Hi Dan, how are you? Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Could you tell us how long you've been with Specialist Risk Group, and what you’re responsible for?
Hello there, thank you for having me. I joined the company in 2017 when MX Commercial (then GB Underwriting) was a team of 15 people. At that time I was responsible for the Property team, and managing insurer and broker relationships.
I am now responsible for managing MX Commercial as a whole. As well as ensuring we deliver our business plan, this also means meeting our insurer partners and brokers to listen to their needs, develop opportunities, and deliver results.
That is great Dan! Could you give us more detail about how that came about?
After our acquisition, we underwent a planned restructure of the management team within MX Commercial. I worked closely with Specialist Risk Group (SRG) management throughout the integration and rebrand of GB Underwriting, and my experience in the market put me in a great position to step up to the role!
Brilliant, could you describe how you got to where you are now? Let’s start at the beginning!
I actively chose to join the insurance industry after school. At the time, like many 18-year-olds, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I was excited by the prospect of working in London and enjoying the lifestyle and culture that comes along with it.
My uncle worked in aviation insurance at Lloyd’s, and I thought he had a great lifestyle, I asked him about his work and that’s what sparked my interest. At the time, I lived near the offices of one of the largest insurance companies in the UK. I applied for a role there and I got the job! School leavers programmes were common at the time.
For the first six months I worked in the accounts team, dealing with direct clients and processing their payments. I was then given the option of joining the claims or underwriting teams, and following some advice from my uncle, I chose the underwriting team. I loved it, and focused on multi-class commercial, which included property, liability, motor fleet and motor trade.
In multi-class insurance it takes longer to become an expert so I spent the next five years in that role, learning everything I could. Towards the 5th year I had a realisation that I was no longer asking questions, rather, people were asking me questions. That was my lightbulb moment and signified that I was ready for the next step in my career.
After some searching, I joined a smaller insurance company that was growing rapidly (they are now a large entity). They had ambitious growth targets, which was great, because I did too! The company was hiring ambitious staff to drive that growth and it meant that I was working in a young team that had a lot of experience. The cultural outcome was great: dynamic and energetic. It was successful because of this and most of my old colleagues are leaders in the insurance space today.
After working there for some time, I was thinking about leaving, so my manager sat me down and gave me three months to show my visions and see how I felt about working in his team after that. It was a great opportunity and I stayed… until, that same manager was looking to leave, and wanted me to come with him.
This would be my first step into the world of MGAs. At the time it was an emerging category of underwriting business, so there was a lot to learn! I was quickly promoted to Senior Underwriter, and I began managing a team of five. It was a big step up from my previous role, and I was mentoring people.
Then came a new opportunity to step into a Business Development Manager role, however, I had noticed that there might be some trouble ahead at the company. Some parts of the office were not performing well and the insurers providing capacity were becoming nervous about that.
With capacity becoming more vulnerable, I started looking elsewhere, and was approached by an agency who was looking to hire a Binder Manager in Colchester – near to my home, and family.
Was it hard to move your career out of London?
It was. I had been working in London for around ten years, and I really had to think about it. I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to be closer to home, and the commute at the time was a killer! I joined the company in Colchester, took on a more senior role and helped manage their MGA performance – acting as a medium between the insurer and the MGA.
It was the most challenging role I have had in my career. I was balancing the needs of the MGA with the caution of the insurer, and I dealt with some real characters! In this role you are forced to think creatively to mediate between both parties. I was in this role for two years.
After those two years, I was approached by a capacity provider who had provided capacity to a broker but needed someone with my experience in underwriting and MGAs to run that capacity. I had a meeting with the Lloyd’s broker and immediately identified with their Managing Director, we were a similar age and had the same outlook on the industry. It was also an opportunity to get back to London – I had missed it. I was losing contact with some friends who still worked there, and I felt that I was losing touch with the market.
I managed the MGA for the Lloyd’s broker, setting everything from the capacity to strategy around the trades they would target.
After a year, the business was growing well, the loss ratio was good, and the company offered me a Directorship and a shareholding. This step tied me into the company and as a result I had much more involvement in running the business.
After a successful six years, striking the balance between a career in London and my life at home was something I felt I hadn’t got quite right. As a result I agreed to seek opportunities closer to home, I left that company amicably and I still see that Managing Director as friends.
This is where I came across GB Underwriting (now MX Commercial). They placed business with the Lloyd’s broker where I was a Director. The founder, Russell Brown lived in the village next to mine in Essex and we met for a chat about the company. I joined GB Underwriting in 2017, and really enjoyed it! The culture was friendly, it was a family business and the people that work there had a lot of time for each other.
I developed the Commercial Combined book and brought some of my property experience to the business. I felt I had finally struck the right balance between my career and my family – we were even able to set up a chicken coop in our garden to go along with our cat and two dogs!
In 2021, we had all been working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one day Russell set up a meeting with everyone from the office which wasn’t normal, so we were all waiting to hear the news.
And that’s when SRG entered the arena?
Exactly! During the meeting we were informed that GB Underwriting had been purchased by SRG. The CEO (Warren Downey) and Deputy CEO (Lee Anderson) entered the meeting after Russell had explained the situation. They answered all our questions around job security, the culture and business plans. It was handled very well, as their entrance to that meeting meant there was no ‘limbo’ of worrying or waiting to find out more. It gave everyone a lot of comfort for the short-term and excitement for the opportunities it would bring.
That is amazing Dan! What are you most excited for when it comes to MX?
I am excited to be part of the underwriting pillar where each team has its own niche specialities. It is a strong message to provide to our brokers.
It also means I can travel to SRG’s London offices on occasion, this is ideal combined with the office in Witham and working from home. It truly is the ideal work set up for balancing family and career.
And Dan, just for fun: tell us something about yourself that might surprise us!
Well, despite spending my career in offices, I am quite a good mechanic! I spend my spare time working on cars: I like old Porsches and I even bought an old Boxster a few years ago. I have done some work on the suspension, the brakes and parts of the interior and body work.