Brendan Devine, group managing director of Kwik-Fit Financial Services, on how he got to the top
How did you make it to where you are today?
I joined Ireland-based Woodchester Credit Lyonnais in 1989, where I progressed to sales manager, business development manager and then went on to take over the Scottish operation of the business, all while still in my 20s – something I’m very proud of.
In 1997, GE Capital bought Woodchester and I was charged with starting up a new venture called GE Personal Motoring. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at GE, going on to take charge of their insurance division in Ireland before eventually being appointed chief executive for GE Money Loans UK in 2007.
I joined Kwik-Fit Financial Services (KFFS) as managing director in January this year.
What are the key challenges ahead?
I’m fortunate to have taken the reins of a business that is performing extremely well and benefits from a workforce that is second to none in terms of experience, endeavour and talent. We must continue to move forward, however, and I’m keen to grow our business; something which in the current market is challenging but not insurmountable.
What has changed the most since you started?
I would say the rate rises in the market. I think the insurers are feeling better placed than they were at the start of the year. Hopefully this should mean rates stabilising in the marketplace.
What advice would you offer to someone just starting out?
I would say that it’s important to network in this industry, probably more so than I’ve experienced before. It’s an industry full of good people who are willing to help and give advice.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
Agreeing to start up a business within GE over 10 years ago, with fairly low-level resource at hand and very few entrepreneurial skills around me. It was far tougher than it needed to be – but on reflection, it was a great learning curve. Starting a business from scratch with a £45m turnover in year one was a major achievement.
What was your biggest success?
When I was appointed managing director for GE Money Motor Finance, it was ranked 18th in the industry for service levels. The year after my appointment, the business was ranked 2nd, and the following year, 1st. This is something I am incredibly proud of.
I was also very proud to have been approached to take up my current role at KFFS to head up one of the UK’s leading insurance intermediaries.
What is your unique selling point?
I have a strong track record of running big businesses and I've been fortunate to have the opportunities to lead turnaround operations and grow successful companies further. As a result, I've been able to develop strong business leadership skills.
What do you do to relax?
I’ve got a young family – my kids are 13, 11 and 8 – so a lot of time is spent with them or ferrying them from place to place! I play golf whenever I can and watch the odd game of football.
What is your favourite book / film / football team?
Film: It’s a Wonderful Life; book: I mainly read non-fiction, but if I were to choose a novel, it would probably be Kane and Abel, by Jeffrey Archer; football team: Celtic (I’ve probably alienated half of Scotland now!)