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PEOPLE

INDUSTRY ICON

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY David Walsh may be leading CFC Underwriting, the largest independent MGA in the London market, but getting there has been a bumpy road

WE’VE ALL thought it – those at the top never have to work to get there. They are handed their success. They’ve had it easy. But speak to David Walsh, CEO of CFC Underwriting, the largest independent MGA in the London market, and you gain a new appreciation for what it takes to succeed. In founding his own company, Walsh has had anything but an easy ride, first setting up in business with vision and promise 18 years ago, only to have the rug pulled swiftly from under his feet. “I set up a business called Click For Cover to sell cyber insurance back in 1999,” he explains. “We were trying to sell it through this – at the time – brand-new distribution mechanism called ‘the internet’, via internet service providers. I talked to British Telecom and got a deal to promote cyber insurance to all their business customers through their ISP arm. However, by April 2000 the dot-com bust came along and suddenly everyone was changing their plans – and now BT weren’t remotely interested in our deal any more. So the idea for the business fell off its feet.” There was no clinging to the ropes for Walsh, however, as despite the crushing blow he noticed demand in another area: brokers were eager to learn more about the cyber product. “We realised quite a few brokers were interested in cyber,” he says. “So at that point we rebranded the business from Click For Cover to CFC, and we haven’t looked back.”

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The cyber vision Many in the insurance industry are still trying to grasp the concept of cyber insurance in 2017. So how did Walsh and his firm see the potential back in 1999? “In 1999–2000 there was a feeling that cyber insurance was the next big thing. It wasn’t just us; there was AIG in America, Hiscox in the UK, and so on,” he says. “It’s had lots of false dawns.” While Walsh may make light of his ‘cyber

all seem beyond your reach,” he says. “But working with David, it opened my eyes that it’s not impossible to have success in this industry.” However, the path to success took a twist when, in 1998, Walsh headed to Israel to work as an in-house underwriter for an insurance broker. “I took a binder with me, which meant I could sit in the brokerage and write for any trade within the professional indemnity

“Like any business we spend our energy where we are successful, and in the US and Canada the business has worked particularly well. We’ve built products around what the customer wants to buy” vision’, it came to him via an unusual career path. Having broken into the insurance business as a UK professional indemnity broker at Marsh in 1992, aged 23, Walsh spent four years at the global brokerage giant before becoming “employee number 15” at Howden Insurance Brokers, an independent insurance broker where Walsh says he learned the entrepreneurial spirit from the company’s owner, David Howden. “No disrespect to Marsh or any other big company, but when you sit there it can

classes,” he explains. “It’s one thing as a young man learning your trade in the city of London, but I don’t think there’s anything better than getting close to your customers – there’s no substitute for that. If you’re in a customer’s office and you don’t know what you’re talking about, you get found out pretty quickly.” For Walsh it was the beginning of a journey of discovery as his visit coincided with the dot-com boom. “Though I went there to write any class

Insurance Business UK 2.04  

Specialty Brokerages 2017

Insurance Business UK 2.04  

Specialty Brokerages 2017