SRG boss Warren Downey learned his trade from some of the best and brightest names within UK broking – he tells Insurance Times his story and route to leadership

Warren Downey, group chief executive at broker Specialist Risk Group (SRG), joined the insurance industry in his teens once he left school.

After spending 28 years learning the ropes and climbing the corporate ladder at JLT, then joining SRG in 2019, he says “the bits that made [broking] special then, make it special now” and that the broking industry is “still that personal, people-orientated” sector that he knows and has grown to love.

Telling his story exclusively to Insurance Times, Downey explains: “Those personal relationships, they really matter in this industry.

“The convincing nature of a broker when presenting an opportunity to an underwriter and presenting it in a professional way, in the right light with a convincing and compelling reason that the underwriter should take that risk at the right price – that’s still at the heart of why I’ve never left [broking] and why I love it so much.”

It is this personal approach to broking that has heavily influenced Downey’s leadership of SRG – for him, the main firepower and focus of the business is centred on its people, teams and culture.

“I think business is an emotional thing. I’m not a spreadsheets guy,” he says. “I come to work because I love it and I feel passionate about what we’re trying to achieve and I feel really passionate about our people.

“Building high performance teams is a fantastic and rewarding thing to do. I’ve done it a few times over my career and I’m trying to do it again here.

“One person can’t build anything. It’s about that feeling that we’re just trying to do it together.”

However, Downey concedes that “the infrastructure is the bit that’s changed” over his years in the industry.

With this in mind, SRG “announced last year that we are [one of] the first [brokers] to partner with Novidea on building a cloud-based wholesale broking platform”. Downey describes this work as “a revolution” and “so exciting”.

“The quality of the [management information]. The measurements, the tweaking you can do to make it a little bit better every week. The consistency of the result that comes out of it. That’s just revolutionary. The speed of communication. You need all of those things so that you can have that important conversation that really makes the difference. Without all those things, you can’t be in the game,” he adds.

A learning journey

Downey’s journey to prime position at SRG showcases a vivid rise to the top.

Initially aiming to be a professional middle distance runner, Downey fell into a broking job at Lloyd Thompson in order to boost his finances so he could attend university in America. Describing the firm as a “very fast-growing company” with a “dynamic and exciting plan”, he soon decided to stay in broking instead.

Downey describes himself as being “accidentally developed” – his early days saw him being trained by his first boss Steve McGill, now chief executive at McGill and Partners, while in the Lloyd Thompson office he was sat next to Karl Hennessy, now partner and head of specialty broking at McGill and Partners, another influential mentor.

“I just absorbed and listened and asked questions,” Downey said.

This work ethic paid dividends. Once Lloyd Thompson morphed into JLT, Downey was sent to Scandinavia to run its financial lines business. Upon returning to London, he then became involved in strategic work for various divisions in JLT Specialty, before moving to Singapore for five years to act as the deputy chief executive of JLT’s Asia business.

At this point, Marsh entered the picture – the broker bought JLT in 2019. Although Downey believes the firm is “a fantastic business”, he says “I wasn’t going to work for Marsh”. This led to Downey meeting the component parts of SRG in preparation for a new opportunity.

“I just thought yes - this is the right time, with the right group of people, with the right idea that if we do it properly and we concentrate and we’re disciplined, and we stick to the people and the specialism, that we’re going to have a lot of fun. And so far, we’re having a lot of fun,” Downey says.

“I can see me fulfilling most, if not all, of my ambitions around building a business of substance and scale and relevance and culture driven and all of that – I can do all of that here. I’d love to carry on doing that for as long as they’ll have me.”


  • September 2019, joined SRG as group chief executive.
  • March 2018 – June 2019, chief executive of JLT’s Private Client Services business.
  • April 2015 – March 2018, deputy chief executive of JLT Asia and managing director for JLT Singapore.
  • 2011 – 2015, held various roles within JLT Specialty, including chief operating officer.
  • 1998 – 2006, based in Sweden as part of JLT Nordic Region. Held roles such as managing director and chief operating officer.