Chief executive highlights the importance of seeing things from the broker’s perspective 

Sharon Bishop’s experience as a constable with Devon and Cornwall police no doubt served her well for what was to come in her career.

Joining the premium finance provider, Close Brother’s in 2000, Bishop has since risen to the rank of chief executive, a role she has held for over four years.

As chief executive, Bishop has driven changes in company culture, most recently addressing mental health awareness.

She wanted to create a workplace where people can talk openly about how they feel, as well as advocating flexible working to get the best out of her staff.

The initiative aims to make everyone feel included, be themselves at work and be their best selves at work.

She told Insurance Times: “We need to think about what the workplace of the future will look like and how would they work most effectively. I measure by output, not input.

“I have had several maternity returners onto my executive. It’s going to be a demand that the workforce of tomorrow demands us to deliver to and so we should.”

Chameleons of change

On working with brokers, she said: “[Brokers] are the chameleons of change, it doesn’t matter what’s thrown at them, they find a way to adapt and make that the best way possible for their customers and they are a really important part of the distribution network for insurance and massively adaptable over the years.

“They just have the capability to do what is required regardless of what is going on around them, for the benefit of their customers,” she added.

In terms of technology, Bishop said that some brokers are further than others. In a recent survey of its broking partners, the firm found that the partners are interested in what technology can do for them and their customers.

She said that brokers in personal lines have had to familiarise themselves with technology and commercial lines is now also seeing some change.

Bishop spoke of the importance of seeing things from a broker’s perspective and how valuable this is to her business, and therefore compute that knowledge internally.

The bill 

Bishop joined the police force in 1982, straight out of sixth form college.

“I probably had the best learning in life that anyone could ever have, I would highly recommend it as an experience in understanding people from all walks of life, having to make decisions quickly and not just being able to see what people see about the law but [being able to show] a side that allows you be empathetic and always kind to people.”

She cites the teamwork and the camaraderie that goes on behind the scenes as the highlight of this part of her career.

Five years later in 1987 she left the police to start a family, taking four years out to raise her two children.


In 1991 she fell into the financial services sector taking a part-time cashier’s job at Abbey National (now known as Santander Bank) to support her family.

And nine years’ later Bishop found herself on the banks retail executive board – the start of her journey in this sector.

She began at Close Brothers in 2000 as operational director and climbed the ladder in a series of roles from interim treasurer to chief operating officer.

The latter was her most challenging role she said. “Chief operating officers play a very challenging role, they are always there making sure things are running smoothly, rarely take credit for it but are absolutely in the spotlight when things go wrong.”

However, Bishop said that her time working at Close Brothers in the interim treasury during 2008 was also challenging, but in a different way as it coincided with the height of the Credit Crunch.

This period saw many banks seeking emergency funding as lending to other banks retracted considerably.


Bishop draws some parallels between banking and insurance, particularly in the way that the two industries operate.

But she explained that the difference for her with insurance is that working with brokers gives her the chance to work with highly entrepreneurial individuals that run their own businesses.

“I fell into financial services, and I further fell into insurance; they are not dissimilar in any way. Throughout my whole career this has been the job that has given me the greatest enjoyment, because it combines everything.

“I am a results-driven individual, so quite competitive by nature. But I love doing it with the team and I don’t want a singular success, I want it to be with people around me.

”This business has circa 300 people so leading [the firm] absolutely hits the spot for me and I really enjoy the insurance industry I think it’s really straight forward to operate in particularly with the brokers,” she said.


On giving advice to others vying for a senior position Bishop concluded: “Always back yourself, work hard, surround yourself with really positive people, be resilient – you need to dust yourself down and get back on it again, and always be fair.”