Angus Forsyth of Hagerty International talks to Chris Wheal about his life and career
Angus Forsyth is managing director of classic car specialist broker Hagerty International. Founded in 2005, the company is the international subsidiary of Hagerty Insurance Agency, the leaders in collectors’ cars and boats in the US. Operating since January 2006 from headquarters overlooking the Silverstone Grand Prix racing circuit, Hagerty provides a network of specialist services to the owners and collectors of classic cars. It also provides classic car insurance for other brokers. Hagerty globally currently insures some 350,000 clients with a total insured value of around £7.5bn.
How did you make it to where you are today?
I started in Lloyd’s in 1985 and spent the next 19 years both broking and underwriting US professional liability insurance. It was a fascinating experience working in Lloyd’s with all its diverse and specialist areas . In 2004, I was approached by Hagerty in the US, who asked me if I would be interested in researching and establishing the international arm of what was already a very successful business. Being a classic car enthusiast, I leapt at the chance.
What are the key challenges ahead?
Being a relatively new company to the UK market, our primary challenge is to inform and educate all our potential clients (be they individuals or brokers) that Hagerty is dedicated to the classic and collector car market, and is the specialist in the sector. Second, outside the US, the Hagerty brand was virtually unheard of before this company was formed, and so continuing to build awareness and increase momentum is another of our core missions.
What has changed the most since you started in insurance?
The insurance industry has always been a people business built on trust and relationships. With all the vast and continually changing technology, a lot of this has been lost, and levels of service and the personal touch dissipated. However, our business success comes from relating to and echoing our customers’ needs and passion for their cars, and delivering an exceptional personal service.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out?
One of the great things about the insurance industry is that it is so diverse, so there is always the opportunity to pursue a link with personal interests. If classic cars are your thing, look for something in that arena. If it is horse racing, pursue a career in bloodstock insurance. You can choose aviation, marine, space – the list is endless. Stemming from this are our core business principles: enjoyment of meaningful work; respectful treatment of people; and individual initiative, regardless of reward. These qualities in any company are always a good indicator of its principles and work ethos.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
Not pursuing the fantastic career that I now have at an earlier stage in my working life. I deal on a daily basis with the most amazing people all of whom share a common passion that is completely classless.
“I deal on a daily basis with the most amazing people all of whom share a common passion that is completely classless
What was your biggest success?
My appointment as managing director of Hagerty International. I am also proud to have started the UK company from nothing, and steered it to the success and stature it now enjoys.
Talk about some of your contemporaries and friends
From the time that I spent in the Lloyd’s market, I still have a great circle of friends and colleagues. However the market in that sector is pretty depressed, so they are not too upbeat at the moment. To cheer them up, I call them when we have the Formula 1 teams testing here and give them a sound bite of the truly awesome sound of screaming V8 engines.
What is your unique selling point?
At Hagerty we are global specialists in the classic car market. We are not interested in household, travel, pet, or caravan insurance. We want to insure you and your passion to the very best of our abilities, both now and in the future. We achieve this with a dedicated team of staff, all of whom are classic car owners, highly knowledgeable, courteous and professional. We are also innovators, donating £1 of every policy we write to a fund that is solely dedicated to protecting, promoting and supporting the interests of classic and collector car hobbyists.
When you are not working, what do you do to relax?
That is a bit tricky because my hobby is intrinsically linked with my work (my wife would prefer to call it an obsession). I have recently completed a week-long classic car reliability trial in a British racing green Jaguar Series III E-type roadster. There is no better way to see Scotland, and it helped that the tour followed the locations of most of the major distilleries.
What is your favourite book/film/football team?
The book would have to be The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile, the classic car enthusiast’s bible. The film would be Steve McQueen’s iconic Le Mans. And I thoroughly enjoy listening to Pink Floyd and Genesis.