Getting to Know You: Sue Langley

What do you currently do?
I am Director of Market Development at Lloyd’s of London, for which I’m based in the UK, and I am also Director of Lloyd’s Asia and Chair of Lloyd’s Japan.

It’s a varied role and can mean that one minute I’m chairing a meeting with the heads of major insurers operating in the Lloyd’s market to discuss the modernisation programme and the next I will be holding a conference call with our Japanese office to discuss how we can bring more new business into Lloyd’s from the region, in line with Lloyd’s new long term growth vision.

I am also a non-executive director for Northern Rock Asset Management and Bradford and Bingley.

What is your inspiration in business?
I am inspired and motivated by knowing I’ve done my job well and meeting the challenges I am presented with. Being in charge of modernising a 324-year-old market made up of more than 80 independent businesses is not easy, so keeping it simple is important.

I am a big advocate of women in business and diversity in the boardroom. Not only because boards should be better representative of society, but also because a diversified board is shown to improve profitability.

Who do you admire?
As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, I admire talented and capable women, who break through the ‘glass ceiling’. For example, I’m inspired by women like Marissa Mayer, who has just been named the next chief executive of Yahoo! No mean feat for a woman in the male-dominated tech industry. Marissa is a good example of a woman who refuses to be held back by complying with the norm, which I feel is really important.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Insurance is a great industry that presents real opportunities, but I’m always telling people don’t fall into the trap of trying to mould yourself simply to reflect your peers. Instead, just be yourself. I’m proud that I’ve managed to do that despite pressure to change. That approach has got me to where I am today.

That said, I recently abseiled down the Lloyd’s building in my Jimmy Choo stilettos for the 2012 Lord Mayors appeal. Although it was a fantastic cause, being terrified of heights, I wish I’d chosen a safer fundraising option!

What defines your way of doing business?
As the Director of Market Development, I am responsible for leading the Lloyd’s market’s modernisation programme which is focused on helping the market to operate more efficiently – for instance by replacing paper with new technology such as iPads.

In a marketplace made up of more than 80 independent businesses it is important to maintain an open dialogue, keep things simple and to plan thoroughly to try and reach a consensus on how to address often complex and technical issues.

I also mentor a number of women in the Market and take this role seriously. My style is to be pragmatic, open and honest, with the aim of encouraging my mentees through practical steps to develop self confidence in their abilities.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
My door is always open for women of all levels. Obviously, talent is a prerequisite but my advice is that women need to go for the jobs they want and to have the belief that they can do it. Start by finding a mentor – any mentor, male or female – as they can be a valuable sounding-board for ideas!