As RedArc celebrates 25 years since it first launched, managing director Christine Husbands speaks to Health & Protection about starting out as the support service’s finance director, the firm’s role in value added services moving past being seen as a gimmick, conversations in the protection sector becoming more human, and measuring the true value of personal support and empathy.
RedArc launched 25 years ago this week and since 2010 it has been led by Christine Husbands (pictured), although her involvement with the organisation dates back to 2006 when she was finance director (FD) of the company that bought it.
But speaking to Health & Protection to mark the firm’s milestone, Husbands explained how the business had become more than just balancing the books and finding financial value.
“I was FD of an insurance brokerage back in the early 2000s and in 2006 we acquired RedArc, so as FD I did all the due diligence to see if the business was doing well,” she told Health & Protection.
“Then once we acquired it I was finance director on the board and after about three or four years the existing MD who came over with the business retired, and that’s when I put my hand up and said, ‘I want to do this’.”
Joining RedArc started Husband’s love affair with the business, as she said it struck a great balance in that it had well known clients such as Royal London, Scottish Widows and Canada Life, but was also helping people at such difficult times.
But the decision also meant Husbands had to completely reassess what she knew about value.
“Being finance director when I joined, I thought I knew about value,” Husbands said.
“I knew about pounds and pence but what I’ve learned is RedArc has taught me about real value, the value of personal support and human empathy and it’s quite tricky to get your head around what that’s worth.
“So it was initially quite challenging to have conversations around what to me was quite intangible and learning to have different conversations around value – not just the very strong financial payback conversations that we would have with a financial background.”
Listening to the nurses
During her time at RedArc Husbands has learned about joy and satisfaction and about doing a job that does so much good. A key part of this has been sitting in the main office with her nurses.
“I worked for 25 years prior in the chemical manufacturing industry and the subject matter and the sums to do with litres of chemicals and such doesn’t really excite you at all as a person, but it does where you are doing something where you know the business is truly making a difference,” she said.
“I don’t have my own office, I sit in the main office and hear the nurses speaking and it’s really humbling to hear the sorts of challenges people are having and the support they need, so it really is a joy for me to be involved in something that really helps people.
“I sit next to everybody else and listen – not that I can listen to the full conversation because they’re confidential – but I hear the nurses and when they put the phone down and I ask what was that about?
“They tell me details about the sorts of things people go through and I find it really quite humbling and you’ve learned so much just by overhearing things so I just sit among them.”
No longer seen as a gimmick
In terms of how the business has evolved during her tenure, Husbands pointed to how differently value added services are now perceived within protection when compared to when she first joined in 2006.
“Value added services were really viewed as a bit of a gimmick, people were sceptical of them as only being there to help insurers,” she continued.
“I think we were the first one and back then it was seen as not really part of the proposition and now it’s really become a hygiene factor that there’s some form of value added services within pretty much all protection.
“I see a massive explosion in terms of the popularity of it and also the recognition of the need for it, whether it’s our services or other services, the recognition that there’s more to protection than just paying out money.”
That recognition has led to a change in the nature of conversations between industry professionals at events and conference, Husbands noted.
“The conversations at conferences are very, very different to the conversations of 15 years ago, they’re very much more human, very much less transactional,” she continued.
“When I first got involved in the sector, the conversations were very much about claims rates, what percentages were paid, why claims were declined and all of that. While that still gets mentioned a bit, it doesn’t really get mentioned as much now.
“The conversations are much more on the human aspect and on the family issues and doing the right thing for the customer.”
Celebrating with afternoon tea
Reflecting on the history of RedArc, which this week included an afternoon tea celebration with staff at a local hotel, Husbands revealed her expectations for the business for when she took over have been exceeded “massively”.
“When I first started with the business, value added services were viewed with scepticism and a gimmicky thing and dismissed and I don’t think I ever could have expected them to become as integral as they are,” she said.
“I think through being part of that we have achieved far beyond our expectations; I’d like to think we’re one of the most respected value added services in the market having been around for so long and having had such excellent feedback.
“But I didn’t expect the value added services to actually increase to the level it has and our part in it to continue to the level it has.”