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Specialist Spotlight: Michael Grimwood

August 14, 2023

Today we caught up with one of our Development Executives: Michael Grimwood, who joined us through an acquisition.

Could you tell us how long you've been with Specialist Risk Group, and what you’re responsible for?

I’ve been working within Specialist Risk Group (SRG) since 2021, and I am responsible for building a transactional risk proposition in a broking capacity for Specialist Risk Insurance Solutions (SRIS), specifically in Real Estate and Indemnities.

What were you doing before joining the SRIS team?

I started working at MX Underwriting in 2019, which was under a different name at the time as SRG hadn’t bought it yet. It was an independent business with about 30 people working in it. I was responsible for business development for the UK and worked with the top 20 producing brokers to sustain and grow the MX Underwriting income stream.

Can you describe how you got to where you are now?

My first job was working at my local market in Croydon, I was only 13 at the time and I helped to sell women’s shoes!

At the time the espadrilles were big sellers, and it was when Crocs made their debut, so they went like hotcakes! I used to go there to set up before school and then help pack the shoes away after school. I’d also work at the weekends; it was my first introduction to sales in any form. It also meant I never bothered my parents for money.

How did this develop into a career in insurance?

I left school with decent grades, but I had an unfortunate motorcycle accident while I was in sixth form. After I recovered, I realised that I missed the independence of having my own money.

I did a very short two-day stint on a building site but quickly decided that it wasn’t for me. From there I was searching online for an office job and I came across an entry-level role at Towergate Insurance. I worked on new business there, and at the time it was for the Federation for Small Businesses insurance team. Over some months I underwent intensive ‘lunch and learn’ sessions where my colleagues taught us about the insurance industry. From those sessions I was able to achieve my Cert CII at 17 years old.

I was on a commission-based contract with that job, so I went through extreme highs and lows with my income. Some months you’d earn thousands, while other months I came away with nothing – especially if I had been on holiday. It was a steep learning curve around budgeting that’s for sure.

I worked at the Oxted office in Towergate until I was 18 years old. I realised that while I built my technical knowledge, I was good with clients and engagement. What I lacked at the time was a broader knowledge of the industry to progress, so I interviewed for a role at Liverpool Victoria (LV) as a New Business Underwriter. I was always the youngest in the team because I hadn’t been to university, so I had about three years ahead of most of my peers in this regard.

At LV I began working on multiple lines of business, which meant I became a bit of a jack of all trades, and it exposed me to different paths I could take. I quickly found an interest in Property and spent a vast amount of time in this space.

I worked at LV for two years and two months at their Croydon office, but there were more opportunities in the city and I felt I was ready to advance my career further. I interviewed at AXA and got the job working in the Real Estate London Market as a New Business Underwriter. This role was essentially an underwriting and sales role as composite markets have a very similar product offering and most business is written based on the strength of relationships.

That role provided me with exposure to global brokers, European assets and the sales element was intensified because my clients were so close as the role was in the city. I excelled in the role and an opportunity at Zurich opened. Their office was back in Croydon again, but this time the role was to help them grow their Real Estate book, which was an exciting opportunity.

After some time working at Zurich, I felt that my technical ability in Real Estate was strong, I evaluated what I loved about my job: building something from scratch and growing the business. Most of that process I felt was achieved through making new relationships and being proactive in introducing myself to people.

Because of this, Zurich offered me a dual role that hadn’t existed before. 50% of the time I was working as a New Business Underwriter and the other 50% of the time I was working as Business Development Executive for separate accounts.

In total, I worked at Zurich for four and a half years until an opportunity at a smaller, more niche company came up. They were called CLS, and I hadn’t heard of them before. While the opportunity looked great on paper, I was nervous without the comfort of a composite brand behind me. I knew they were a niche Real Estate business and thought the transition would be seamless… it was not! I knew I had to work the hardest I've ever worked to make this a success.

I didn’t really understand what it was that they did, and it was quite a shock to the system as I found that I had to spend a significant amount of time learning intensively again which I hadn't done for years.

CLS weren’t a broker or an insurer, they were a Managing General Agent (MGA). I had a strong knowledge of Real Estate insurance at this time but regardless, I have never felt imposter syndrome like it! The company sits on the periphery of insurance and Real Estate, and the over-arching technical element was more complex than regular Real Estate insurance as it has a huge legal risk element to it. This role gave me a new found wealth of knowledge and experience in the wider Real Estate market due to intense exposure to other elements of Real Estate, planning, funding, and many other areas.

In 2021, CLS was acquired by SRG. I was conflicted in the beginning as I’d chosen CLS because it was smaller and less ‘corporate’. We expected massive changes but I quickly realised that there were many familiar, friendly faces that I’d worked with in the past. I found the integration period quite endearing as SRG was proving to be a corporate business without the corporate feel. Everyone was so down-to-earth and humble, and it was clear that people wanted to collaborate, understand and promote the CLS business.

We underwent a rebrand as there were other acquisitions in the pipeline due to join our team. From 14.12.2022 we were then known as MX Underwriting and from there it was business as usual!

How did you make the transition from MX to SRIS?

I had recently become a father, and I was looking to support my family and take the next step in my career, so I started investigating paths that could potentially improve my skillset and prospects. I spoke with the Deputy CEO, and CEO of MX Underwriting, Lee Anderson who was happy to speak about my options in within the company.

Lee proposed three different roles that I would be best suited to at SRG, and I chose one that I felt really excited about. I did a formal proposal to the manager of that area and luckily, they liked it!

Since then I’ve been working in Business Development for Real Estate for Specialist Risk Insurance Solutions (SRIS).

I was then asked to join the ‘NextCo’ which at the time was a small board that was being trailed to challenge and help the formal ‘ExCom’ board which is made up of our senior leaders.

I nominated myself to join, and as of September 2022, the ‘NextCo’ is now an official ‘shadow board’. The team and I work on independent projects, and challenge, discuss and produce new ideas for the business to support future aspirations and growth.

As a member of the NextCo, what are your hopes for the industry?

That many more people continue to have the opportunities that I did. I feel that I’ve done pretty well for myself considering that I didn’t do any higher education. It shows that there are multiple paths if you’re willing to put the effort in and the insurance industry is open to all walks of life.

And, just for fun – What’s your go-to Karaoke song?

I’m tone-deaf.

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