Business managers of the future need to find practical solutions to real problems. Alison Boyle finds out how a new residential management course can help.

Creating the business managers of tomorrow is an important goal for any company, especially one that places training high on the agenda. Royal & SunAlliance is no exception. At its recent residential management course – the first under its new initiative the Underwriting College – the aim was to make its selected delegates come up with real and practical suggestions for improving the company.

Attended by 24 UK commercial and overseas delegates, the week-long event was split into four core areas: shaping the business, building the business, managing the business, and improving the business. Sessions included such topics as group strategic drivers, financial targets, alternative risk transfer and distribution strategy.

The aim was to teach delegates to apply the skills and knowledge of the course to enhance their contribution to RSA's business objectives. One means of ensuring that this knowledge would be transferred and used in the business environment was to set delegates a 2,500-word assignment to be completed over three months and undertaken on either an individual or a group basis.

Fiona Andrews, underwriting standards manager, comments: “There has to be a different approach when training managers at this level than when teaching someone the core skills of underwriting. By setting the assignment, we create a robust mechanism that allows knowledge to be transferred into the business place to improve the bottom line. The process gives key staff the opportunity of coming up with new ways of doing business. We intend to seriously consider all the proposals put forward – it is a learning experience for us too.”

For the three-month period, the delegates will have access to a supporting tutor network. Their own managers can also provide help and guidance. The assignments will then be reviewed and marked on the basis of demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the subject matter – which have to match a current business problem or need.

The winner or winners of the assignment will be announced in November, when they will receive an Executive Award.

The delegates can chose from a combination of listed subjects. These include current and future pricing techniques, claims management and its impact on underwriting strategy, and gaining competitive advantage – all subjects covered on the residential course.

Andrews adds: “We had a target audience for this course based on experience and knowledge because it is no good teaching people who are not ready. This is the first residential management course. We hope the assignment will be a successful venture.”

The residential course also enabled managers from across the country to get together and discuss how different regional offices operate.

Alan Cain, engineering underwriting manager, North Area, was one of the recent delegates. He comments: “Being away for a week means that there are no distractions. You're able to concentrate on what has been delivered. The networking has also been invaluable. There was a good mix of technical and operational people from within the company.

“The best part of the course was the talk on RSA's financial drivers. It was good to see how this relates back to what I do, and also how what I do relates back to the company finances. I've never looked at the financial side in such depth before. An individual could delve into it but it is not easy. I actually wish we had had more time on it.”

Another delegate, Mark Woods, team manager, South Area, adds: “The aim, I thought, was to learn more about the business and accounting side of things. I have had a fair amount of training in the past, but this time the delegate group was larger and we had overseas delegates too. This is good because we are increasingly dealing with international customers.”