White explains it was ‘absolutely not a coronation’ when he was first promoted from head of compliance and training 

Izzie and Steve (4)

Left to right: Insurance Times reporter Isobel Rafferty and Steve White

For Steve White, the longest serving chief executive in Biba’s 47-year history, the time to start a new adventure is now.

On 11 May 2023, gasps escaped the audience at the annual Biba Conference as White announced that he would be retiring from his role with a ‘heavy heart’ after serving the association and supporting brokers for a total of ten years.

Within a whirlwind couple of months involving deliberations from Biba’s board and many predictions from the market, it was then announced on 4 July 2023 that executive director Graeme Trudgill would take over the c-suite reins to bring what White describes as a “renewed energy” to the brokers’ association.

In recognition of his publicly applauded tenure, Insurance Times sat down exclusively with White to discuss what the next chapter of his story looks like and his advice to younger brokers seeking progression – plus more.

White began his journey as chief executive of Biba after he was promoted from head of compliance and training on 15 March 2013, having begun his insurance career at Orion Insurance Company after studying secondary education at East Barnet School – then known as East Barnet Grammar – in North London over 40 years ago.

When he became chief executive, it took five months for Biba to choose Eric Galbraith’s successor and White shares that his promotion was “absolutely not a coronation,” as he was put through the “wringer” with interviews.

However, after “falling in love” with the business during his nine years of service in his regulatory role, he was “thrilled” to start the job.

Within his first year as chief executive, White introduced the beginning of Biba’s regional tours for members in September 2013 – “the kernel of the idea”, he says, came from the association’s existing regional compliance forums, which would see staff travel around the country and “tell people what was happening with compliance [as well as] get their feedback”.

The aim of the regional tours was to “prove” that the London-based organisation was not “London-centric”, to improve in-person engagement and “most importantly, to listen to members and to be seen by them to be listening” at a time when Biba wasn’t “particularly strong” at telling its story, White explains.

All the notes were then used, and still are today, to create Biba’s Manifesto – the manifesto is published annually and serves as a “manifestation of what brokers told us they want during the autumn”.

‘Life moves on’

Another early achievement that White reminisces on fondly is modernising the structure of the organisation and developing the “representation of the broad nature of our membership” by instigating an advisory board structure – whereas previously, relationships with firms had been “fairly loose” and based on “geographical” factors. 

Biba currently boasts five advisory boards aimed at representing smaller firms; larger firms; international wholesalers; networks, MGAs and others; and one for its regional structure – each has between 10 and 15 members, most of which meet four times a year, with a chair that can serve for up to six years and sit on the main Biba board.

As smaller brokers make up the majority of Biba’s members, their board is entitled to both a chair and deputy chair.

Biba also has regional committees, in which the constitution of these is “getting younger and younger”, highlights White – a vision that both he and Trudgill expressed they would like to achieve in the build up to his promotion back in 2013.

For brokers looking to take a more active role, White advises that joining a committee is a “good route for younger brokers to really get involved in to enhance their careers, because they get exposed to such a different range of insurance type issues”.

“The membership association is only as good as and as strong as the breadth of the involvement of the members,” he says.

“Don’t just pay your money and sit on the side of the pool, jump in and do lengths.”

Now that his “90 mph, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” role has come to an end, White shares that he has “mapped out his first trip” in his recently bought campervan, which will “almost certainly” be to North Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge.

But, he adds that he is keen to eventually branch out further to locations across the UK and Ireland, including the Gower Peninsula, the Lake District and Northumberland.

White will not be attending the Biba conference next year, as then will be time for “Graeme’s show”, he adds.

Attending a music festival is not “beyond the realms of possibility”, he says – especially as his first two days of retirement saw him in attend the Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen concerts at Hyde Park on 7 and 8 July 2023 respectively.

“Life moves on for everybody”, says White, but “I’m happy for people to contact me”.

For now, here is a clip of White waving at the Isle of Wight festival in 2012 – we like to imagine this is how he says goodbye to the industry he has given so much to.

Considering White’s tenure, what did his colleagues have to say?

Katie Mackie, digital communication coordinator at Biba, said: “Steve White showed me what good leadership looked like from his always door open policy to his small conversations, always talking about more than just work.

“Steve did and really does care about each of his employees and the future of the industry among other passions *cough cough* Arsenal.”

Emma Chapman, Biba’s head of conference, added: “Steve has been a huge support and source of encouragement to me in the seven years I’ve worked with him, championing successes and fostering a work environment where staff feel enthused about the work we do and its importance for members.”