In what Steve Ford describes as ‘being in the right place at the right time', he developed the plan for AM&T then went on to successfully lead the business. AM&T started out with a small portfolio and a start-up team of just six. Under Steve’s guidance AM&T has grown into one of Australia’s leading marine insurance businesses, and the team has expanded to 25 ‘Marinos’ spread across the country with more than 250 years’ experience in marine and related maritime and transport sectors.
Steve had more than just ‘the right place and the right time’ going for him. He had the right experience, the right attitude and the right balance and feel to build the sort of business brokers and customers and the team and Allianz were looking for. The AM&T story is not only about growth but also about consistency, reliability and profitability. It is a testament to Steve’s leadership and the strong team who have earned the trust of the industry.
Steve will be stepping down at the end of the month creating an opportunity for fresh leadership to take the AM&T business to the next level. The whole team will miss having Steve around. From the entire One Allianz family past and present we extend our best wishes to him for his future.
As part of our bon voyage to Steve, we sat down with him as part of our 5-minute interview series to talk about his career and his journey at AM&T. Here is 5 minutes with Fordy.
What was your first-ever job?
My first job in insurance was as a graduate trainee with Royal Insurance's reinsurance company (Royal Re) based in Lime Street in London - just down the road from Lloyd's. I was keen to be in London where all the action was, and I was also following my girlfriend at the time. The girlfriend didn't last long but 30+ years later I'm still in insurance.
My second job was where my specialisation in marine began. I have a degree in Maritime Studies, so an opportunity to combine some of what I'd learned at Uni with my introduction to insurance via Royal Re seemed sensible and I took a role as a trainee average adjuster. The work did not turn out to be as adventurous or exciting as I was hoping - my memory is that most of the time was spent in dusty, smoky offices trawling through ship's log books – but it did provide an excellent foundation in the nuances and technicalities of marine business which has stood me in good stead through my later roles.
Tell us about when AM&T was started?
It was a real "right place, right time" scenario. Allianz had come to the realisation that it was difficult for niche lines of insurance, like marine, to thrive as part of their corporate business and was developing its agency strategy for these specialist lines. I had experience at running a successful stand-alone marine business. My previous company was on the opposite tram and was being absorbed back into a corporate whole, so I had decided to move on. I was invited to put together a business plan and the rest, as they say, is history.
What have you enjoyed most about leading AM&T?
The sense that we are building something, delivering something that our brokers and customers really want and need. I’ve also enjoyed achieving the targets we set and the satisfaction that comes with this success.
What are you most proud of at AM&T?
The AM&T team. Within this team, we have true experts, people who have a passion and an ongoing curiosity for everything marine. People who call themselves ‘Marinos’, who love what they do, and who’ve worked alongside the biggest names in marine, across complex territories, under frequent pressure and with high stakes.
How have you identified and developed talent, to create such a high performing team?
By not ‘over-managing’ people! The specialist knowledge of and a passion for marine is a precious thing to a business like ours and it comes in all shapes and sizes. We have tried to identify and work to the strengths each of our team members brings rather than try and enforce conformance with a pre-determined model and structure.
What advice would you give a newcomer to the industry?
There is value in specialising in area which interests you.
How has the industry changed over the years you have been involved in it?
Back in the 80's and 90's the marine insurance industry seemed to me, as a junior employee at the time, to be dominated by a handful of larger-than-life characters often engaged like feuding emperors in their own personal vendettas and score-settling. For a host of very good reasons this cult of the individual no longer exists but the nostalgic part of me does sometimes miss those more "colourful" times.
What will you miss most about AM&T?
The people, the camaraderie and the sense of shared purpose we have developed.
What is the plan for your first few days after your last day?
Not answering any emails or attending any meetings! I hope that I can soon spend some time travelling, UK/Europe was the plan, however COVID will dictate on that front.
Shout out for a charity you support/admire?
I support a charity based on the Northern Beaches called Cobra & Mongoose which does some great hands-on work in very deprived communities around the world. It is run by a friend of mine so I know that all the money they raise goes directly to the projects they support.
A quote to live by:
It's not a quote but I am firm believer in doing first things first, tackling what is in front of you and focusing on what is within your control. Dreaming big dreams is important but it all falls apart if you don't do the small stuff well.... it's a bit like marching to save the whales but not sorting out your own recycling!
We hope you join us in congratulating Steve on his achievements in bringing AM&T to life and we wish him all the best for the future.