Ian Wainwright talks to Chris Wheal.

Ian Wainwright is broker sales director at Ecclesiastical, a post he took up at the beginning of last month. The company’s main lines of business are faith, heritage, education, charity and care. It has cut back to three regional offices in Manchester, Birmingham and Gloucester, where Wainwright is based.

How did you make it to where you are today?

I joined the Royal in Leicester in 1978. I wanted to be a marine, but they wanted me to go to university and I didn’t want to go. On my father’s advice I wrote to 15 banks and insurance companies and got five job offers. The Royal offered a summer job before their training programme, so I took that. I had a fantastic training – I chose the risk control path and did an inspector role.

I left in 1983 to join Ecclesiastical. I found it very family-oriented. The focus on people reminded me that this is a people business. I came in as a joint underwriter, inspector and surveyor, but ended up as group chief surveyor. I did that for 12 years. I was enjoying the business development side just when the company needed some fresh ideas on the broker side.

What are the key challenges?

To expand the business. We need to engage with more brokers, with the networks and the nationals. We have a good message and we need to shout about it. We need to use technology but not lose our old-fashioned, face-to-face service, particularly with brokers. Sometimes old-fashioned is right.

What has changed the most since you started?

There used to be one calculator between seven of us. The number of people and the number of branches has dwindled too. There used to be insurers and brokers, and the brokers were all local. They were there for their clients, often just down the road. But things are more efficient now. Insurance is probably cheaper too.

What advice would you offer someone starting out?

Get a good grounding and do your professional qualifications. Admit your mistakes. And remember that there are enormous opportunities; go out there and find them. The fact that I have been in risk control for 30 years but can switch to this role is just one example of the flexibility.

What is your biggest mistake?

I was supposed to survey the house of the managing director of the Royal’s largest customer in Leicester. And I forgot. I phoned but got the engaged tone because he was ringing to complain that I had failed to turn up. I went straight to the assistant branch manager and admitted it. He used his personal relationship with the client and managed to calm things down. It taught me that it is always best to put your hand up and say, “yes, it was me”.

What was your biggest success?

Last year we won an industry award for a risk management initiative about metals being stolen from church and heritage building roofs. We implemented changes and the number of claims halved.

Who are your contemporaries and friends in the industry?

Martin Cardus, of Towergate Marine, joined the Royal in Leicester about a week apart from me, so he’s the oldest friend I have in the industry. Then there’s Andrew Miller of Allianz, Ted Kendrick of Norwich Union and Warwick Farrer of NIG. I would also mention Chris Hanks of Allianz.

What is your unique selling point?

The expertise we have in our niche areas. Our personal service is also unique.

What do you do to relax?

I used to play football but I had to give up at 42 after I snapped my cruciate ligament. That was a wrench. I sail and garden and do DIY through necessity, but I enjoy it. I play folk and country music on the guitar – for myself not for performing – and I dabble in watercolours.

What is your favourite book/film/football team?

Book: I like Bill Bryson. I have just read his book on Shakespeare.

Film: Walk the Line – the Johnny Cash biopic. I read the biography and bought his records as a result.

Football: Manchester United from when I was a child. But we moved from Blackpool to Leicester so I also support them, including for rugby.

Day in the life

6:30am Breakfast became the main family meal when I was younger because I travelled so much. Even though the kids have grown and gone, I always have breakfast with my wife.

8am I leave for work and am in the office by 8.30am. We don’t have the traffic problems of London, but don’t tell anyone. I check emails and papers and then meet my personal assistant about appointments and who I need to call. Normally I am out of the office about three days a week.

9am I call my regional directors to speak with them about what is going on. We do this every two or three days.

9:30am IT is never far away. We need to improve the way we manage our customers, for our brokers, the customers and ourselves. We need a joined-up approach so I will have a meeting about that.

10am A meeting with the manager of Ecclesiastical Risk Services, our consultancy business of which I am a director, to talk about the sales and marketing strategy.

11.30am I meet with human resources and the headhunters we have appointed to recruit two new regional directors.

12:30pm Lunch. We have a staff restaurant so I will try to have something there. When I was on the road I preferred to have a sandwich in a cafe than in the car, though I will eat it by my desk if I have to. It’s like half-time at a football match. You need to gather your thoughts.

1pm I might have a UK board meeting.

3:30pm A meeting with my national broker liaison manager. It’s a new role but he has done so well that he has already taken on someone else. They have gone out, banging on doors and saying, “We are Ecclesiastical and this is what we do”. But if I had a pound for every time I heard someone say they thought we only insured churches, I’d be a millionaire.

4:30pm I catch up with emails and make any calls before people go home.

5pm Catch up on paperwork and write reports.

6:30pm I leave for home and usually get back just before 7pm in time to listen to The Archers.

8:30pm We have supper and then I’ll do a bit of reading – the trade press to keep up. It’s amazing how much you can pick up. I still also want to know about risk control so I will read the technical magazines.

11:30pm We always say that we’ll read for 10 minutes, but I’m usually asleep after five or six.