Since accepting the position of non-executive chairman at loss adjuster AMG, ex-Churchill Insurance founder Martin Long has completely changed his view of the industry. Elliot Lane reports
A very frank Martin Long says: "I have to admit that loss adjusters were the type of people I dreaded sitting next to at industry dinners." The ex-Churchill Insurance founder, however, admits he has since changed his opinion after becoming non-executive chairman of AMG.
"The traditional image of loss adjusting I had as an insurer was of hard working professionals, but people who just used insurers' money like any other supplier.
"This role with AMG has shown me that the market has been revolutionised and is slicker, entrepreneurial and more proactive, particularly on interesting and complex disasters such as Buncefield."
Long is talking of his conversion on the first anniversary of AMG's successful £62m management buy-out led by managing director Kevin Wood last October.
To celebrate, Wood is travelling across the country on roadshows, metaphorically handing out the birthday cake to roughly 250 staff. A rebrand has also been launched, where the AMG logo has been given the 'bling' effect, with the three letters coloured with a burnished gold.
Wood says: "I think everyone now refers to us as AMG rather than the old Ashworth Mairs brand. There is still a mystique around us and I like that. The past year has been great fun. Martin's counsel has been invaluable because his experience in insurance means he has seen it all."
In May the company acquired Sigma Claims Solutions and Wood says the integration has been quick and smooth. "Sigma was a supplier which we knew had excellent skills in the liability sector. When we heard its management team were looking to sell we immediately looked at how it would fit into the AMG structure.
"It is now run as part of the AMG operation and all back office functions are in place so it's integral to our liability offering but also we can now look to take things forward on new business opportunities," Wood says.
Long was brought in by the venture capitalist backer Hermes Capital Ventures. "I take a helicopter role in the business. I spend a few days a month working with Kevin and the team but more importantly I act as a sounding board. I can help advise on acquisitions and on new business opportunities I hear about when moving through the industry," says Long.
At Churchill, Long was renowned for his shop-floor management style, serving chips and beans in the staff cafeteria. Sadly AMG does not have a cafeteria, but Long says he has tested the commitment of the staff.
"My litmus test is to talk to the receptionist in any office and ask her what she does. If she can tell me immediately what her role is, and also why she does it, then I know the company is doing the right thing."
Wood adds: "Staff turnover is phenomenally low. Since the MBO we have attracted new people and the overall attrition rate, for this industry, is very low."
AMG decided to tackle the dearth of new talent in the adjusting community by launching its new training programme, which has gained CII accreditation. Wood plans to double the size of the company in the next three to five years, which means that homegrown talent will be a major factor in organic growth.
"There is equity available to be released in the future for middle management and senior managers who wish to aspire to board level," says Wood. "Succession planning is all part of the long-term plan."