My entry to insurance workplace was like many others: because my father worked in it. I had a chance of a professional career in cricket but that didn’t work out and I left school with O Levels and no immediate plan. My Dad said you’re not going to sit around, come and work with me for the summer.
I’ll never forget the day I first walked into Lloyds. It’s such a historic institution, and I fell in love with it immediately. By the end of that summer, I knew that was the job for me.
My Dad died the following year and I was a little lost, and that community of people at work was so caring to me. They put their arm around me, so to speak, and saw me through.
It was a sector that was very inclusive in terms of social class and I’ve certainly found since then that, despite not having gone to university when others did, the world of entrepreneurship can be open to all sorts of people. I was one of those smart thinkers, rather than having a double First from a Russell Group university, and I worked hard, got promoted and was able to do well.
I honestly believe that opportunity and the group of people who cared about me allowed me to become the best version of what I could be, and after a while working in the City I moved into entrepreneurship.
Although I was born and bred in London, the first business I set up was in Stoke on Trent where there had previously been a strong insurance sector so there was a history and people with skills. I realised there was an opportunity to help rebuild the economy in that area, and that became part of the mission of the company. Some of the people who worked there with me all those years ago developed their skills in that company and have gone on to very senior positions in all sorts of places.
None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been invested in personally to train and help me learn. These days, we’d call it mentoring. There’s one chap in particular who took me under his wing, and I owe my whole career to him. Through him I learnt what I needed to know, including some of the etiquette and how to be a good person in business, treating other people well.
Now, after many years of building companies and creating opportunities for lots of people, I’m in a position to try to help other people by sharing my experience and doing my best to pass on what I’ve learnt.
I do think we need to go back to the lessons we were taught all those years ago about the ways we conduct ourselves and also about identifying raw talent regardless of education. I’d love to see all sorts of people being included in the City, not because of a project or a campaign, but because it’s an instinctive culture, welcoming all sorts of people.
I’m involved with supporting young people who are not already in employment or training and helping them learn the skills they need to apply for and get an interesting job, despite their background. I support female founders and other people who have great ideas and talent.
We need to make room to take a chance on people. I like working with people who want to serve; who are not self-serving. I admire people who train people and watch them fly, without any sense of envy or resentment. It’s good to believe in people.