A life of learning

Anthony Connolly from Zurich talks about his career, why employers should value experience and why learning is a lifetime’s work.


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Anthony Connolly is a Strategic Risk Consultant at insurance firm Zurich with years of experience working in the financial services sector. His role involves working with public sector clients to understand the wider context in which they work, tease out some of the potential risks they face and challenge them to think differently about them within the parameters of the legal and statutory regulatory framework they operate within.

Throughout his career Anthony has valued what he can learn from other colleagues, particularly those with more experience. He joined TSB at 21, working in Head Office and was able to learn how people operate at senior levels, how they handle themselves and about the importance of being punctual, professional, polite and considerate. He has taken those lessons with him throughout his career. “The leaders I have respected have been considerate, kind people. We always remember our bad bosses, but we sometimes forget to celebrate the good qualities of many leaders,” says Anthony.

He feels that business has become so fast-paced, integrated and competitive in recent years that people don’t often have a chance to pause and reflect on what they are doing or have the time to listen to others. He adds that there is also a tendency to pigeon hole people into different groups and generations – and to pit them against each other – which is unhelpful and leads to bias, for instance, the idea that older people can’t learn anything new. He cites the industrialist Henry Ford saying anyone who stops learning is old whether at 20 or 80.

Anthony says he has continued to learn throughout his career in risk management, which has involved varied roles with Lloyds, Barclays and TSB in change and risk management, including project managing multi-million pound IT projects. He has learnt something new in each role he has taken and he has brought all of that experience and knowledge to his current role. Moreover, he is still learning. “You constantly evolve and push yourself throughout your career,” he says. “I think I offer more now, for instance, when it comes to emotional intelligence and understanding clients’ needs. These are things you can’t teach.”

Other qualities which are much needed today, he says, are resilience and the ability to understand and motivate yourself. “We are all suffering from change fatigue, but how you deal with that is a measure of the person you are and your experience,” he says. He adds that for him personally knowing and understanding his core values and being unafraid to be true to them have also served him well.

Covid impact

Just before the pandemic hit, Anthony and his family moved from the Midlands to Devon to be near a family member with dementia. Zurich was supportive and Anthony has shown that he has been able to make it work, with the pandemic making remote work more normalised.

Anthony feels the pandemic has given people much needed time to reflect and he hopes it will be a wake-up call to do business differently, which he says includes using the skills of the whole workforce and being better at valuing experience and transferring vital knowledge from older workers to younger colleagues.

Anthony adopts that approach outside of work too. He has done a coaching course with the England Wales Cricket Board recently so that he can volunteer to help at his son George’s cricket club and enable the professional coach there to have the time to step back and do more strategic observational analysis of the individuals technique. Anthony was very sporty when he was younger, playing football at county level, and is keen to help young people develop their skills and team camaraderie.

He would like to see employers doing likewise and making the most of all their workers’ experience, rather than writing people off when they get older. For instance, he says employers could adopt a more blended approach to retirement, allowing older workers to work on a short-term basis or reduced hours to pass on their knowledge. “People who have hit retirement age still have a lot to offer,” he says. “Employers need to look at the whole spectrum of their workforce and get the best out of all of them at whatever stage of their career. Experience is a valuable intangible commodity.”

*workingwise.co.uk wants to change the narrative about older workers. If you are keen to share your working life story, please get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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