As part of a series exploring what brings people back to us after they leave for pastures new, Chris Hood, our Head of Group Internal Audit, tells us why he left Hiscox, why he came back again, what he loves about working in internal audit; and why he is so keen on craft beers and barefoot running (though not necessarily at the same time).
What role did you leave and where did you go?
I was the Head of Group Internal Audit for five years, and went to a FTSE50 financial services group covering investment management, retirement, life, non-life and property as their Head of Professional Practice.
Why did you decide to leave Hiscox?
I wanted to develop and stretch myself while staying in an Internal Audit role, which I really enjoy. The role was a great opportunity to achieve that goal; to rebuild and transform an audit function in a different and bigger environment.
…and what made you come back?
The draw to coming back was essentially three things; the Hiscox culture, the people, and the non-life market which is where I have spent most of my career.
Anything you learned or ‘unlearned’ from your experience?
It broadened me. The size of the challenge was greater than I had anticipated, as the transformation became the basis of a regulatory review which significantly raised the stakes. I was pushed right outside my comfort zone. The penny dropped that the excitement and value of the challenge is worth more than just focusing on what could go wrong. I also learned beyond any doubt the primary importance of the team - to rely on, trust and empower people. It would have been utterly impossible to achieve the successful outcome that we did without everyone’s contribution.
Did you notice any change in yourself or the company?
In the two years I was away, Hiscox grew significantly and the share price doubled. I’m hoping these two events were not related! Something that has not changed is the essence of the values and what these mean. This is a big part about why I came back. Personally, I came back with more perspective, some great experience (and a few scars) from having managed a larger team and in a very different environment, and a lot of ideas about how to drive change in internal audit. I’m glad I did it.
Any advice for your previous boss?
To trust people more, and to give them the space to try whether they succeed or fail. I should add that I learned a great deal from him too.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? The sheer variety of what I and my team do across the whole of Hiscox; the number and diversity of people we get to meet, and the freedom that comes with it. Our primary reporting line is to the Hiscox Group Audit Committee rather than to management, in order to give us the independence and objectivity to carry out our role. With great freedom comes great responsibility – as I’m sure someone not in internal audit said - and also the opportunity to make a difference across a wide range of levels.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? Take more chances and always be positive. It took me too long to realise that.
Tell us a story from your time at Hiscox...
In a Madrid restaurant on an audit visit to our Spain office, I significantly overplayed my Spanish language abilities, and being too embarrassed to get my dictionary out, ordered callos a la Madrileña from the Carne menu. Expecting some type of steak to arrive, I was instead faced with a large plate of steaming tripe. A good lesson not to be too proud!
Favourite thing to do outside of work?
Music – either singing or playing the cello and piano - and barefoot running which I’ve been doing for a couple of years. Watching Crystal Palace is another (often painful) labour of love.
Any guilty pleasure?
Sadly, I don’t really have time for too many of these, in between commuting to Belgium on weekends where my wife and three girls are living for a couple of years to improve the children’s French, and picking up Lego and other assorted toys off the floor (barefoot awareness comes in handy here). I’ve also been enjoying quite a lot of craft ale recently particularly sours, and even made a small investment in a micro-brewery, but I don’t feel too guilty about any of that!
Most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
Delivering our Plan for 2018, and building our three year strategy to enable us to drive more insight and value as the Group continues to evolve. We are also looking at ways as to how we can build the profile of Internal Audit, both internally and externally – one idea that we are putting together is a structured secondment programme to allow people in the Group to spend some time with us, contribute to what we do, and share our unique perspective across the Group.