance management and he joined JPIC as a director and consultant in 2021.

“Often in my career, I reached a point where I was not sure of the right thing to do,” he says. “I found it invaluable to talk through my situation with someone not directly involved and with no pre-conceived agenda. A good mentor can do this by listening well and simply asking the right questions to help the mentee reach a conclusion.”

Regarding his own mentors, he highlights three key figures. At Sedgwick (now Marsh) Cyril Bannister was Neil’s “go-to person” when he was struggling for a client solution.

“He always encouraged me to look at things from a different angle and not be afraid to move away from the accepted norm if it could benefit the client,” he explains.

At Metal Box Neil encountered Terry Sparkes, a client who became a mentor and re-emphasised the importance of always ensuring family came first when making career decisions.

Finally, when working at Whitbread in a risk management role, he met John Viccars. “A man who bore a passing resemblance to Paul Weller (of Jam fame!), but taught me much more about how businesses tick and the value of risk management than he did about music. He also taught me a valuable lesson about when to talk and when to listen and how to use a… pregnant pause… to your advantage!”

He adds: “These are just three examples of great people from whom I have learned different skills and taken different inspiration. The overriding point here is that through your career you come across many, many different people and you should always take the opportunity to listen to them and take from them the best of their experience and advice.

“How you use that advice will be up to you, but all of it is valuable and the Airmic mentoring programme simply proves that.”

Asked why he was keen to take the opportunity to be generous with his own knowledge and experience in a formal mentoring role at Airmic, Neil says he values highly the need for professional development and wanted to give something back to the industry.

“I think it is so important for young people in particular to be able to call upon the experience of those who have been in the industry a long time and to feel comfortable to ask questions and seek advice in a non-judgemental atmosphere, outside of their normal working environment,” he says.

“From my personal point of view, I so wanted to be able to share my knowledge and experience to try to help bring forward people and help their careers. You cannot underestimate the need for talent development to enable new blood to come through and to thrive.”

The Airmic Mentoring Scheme, which began in 2020, illustrates the value of mentoring. Currently, the scheme has 70 mentees and 31 mentors registered – all members. There have been 16 mentoring relationships completed since the start. All others are continuing, as mentoring continues for as long as both parties want.

For more information and to download a guide to the Airmic Mentoring Scheme: