Meet the MD: Bob Andrews of Benenden Health

"Pay attention to the little things, don’t take work issues too personally, be brave and speak up" - Bob Andrews of Benenden Health talks to UMi about believing in your product, the importance of humility and the balancing act of a CEO.

What is it the company does?

Benenden Health is an amazing, not-for-profit healthcare business with more than 810,000 members across the UK who benefit from a wide hospital network including our own Benenden Hospital in Kent, a 24/7 mental health helpline, access to physiotherapy, round-the-clock GP access and diagnostic testing… as well as a range of support including advice on planning social care. Our product is easily defined as the affordable alternative to health insurance and complements the great work of the NHS.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words 

My role at Benenden Health is Chief Executive Officer, making me responsible for leading the development and execution of the company's strategic and commercial objectives. Most recently, we’ve launched a new brand proposition and are working on innovative product development designed to shorten the response time between member and medical professional.

On a day to day basis, I try to split my time between Board-level activity and other commitments within the business, ensuring I get the opportunity to spend time with non-managerial employees who give me unparalleled insight into feedback from our members.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I left university with a degree in Geography and a desire to work with people. I started my career as a sales representative for Lombard (part of NatWest) and worked up from there. I took a diploma in Finance and Leasing and looked for opportunities that would stretch myself, and be fulfilling and enjoyable. I’ve held several senior positions in the financial services sector, ranging from core banking and personal lending to insurance and mortgages. After a period as CEO for a large mortgage company based near London, I joined Benenden Health in 2017.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Leaders are representing both their brand and their colleagues; in my case, more than 500 people. It’s therefore important it’s not just about me as an individual, but about supporting my colleagues and gaining trust from our members. I believe passionately in the value that the Benenden Health product offers and I like to think that comes across and therefore helps build trust in the brand, as well as in me as a leader.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Benenden Health has a fantastic culture and support network which makes it the most enjoyable job I have ever undertaken. Of course, it’s not without its challenges and possibly the greatest challenge is also one of its strengths… that of balancing the needs of our Members, the demands of the Board and the requirements of our people. At the same time finding ways to develop the business and product of this 115+ year old mutual.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

There’s no doubt that getting home at night to my family is still the favourite part of my day. I have spent many years working away from home and I am lucky that I am able to get home most evenings now I’m working in York. I live in Yorkshire, the most beautiful of counties, and it’s always great to have family time at the end of the day to de-stress. I also run a smallholding with some sheep and horses… they provide a complete alternative to work!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had the classic aspiration to be a rock star or rugby international when I was younger, and at one point wanted to join the armed forces!

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them? 

I dislike any kind of blame culture. It is unhealthy and not reflective of my values. I like to be clear on accountabilities and encourage personal ownership… and then support and be supported for trying to do the right thing.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I see nothing but long-term success of this already 115-year-old mutual as we transform to fit with healthcare demands and expectations of the future, encompassing tech, operations and customer experience.

We see ourselves working closely with the NHS and focussed on working through the upcoming challenges the healthcare sector faces such as shortages of staff and budgets and of course, whatever lies ahead with Brexit.

Benenden Health’s overall aim is to continue to grow and support its existing 810,000 members to improve the nation’s health.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Experience builds confidence, but the day you lose that last bit of fear could be the day you become complacent and lose the respect of your team and peers. Humility is a characteristic that I feel business leaders need more these days. In today’s ultra-connected world, excessive arrogance can be shot down in flames within seconds.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Pay attention to the little things, don’t take work issues too personally, be brave and speak up… the senior people probably don’t know as much as you think they do.

Abi Bentley-Cottam
Article by Abi Bentley-Cottam
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