The past decade has seen Awbury grow from what one might term a “glint in the eye” of its founders into an established specialized insurer, focused on helping its expanding client base find solution to their complex credit, economic and financial risks.
Building a business from scratch is both an exhilarating and humbling experience: exhilarating because one has to address multiple issues “in real time”; humbling because, no matter how experienced one is (and the Awbury team has a market memory covering more than four decades), there is still an unrelenting torrent of data and information to absorb as markets, economies and products change over time.
What then are some lessons learned that are worth distilling? Here are ten:
Firstly, to paraphrase von Moltke The Elder, “No business plan survives contact with the market”. In other words, no matter how well-researched, debated and thought through one’s initial business plan is, its execution will inevitably encounter circumstances that require adjustment. That being said, Awbury has never wavered from its stated purpose, nor been tempted to “pivot” into other product lines. Doing so would be a distraction and dilute our resources for no good reason. However, the ability to adapt remains critical
Secondly, size is not everything, Being the biggest is not a sensible goal for a business built upon the ability to create intellectual capital. Much better to pursue targeted, patient, careful growth
Thirdly, a consistent, definable and effective culture matters. This is much easier with a smaller team, in which everyone knows and interacts regularly with everyone else
Fourthly, the ability to identify replicable and scalable business products is important in terms of creating sustainable income streams
Fifthly, being unsentimental and intellectually ruthless are essential in selecting transactions with the best probability of both execution and a compelling risk/reward ratio
Sixthly, the perfect is the enemy of the good (to slightly adapt Voltaire). What matters is effective execution; not designing some aesthetically perfect artefact
Seventhly, relationships matter. Our business is based upon creating and maintaining long term relationships based upon trust, respect and mutual benefit. Win-Win is always the best outcome
Eighthly, ensuring the proper alignment of interests and incentives underpins effective risk management
Ninthly, selection of the right professional partners means that one can focus on the factors that create and sustain value and success
And finally, never believe your own propaganda! Self-confidence and intellectual humility are not incompatible.
Through the past decade we believe we have built a franchise which is structured to remain effective, relevant and valuable to our client base, as well as a source of high-quality premium flows to our partners who help provide our capacity.
We could not have done this without them; nor without our roster of trusted advisors. To all of them, and to our clients, we offer our gratitude.
We look forward to the new decade- both its challenges and its opportunities.
The Awbury Team