Lessons from the C-suite: Nick Turner, NFU Mutual

Turner: You need to have a good view across everything in the business
"HR leaders need to have strong leadership skills, and a need to see things from a strategic level"

Nick Turner, CEO of insurance firm NFU Mutual, shares his opinion on how HR can make it to the top.

I started out… in the postal room at Sun Life in 1985. Aged 19 I ran a mortgage desk, and then went on to have distribution, business development and sales roles across wealth management and general insurance businesses.

The right career path requires… different things at different times, but if every job you are doing is a success, and you are getting satisfaction out of achieving things, feeling supported and developing, you are on the right career path.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is… that nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. Reach for consistency, and don’t panic at every big thing that hits you.

My proudest achievement… I take pride in seeing others doing well, particularly if I have helped with some words of wisdom along the way. A number of people I have worked with have gone on to do great things and I am extremely proud of their achievements.

My biggest mistake... There is rarely a decision so bad as to be defined as a disaster. It is important to make the most of what is in front of you. A resourceful person will take decisions and can make them successful.

My biggest inspiration... There are three words that describe what inspires me the most: commitment, energy and intelligence.

Keeping me awake at night right now... Happily, I don’t think anything really keeps me awake at night, with the occasional exception of my 14-year-old bearded collie. She sometimes requires me to wake up and let her out in the night!

The biggest challenges for organisations over the next five years will be... Global warming and the impact of that on our business model and environment, and the rise of AI, which is both an opportunity and a threat.

At NFU Mutual, our work is about modernising our business, introducing online changes, and increasing growth in our commercial and high-net worth sectors while maintaining our position as the UK’s leading farm insurer.

Read more: Wellbeing and sustainability challenges need to be tackled

I need my HR director to... help NFU Mutual continue to be a great place to work, which is one of our three strategic pillars. Our employee engagement scores are in the top 1% of companies worldwide, and I’m determined to maintain this, making sure we have the most committed and engaged staff in the UK – within the insurance sector and beyond.

We want to make sure that we develop our people and leadership talent, and continue to build on our diversity and inclusion policy, which makes us such a welcoming place to work.

To make it to C-suite level... HR leaders need to have strong leadership skills, and a need to see things from a strategic level. You need to have a good view across everything in the business, including the things that don’t necessarily relate to what you have done previously. Understanding your people and how to get the best out of them will also create an environment to thrive in.

What I’m reading right now... I have just ordered Mary Portas’ book How To Thrive In The New Kindness Economy. I recently saw her talking at the Association of British Insurers’ conference, and she was asking a lot of the questions we should all be asking as business leaders.

My top leadership tip... would be to perfect active listening. What that means is to make sure you can articulate what someone has told you, back to them. If you can’t, ask them again. For me, the solution is in understanding the problem. Active listening is key to this.


This article was published in the March/April 2024 edition of HR magazine. 

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