Halyma Begum is one of the shining stars in our Insurance business. In her 27 years she’s achieved more than most do in a lifetime. As she adds another award to her CV, we talk to her about competition, charity and innovation.
Sitting in a classroom in Hyde Technology School a 14-year-old Halyma Begum distinctly remembers how she responded to a careers advisor who asked her what she wanted to be when she was older. “I want to be a boss,” swiftly replied the confident young woman. “I like telling people what to do.”
Wind forward 13 years and the present day Halyma (who’s just won a ‘One to Watch’ award at the Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards) is still that confident young woman. “It’s funny how I ended up being a manager,” she laughs, all smiles, warmth and brimming with enthusiasm.
Despite being at the Co-op for 10 years (she’s what you’d call a ‘Co-op lifer’ – here since leaving school), Halyma still has that sparkle in her eyes you get when you’re starting out on a new adventure with the world at your feet.
It was April 2005 when the world of the Co-op opened its doors via the Stockport Pyramid. Halyma had bagged a job working as a part-time advisor for Co-op Bank. “I was dead keen,” she smiles. But this wasn’t her only job as she juggled working early mornings on the food counter in Ashton-under-Lyne’s Marks and Spencer.
Retail or Banking? That was a decision she had to make early on in her career. She chose the latter and excelled in her first year, being chosen to work on a specialised insurance team. “When it comes to sales I’m so competitive. That helped and it showed through my work,” she says.
On the move
But one thing to know about Halyma is that she doesn’t stand still. “I told my manager I wanted to develop – I wanted to do something, I didn’t want to stay on the phones,” she explains.
At 18 she was given the opportunity she craved – to head up a team of 12. “I stepped up. It was a young team. It was busy, exciting and there was a lot of energy. I had to drive their energy the right way so we created a really competitive environment and watched the sales flow in!”
Halyma discovered that she was a natural leader. In her first year as a manager she was nominated for Team Manager of the Year. By the age of 19 she’d already achieved what most thirty-somethings crave – her own car and the keys to her first house.
But it was the motivational part of her manager role that she found most satisfying. “One of my strengths is to get people’s buy-in. I’m able to drive them in the direction the business wants to go instead of pulling them,” she says. “Our team did everything together – we were very close and had a lot of laughs. I supported them with their own development.” The Best Role Model and Best Team awards she received were clear evidence that her approach worked.
“I’m loud and I really like to know people,” she admits. This exuberance has seen her relish the roles of People Group Champion and Charity Champion, immersing herself in the ‘giving back’ culture of the Co-op. “Over the past 10 years I’ve taken part in about 11 Business in the Community activities. I love working with charities and that’s one thing I’m really grateful to the Co-op, that I’ve had the opportunity to do so much with them.”
A spoon full of innovation
As if her extra-curricular roles weren’t enough, she also seized the opportunity to take part in General Insurance’s Innovation Challenge, launched last February to tap into the expertise and creativity of colleagues. This was on top of her new 12-month secondment role as a Commercial Performance Analyst, where she works with third party insurers like Aviva.
To her disbelief, her idea was one of the six selected by the Exec. “I even thought about the marketing campaigns and social media that could be done with this product.” she laughs.
Halyma is thrilled that General Insurance is actually going through with the idea, a new product which will be launched in 2017. “It’s great to be part of an evolving business. It’s about thinking outside the box and keeping the customer at the heart of everything we do.”
Halyma certainly has that philosophy. And her work doesn’t stop when she leaves the office. On her days off she can be found studying hard for a qualification in Islamic Sciences.
This lady certainly is going places and flying high!