How one of insurance’s top 100 set the wheels in motion at 18
David Bearman, CEO at Aventum Group, is a newly crowned member of the Insurance Business Global 100. Here he tells the story behind his success – from setting the wheels in motion for the business at just 18, through to the challenges of running a business internationally.
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Paul: [00:00:11] Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of Insurance Business TV, where we are shining the spotlight on one of the members of our Global 100. Yes. Just a few weeks ago, insurance business issued its annual rundown of the 100 names across the insurance sector globally who are driving, change, innovation and leading the charge for the sector. One man who is doing all that and more is our guest today, a man who has taken his company to new heights over the last year, not only with a major rebrand, but also by embarking on a global expansion. That man is David Bearman, CEO of Aventum Group. David, welcome to IBTV.
David: [00:00:53] Thank you, Paul. Thanks for having me.
Paul: [00:00:55] So first of all, David, congratulations on your success as part of our Global 100. What do you think has led to this recognition?
David: [00:01:03] Thank you. And and thanks for the congratulations. Hey, look, we've we've we've worked hard under the radar for the last 26 years. And from our point of view, we've never been one to sort of shout about our achievements. So I was quite surprised to be included in the Global 100. As I said, we're we're a business that's quietly going about building a successful entity today. So probably the key part, the key to the recognition is we've we've built something that's authentic. That's that's that's taken time to do so with a great team of people. And part of that process was obviously the rebranding and the unveiling to the world of the group back in May of last year. So we we probably raised the flag in terms of our in terms of our profile. And certainly that's probably led to part of that recognition process.
Paul: [00:02:01] Yeah. And you talk there about being in business for 26 years, but like you said, you know, perhaps because you've not shouted too much, your name might be a new one to some of our viewers. So tell us a little bit about the event and group and how it got started. I believe it sort of dates back to you, setting the wheels in motion at the grand old age of 18.
David: [00:02:21] Yeah, you make me feel old now, Paul. To be fair, yes. So the business can trace its roots back to 1996 when when Direct Insurance Agency first started as a small UK retail broker, I was responsible for the running of that business straight from college. The original intention to go off and become an architect and ended up falling into the insurance business. I think as we all do in some way, shape or form, I don't think anyone sits at the back of the class and thinks I want to be an actuary or want to be a CEO of an insurance business. So as that business evolved, we become a more specialist retail broker. But but way back then this was pre Google, pre um pre laptop time. We was calling through the yellow pages to the butcher and the baker obtaining renewal date. So from our humble beginnings, you know, that's when I started. You know, we've built that business into a global specialty entity. So 26 years of work to get to where where we're at today. But we've not stopped yet. We're only just beginning.
Paul: [00:03:32] So it's clearly been an amazing journey. But what would you say has been the highlight along the way?
David: [00:03:38] There's been several highlights. You know, we worked or I worked in a in a retail business. So I fully understand what it takes to build something from nothing. I wasn't fortunate to have worked or I'm fortunate whatever way you look at it, to be to be working for a business with backed by private equity or one of the big ABC brokers. So we didn't have any preconceived ideas. We just know we needed to work hard at it. We're a service driven business and that was through that was obviously through the core of the business and always has been. 17 years of working in the retail business in the UK, you fully understand and appreciate, as I say, what it what it takes to win a client and more importantly keep that client. And then in 2017 we opened up sorry, 2013 we opened up the Lloyds Brokerage. So that was probably one of the highlights in the business where we opened up our first office or our second office in London, our first office outside of outside of the Essex entity. And for me that was almost like the first day after my 17 year apprenticeship. So that was a massive highlight coming into London. I did always say through those 17 years that I would never commute, didn't want to be a commuter coming into London every day. And now, now I do it every single day. So and then from there, the ball was really in motion. So certainly the opening of our first overseas office, another highlight for us, and that was probably more recently only in the last five years we'd done that and our global expansion plans and more recently the the obviously the launch and the rebrand of the group because the group had built a number of businesses or are backed and brought into the business, a number of individuals to start building out a number of specialty entities on the broking and underwriting side. And we took a strategic decision to bring that under one one entity, one group, one identity. So we would be globally recognised and that's the event in groups. That was a great highlight to bring the whole team together in the midst of a difficult time in the pandemic to launch, launch. What was the event and group on May the fourth, 2021?
Paul: [00:05:56] I was actually going to ask you about sort of what prompted that change? What made you want to go through that rebranding, which I think you've just explained there, but. Tell me now, basically a year on. Do you think it's worked?
David: [00:06:06] 100%. We've we've we brought, as I said, a bunch of specialty businesses together, both on underwriting and broking. We felt, as I said, they needed one identity. And I think that's definitely worked both from a client and market perspective. They now get Novus is a business or part of the events and group, as is Conciliar, as is Rokstone. And they realize they're obviously the size and the scale of the entity rather than just individually looking at potentially one business.
Paul: [00:06:38] And tell us a little bit, I mean, you mentioned earlier about the global expansion. So tell us a little bit about the challenges that you face in running a business internationally.
David: [00:06:47] Running any business remotely and from afar is difficult. I've always been a believer of leading from the front, being in the office and with your people. It's much more difficult when you've got 15 locations worldwide. But we we try, where possible, to have daily and weekly contact with every office, all the stakeholders. Obviously, the pandemic as. As much havoc as it reads. It also bring some benefits to our industry as far as I can see in terms of just agile working and and obviously people accepting that things can be done over over a zoom call, whereas meetings were much more traditional and almost the Zoom call was frowned upon five years ago. It's almost the standard way of doing business today. So we can we can connect with our people and our stakeholders across the group via Zoom calls. We are now traveling where we can and I've been into the US on several occasions and into Europe to see our just our people. More recently Bahrain where we've got our aviation practice. Okay. We've got very agile framework in terms of our our. The way we operate is effectively a hub and spoke so our worldwide offices plug in to our central operations here in London.
David: [00:08:11] Everything is done via, as I say, a very agile and remote data collection and system. So it's been a lot easier than you might imagine. But you've still got your challenges, as I say, of people, different regulatory environments, obviously different nuances to local markets. Our strategy from an underwriting perspective is always to go where the work is. We identify the best teams of underwriters and we effectively build an office around them. And more latterly, one of those examples would be our team in Lexington where we hired the livestock team from, from AXA XL and spinning that business up and building the infrastructure around them with what we've got here in London and the experience we already have is a relatively straightforward process now because it's a well rehearsed one. So it has its challenges, but it's also really exciting for us. So we really enjoy that journey and the adventure of exploring and going into new territories and a new markets.
Paul: [00:09:14] And it's obviously been a very successful process for you as well. David, if you don't mind, just one last question for you. What tips would you offer to someone who is perhaps looking to follow in your footsteps, so to speak, and establish an insurance business of their own.
David: [00:09:29] Be resilient. You know, it doesn't work the first time. It might not work the second time, but don't give up. As I said, 26 years of building a business that we knew would be successful. In my heart of hearts, I knew that we would build a successful business, and I knew that it doesn't you know, it wouldn't happen overnight. So, you know, there's no quick way to the top. You have to work at it. You have to work harder than everyone else to be successful. So don't give up, be resilient and keep going. You know, just because it doesn't work the first time or it wasn't as successful as you might have imagined, it doesn't mean it won't be if you don't keep going at it.
Paul: [00:10:09] Excellent. David, it's been great to have you with us. No doubt that Aventum will go from strength to strength in the next 12 months, and I'm sure you'll be in the running for the 2023 Global 100. It seems so far away, doesn't it? But it will creep up fast, everybody. But you don't need to creep up to find us. You know where to look. Just click on the TV section at insurance business and we'll see you next time here on Insurance Business TV.