“Aviva was my school and my entrepreneurial launchpad. It gave me a mindset to challenge convention. It also gave me a great understanding of business, law, sales and marketing as well as the value of insurance and enterprise to society.
After about four years, Aviva put me on its global executive development programme (usually reserved for graduates) with peers such as Amanda Blanc, current CEO of Aviva, and Jon Dye, current CEO of Allianz UK. I was on residential courses every three months for the best part of 10 years. It was exceptional training.
Aviva proactively coached my career development, leading to 30 different roles across nearly every area of the business, culminating in general management. By age 33 I was on the UK operating board and responsible for 2,000 staff and £1.2bn in revenue.
We were buying companies and merging them, and I inevitably saw redundancies taking place. I wanted to take control of my career and had always enjoyed the thought of running my own company. In 2000 I left to launch an internet procurement start-up, at what turned out to be right at the end of that particular dot.com boom.
My timing could have been a tad better perhaps, but it became my baptism of fire as an entrepreneur: terrifying, but essential learning. I sold that business for a relatively small amount of money. It gave me the drive to go again and led me to create OLIVER. The rest is history.”