Marks & Spencer head of insurance John Windsor on never accepting glass ceilings

Could you briefly describe your role?

I look after the commercial insurances and the commensurate risk management for Marks & Spencer Group. This includes the purchase of classes of insurance from aviation through property and casualty to life. We also oversee and administer ‘local’ overseas programmes.

How did you get into risk management?

Like most people, I fell into insurance. I started in the insurance department at Taylor Woodrow, then I moved to a subsidiary of Sun Alliance, then into corporate insurance management at Brinks MAT, and from there to an international commodity trading company. I joined Marks & Spencer almost 25 years ago.

How is your performance measured?

On many things: budget, scope of cover achieved, ‘client’ satisfaction, project delivery, influence, claims recovery, risk management, profile and relationships. Sometimes it’s easy to demonstrate success, but when things are running smoothly it can be difficult to highlight achievements. When a major crisis comes along, provided you deal with it well, you can demonstrate your value.

How have you been able to progress your career?

Hard work, application and a large element of luck! My advice would be to get qualified and make a nuisance of yourself – don’t accept glass ceilings. Make as many contacts as you can because you never know when they will come in handy. And don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. SR