Guardian's CEO Simon Davis discusses the company's rebirth, shaking up the protection market and making his vision possible
How did your involvement with Guardian come about and what made you decide to relaunch the brand?
I set up my own consultancy business in 2010 and in 2011 I was approached by Cinven to be part of their team as an executive director. This was the executive team to acquire Guardian from Aegon and build it into a consolidator business.
If we step back a bit, Guardian Assurance was originally the main business and this has been operating since 1821, so a long time. It was originally a fire and life business, but it became a little bit more than that, and they had other subsidiaries that were working alongside that: there was Guardian Pensions Limited, Guardian Financial Services Limited, Guardian Pensions Management and Guardian Life Assurance Limited. But essentially Guardian was a fully-fledged life assurance business. It also then had general insurance business - so car, motor, that sort of stuff. In the‘80s and 90s, there was the owl symbol logos and the dial ‘28 28 20' campaign. It was a big high street brand with good presence, which has been in business for a long, long time.
Aegon bought it in 1998 and basically ran it as a closed business. They didn't really invest in it, the marketing cooled and the TV adverts dropped off. Cinven, as a private equity firm, identified it as an opportunity and when I was head-hunted to join the team to start that business off, I was delighted to be part of the Guardian business at that time. When I Ieft Guardian in 2013, and went back to running my own consulting business, I had a clear understanding of Guardian as a brand. I then helped co-found the Gryphon Group Holdings business and got involved in 2016 again with Guardian.
What about the proposition, what is it you set out to achieve?
We definitely had a great vision for the proposition and what we felt was the right thing to do. The key for us was putting the customer first, and doing what the life insurance industry should be doing for customers. Our perspective - our view and philosophy - has been always been that we thought we could do things better.
We saw an opportunity in being unconstrained when it comes to legacy systems and processes. Most companies are encumbered with that, but we've got a blank piece of paper, we thought: ‘Wouldn't it be great to have an opportunity to design a life insurance business from scratch?' Shaking things up a bit and being disruptive, that's what it is all about. Doing something better for customers is something that the FCA has been pushing the industry to do over many years and we were thinking we could build a business model to do exactly that.
Advisers are very important to this too - you need to have good systems and processes in place so that you can deliver what you say you're going to deliver in the way that you want it to be delivered. You also need to think about access; how you are going to get it to customers, so, for us, we absolutely believe in the need for good quality advice. For protection, we fundamentally believe it should be advised and not bought directly. The needs of customers are not simple, they are complex, so what's offered needs to be bespoke and structured correctly for customers.
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