David Howden, CEO of Howden Group Holdings, has addressed Cardiff Business Club members about the importance of building resilience and looking after your people when looking to build a bigger, more profitable business.
Fed up of working for companies that kept being sold, David Howden decided to build one that couldn’t be and created Howden Group, an insurance intermediary group, with two friends in 1994. He spoke to guests at Cardiff Hilton Hotel, during the club’s latest live speaker event.
Howden Group Holdings is currently the fifth largest employee-owned company in the UK, with 11,000 employees, 3,500 of those shareholders, delivering broking and underwriting services to more than 1.5 million clients in 45 countries.
First talking about his Welsh roots, with his grandfather born in the Rhondda Valleys, David went on to say: “I got my first job in insurance age 16, which basically involved getting bacon sandwiches for the more senior people. In the 80’s, a lot of British brokers were bought out by listed American companies, and the culture of those businesses wasn’t something I agreed with. They seemed to be all about their shareholders and not about their people, and I wasn’t sure that was somewhere I wanted to work.”
“We wanted to build a business that was owned by the people working there, somewhere you could build your career. I often say that we’re trying to build the biggest small company in the world – a big company with a small company culture, not a big corporate one.”
Talking about attracting and retaining talent, David said: “Since the Covid pandemic hit, we’ve nearly doubled size of the business. That rate of growth is down to two things – attracting and empowering talent. A key part of this is that we reinvest all our profits in the business.”
David also said that even given the size and recent growth of the business, he never talks about the numbers: “My mantra is ‘look after your people, they will look after the clients, and the money will look after itself.”
Professor Sir Chris Evans will headline Cardiff Business Club’s next event on 13 June at Hilton Hotel. For details on all of the Club’s events, visit www.cardiffbusinessclub.org/events.