UKZN alumnus Ms Erin Bargate, herself the recipient of university scholarships, serves as a trustee of the UKZN UK Trust, a charity which raises money from UK-based alumni to provide bursaries and grants to UKZN students.
‘I realise that I was extremely fortunate to have much of my education funded by scholarships and this is my way to help other students at UKZN achieve their educational dreams, particularly when they might not have had access to the same opportunities I did,’ she said.
Bargate was awarded an Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship after completing her Bachelor of Business Science in Finance degree at UKZN. She went on to complete a Masters in Financial Economics at the University of Oxford.
She moved to London in 2010 to join specialist insurance company Hiscox on a graduate scheme, and qualified as an actuary. Since then she has held a variety of roles at Hiscox including managing its Group Capital Model and a one-year secondment as the Interim Chief Financial Officer for one of the Hiscox business units called Special Risks. She is now head of Casualty Pricing, which involves determining insurance premiums for some of the world’s largest companies.
‘UKZN gave me an excellent grounding in how the global economy and financial system works. This is critical for understanding the risk associated with big global companies and hence figuring out the insurance premiums they need to pay,’ said Bargate.
Her mother, Dr Karen Bargate, a lecturer at UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance has been a great influence on her career. ‘My mother instilled in me the importance of education from a very young age and the belief that I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. She showed me that it was possible to have a family and a successful career.’
Bargate believes that empowering women is critical. ‘The London insurance market is still male-dominated, but this has been recognised and many organisations are actively taking steps to address it. I am personally very passionate about increasing the representation of women in business, which is why I lead the Women at Hiscox employee network which helps to support women in the company to achieve their full potential. I also mentor a number of young women to give them support and advice on progressing their careers.’
In a message to young women, Bargate said it is important to set goals and work hard to achieve them.
‘Even if something seems really difficult or unlikely, put yourself forward for new opportunities and grab them when they come along. I had people telling me I had very little chance of getting to Oxford but I worked hard and persevered to get there and it changed my life.
Outside of work, Bargate is an amateur sportswoman. She completed Ironman Barcelona in 2017 and participated in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Port Elizabeth in 2018. ‘I love being active and doing a wide variety of sport, which is also something that was inspired by my parents. My husband and I met through cycling. We were supposed to be participating in the ABSA Cape Epic for our honeymoon earlier this year, but sadly it was cancelled at the last minute due to Covid-19. We were also going to ride for Qhubeka, but instead raised R113 000 by asking our wedding guests to donate to the charity organisation instead of buying us presents.’