Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth some of the well known South African entrepreneurs who’ve made waves globally. And they’ve been recognised for it as well.
On the back of this the Biznews team has spent September in London searching for other success stories, and Alec’s had some scintillating discussions off the back of this, including one with Investec co-founder Bernard Kantor, as well as a retail masterclass with former Pick ‘n Pay CEO Sean Summers.
Below Alec chats to Matthew Donaldson, CEO of the BGL group, an insurance company based in Peterborough, founded by South African Douw Steyn. Steyn’s more recently known for the creation of the R6.5 billion Steyn City, located in the northern outskirts of Johannesburg.
In this interview we discover how Steyn, the founder of Auto & General, took a South African concept of insurance to the United Kingdom, and built a business that now generates £100m profit a year. Yet another fascinating example of South African success overseas.- Stuart Lowman
I’m in London in one of the fancier parts, in a hotel called Brown’s with Matthew Donaldson who is the Chief Executive of the BGL Group. Comparethemarket.com is the dominant player in the British market in price comparison websites and that itself is a huge market as well. Matthew, before we go into this and the South African connection, which is very close, a bit of background from your perspective. You grew up in a place called Bingley I see.
Bingley in Yorkshire. Yes, I moved further down south actually, about 15 years ago to join the business, which was then known as Budget Insurance in the UK near Peterborough. It was originally sold by our founder Douw Steyn who of course, came over from South Africa in early 92 with a view of setting up a business as successful in the UK, as the mothership was in South Africa.
That would have put you in your mid-twenties at the time that you met Douw. You’ve seen an interesting development. Was it apparent to you early on that he was going to make such a success?
Yes, you only need to see the character and, also the business that was created in South Africa. I arrived in Peterborough, it was Budget Insurance and we were actually, acquired. I joined the group through the acquisition of a retail network. I kind of felt why would I want to join a company called Budget Insurance, based in Peterborough. I went down. I saw the setup there.
I met Douw and Peter Winslow, who was the new incumbent chief executive that Steven Klinker and Douw had appointed, at the time.
I realised this was a really, well invested company. It didn’t quite have scale at that point in time, but the sense of that entrepreneurial opportunistic – that innovative company was just loud, and clear as well. That was quite a few years ago. That was in the back-end of 1999.
I thought I’d give it a go. Give it a go for a couple of years, and there, 16 years later, I’m still with the company and enjoying the culture as much as ever.
The culture, is there much South Africanism in it? You’re clearly from, as you said, Yorkshire, so you would have come into, in a way it might have been a little foreign.
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of South Africa in there, no doubt about it. I think the bullishness, the bravery, the creativity, the innovation – the times I’ve been in South Africa absolutely speaks to the culture of our organisation. That Douw himself, and indeed many others, including Steven Klinker are great South Africans in their own right, and they’ve clearly brought a lot of that into the business.
It is an incredible success story. You initially, I guess like most small business, were battling and then you discovered the internet, as did everybody else. You then discovered these price comparison opportunities and now dominate 40% of the market. Is that market share number right?
Yes, it’s something like 41 actually, today, so 41% on, what we call the core insurance verticals, so in the UK that’s motor, home, bike, and commercial vehicle. Of course, there’s a much bigger price comparison market out there around money, credit cards – energy is a huge compared product in the UK now.
We don’t have that same market share for those products but we absolutely have plans to get there in time. Interestingly, the UK market is just one of our markets with Price Comparison now. We’ve now setup sites in France, LesFurets or the Furet (translated of course) and, also Hoyhoy, which means hire or hello in the Netherlands as well.
You mentioned the Furet. Part of the success, certainly to the public in the UK, is the meerkat that you’ve used in your adverts. He’s called Aleksandr Orlov, I see. That’s not very South African.
No, he’s from Russia. He’s a Russian meerkat, obviously. He comes from Meerkovo, along with his assistant Sergei, and of course a whole range of other people from the village, although he’s currently living in LA at the moment. We’ve just launched our movies rewards scheme and, on the back of that, Aleksandr has had to migrate over the pond and he’s currently living in LA and having a great time.
It’s an extraordinary story. How did you guys come onto or latch onto that, as a marketing or an advertising idea?
Yeah, well perhaps if I go back to the start of why did we get into Price Comparison firstly, because we had a thriving intermediary business at the time, through Budget Insurance and various affinity brands that we do in the UK, where now, we’ve got about three million customers.
This curious thing called Price Comparison started in the UK probably through a company called Confused.com under the Admiral Group, and we really felt that we needed to be in Price Comparison to defend our distribution, to make sure we kept the relationship with the customer.
At the time, there were well over 100 companies trying to do exactly the same as we were but the truth of the marketing was very boring. It was a very transactional, very instructional by nature and we really struggled to get market share. In fact, we were losing a considerable amount of money, at that point in time.
I remember sitting with Steve Klinker, (he’s Douw’s number two) and say look, this is the investment, the amount we need for this year and about six months later I sat in front of him again saying, “Sorry about that but we’ve lost a lot more than we expected because our marketing just hadn’t worked.” We knew we needed to do something different.
We set ourselves a task really of getting name recognition and, also entertaining our customers because nobody was doing it in the market. We gave ourselves a brand essence, which I think is very South African in its own right, which was ‘dare to be different’, so we decided we want to go and do something different from the market. It was actually, the last creative agency pitch at the last day.
Frankly, we were getting a little bit desperate, and these guys came up with, what we call a parallel world concept of market, meerkat – and you compare the difference. I don’t think anybody in a million years thought we would go for it.
We thought it was funny in using at the time and a big part of our group is having fun, so we went with it. Our market share went from about, just under 5% and losing money to under 20% in about 12 weeks, and we’ve really never looked back.
That’s incredible. I heard a similar story from Investec’s Bernard Kantor, during the time that they took the Investec Derby, here in England and they had a big blimp in the air and it was something called ‘High Five’. They got a lot of money coming in during the financial crisis, so it seems in this market in particular (in the British market), which is very mature in many respects. There are still ways of innovating of disrupting.
I think, and definitely disrupting – what we do we ensure we offer our customers the very best prices. We focus on delivering first class consumer propositions in everything we do.
Just explain maybe unpack exactly what a Price Comparison website does.
Yeah, I suppose we are the one window to the market. Our customers fill in just one form. They provide their details once and we pull prices back from everybody, be their direct insurers, brokers, intermediaries in the market.
We deliver that back to them in a matter of a second-and-a-half that it takes to get all those prices back from the whole market.
The technology is there to do that now and the customer can buy the very best price, having seen all the features and the benefits of the whole of the market, within literally five minutes.
How easy or, rather, how difficult was it for you to get the participants to come on board (the various insurance companies) because, clearly if you’re making them compete against each other it must be hurting their margins.
Yeah, I think that in certainly some of the more mature insurers in the first instance, they thought it would thin their margins and indeed, it did. I think that in the very early days of Price Comparison it certainly exposed some weaknesses, in some of the insurers underwriting models.
There’s no doubt about that but the UK is saturated with different brands, new entrants as well, who were quite happy to take advantage of that new and, indeed very low cost channel for insurers.
Spinalong had to go and spend money on branding, so it allowed many new entrants and actually, some intermediaries to take advantage of the new channel and, therefore everybody else followed.
Because the UK market is so saturated with different insurers, not dissimilar to how I see the South African market moving interestingly. It solved the problem for the consumer.
They simply did not have the time to ring around for insurance or to shop around to get the best quotes, so it was the perfect synergy of solving a customer’s problem, and ensuring actually, we brought in new capacity and allowed other businesses to grow and thrive.
What share of the market does the internet now have?
Well, the internet in the UK – I would say probably 90% of the market is researched online. About 70% of the consumers in the UK (for their insurance products) would use a Price Comparison site, in one way, shape, or form.
The great thing from a consumer perspective, of course, it it’s free, so there’s no charge to the consumer. They may well just compare the prices, compare it against their existing policy, and choose to stay where they are, or even ring up their existing provider and negotiate a better price.
Even those who don’t transact with us – they still use it as a comparison service.
Going back to the early days, clearly the intermediaries must have seen you as a threat, which you’re definitely, and quite obviously were. How did you counter that?
Well we, ourselves were, and indeed we have today, still a thriving intermediary business. Actually, many intermediaries who adopted that new channel, (Price Comparison) early they grew their businesses exponentially because many people were still trying to transact through very cost heavy models, contact centre, call centre models.
Actually, those who adapted to the internet sooner, who took advantage of the whole new phenomena in the market. They grew very quickly so it was good news for those who adopted. Those who tried to stick to the old model, as is always the case, they tended to fail.
That’s an interesting comparison with South Africa, where your group has got Hippo, but Hippo is really in In-House Brands. I tried at my previous business that I started, called Moneyweb. I tried to have a Price Comparison portal, after talking to the Google guys here, in the UK and they said, “That’s the business to get into.” We couldn’t get the South African insurers on site. I guess, at some point in time, they’re going to have to come to the party but perhaps it’s a different market. Perhaps there are lessons that you’ve learnt here that you’ve got to apply there.
I think the market is maturing there. I mean, Hippo does have some wider brands on there but look, we would be very open, of course. Our wider group, our sister company in South Africa would absolutely delighted, if the likes of OUTsurance wanted to play on that Price Comparison site. They choose not to, at the moment.
They don’t want their prices exposed to that, for whatever reason but look, I would say, show your prices to the consumer, and let the consumer decide.
There are a number of new brands popping up in South Africa all the time, Broker King and various others, I believe, [inaudible 10.57].
They will evolve and the market will evolve, and eventually consumers will need that problem to be solved, and Hippo, I think, has a great place in that market in the future, which will serve consumers well, I’m sure.
The whole changing of the intermediaries, the RDR, the regulations that are coming in. Are they likely to stimulate price comparison sites?
Well, I think certainly the financial services in the UK now. What was the IFA (Independent Financial Advisor). Those models are still strong, still people would buy their life insurance typically will be bought through an IFA, but it’s very cost heavy.
Now those commissions are disclosable to consumers. Of course, more people like to use Price Comparison for their life insurance or mortgages, for their home, than they ever did.
We are seeing a lot of growth stimulated on those term life products way more than two years ago, and we’ve seen that through our ‘Compare the Market Brand’ a great area of growth in the future.
Matthew, to have 41% of this fantastic slug of the online business or the eCommerce business if you want to look at it in a broader perspective. It doesn’t just take marketing sure the meerkats have been hugely successful, but what else has created this incredible business here?
It’s just so good for consumers. It is that in five minutes you can get the very best price, with total transparency of the whole market, to get the best price, the best product that would suit you.
But there were 100 others who were trying to do the same thing. What is it that made you guys, BGL, different?
I think we were very well invested. Our shareholders were prepared to back us. Very few of the 100 people trying to do it had the backing of shareholders that we did. Look, even when we failed to hit our original projections.
We failed on our business plan – they absolutely believed that this was the market. They believed we could win in that market and they chose to back us, so they put tens of millions of Pounds into a business where others feared, to go and invest that.
I think, again, it speaks to that South African culture. That bravery. That we were braver than others there is no doubt about it and, as I said, we were a very well invested company. We had the technology and the people we could apply to that and it served us well.
Are you still privately owned?
Still privately owned, yes.
The last bit of information that I could get on the internet was that you make just under 100 million Pounds, or you did a few years ago, in profit. Is it still at around about that level or growing?
Yeah, it’s growing, underlying and, of course that is net of our investments at the moment, as well as having a thriving intermediary business, so we have about three million customers through our own brands and our partnership brands in the UK, and our Price Comparison business in the UK (Compare the market of course).
We’re also investing in our new businesses, so we’ve just launched a new brand Beagle Street – that’s a new life insurance proposition.
Have you been in life insurance before?
No, this is a new venture. We’ve only just started marketing that, with a new campaign to go live in January, so that’s a big investment for us, at the moment.
Is that anything off your South African experiences in life insurance?
We actually do have the same reinsurer partner, Hannover, so we did look at the South African model, One Life Direct, who had a good look at that and it’s a very similar model that we’ve imported, into the UK – a slightly different product for a different market but there are similarities. Other investments we have in France and in the Netherlands – those Price Comparisons [inaudible 14.20].
How are they going because one has seen clearly that the intellectual capital has flowed both ways, between South Africa and the U.K., as far as Comparethemarket.com is concerned? The French and the Netherlands markets – can you also use the experiences that you’ve learnt here?
Yeah, definitely and they’re very different markets. In the Netherlands – it’s a much smaller market. More akin actually, to the South African market in size and scale but it’s a very heavily served market. Quite saturated and Price Comparison is already established.
Unusually for us now, we find ourselves being a challenger in that market. We only have about ten percent market share.
The big incumbent essentially, has the rest of the 90% and our challenge is to break into that market, to reinvent comparison almost.
To try and find something that’s more compelling than they’re already getting from the existing incumbent. That may well be, undoubtedly speak to some entertaining marketing but also that proposition – how can we deliver that promise to the consumer at better prices and ease of use more so.
That’s our challenge at the moment that we’ve got to work through.
Are the underwriters, the insurance companies in that area, excited about the fact that you’re coming in? Presumably, to have a competitor means that the Price Comparison website can charge a little less.
Yeah, I think it’s good. At the moment, for the insurers in the Netherlands they have one incumbent and, therefore they have a heavy reliance. They would, I’m sure, like to see that dominant position diluted and, therefore create market competition, which is good in any market I think and it will certainly be good for the insurers in the Netherlands.
You guys have disrupted, we spoke about the advertising, but the whole business model that we’re talking about here, properly funded, has been massively disruptive to the UK establishment. Much of what we hear about the UK is that people don’t really like to change as much. Yet, here we have an adoption of a very disruptive technology, by the public. That would belie that suggestion.
Yeah, definitely but I think it is so compelling for the consumers, as I say, and I think we always start with how do we deliver that consumer proposition and, as you say look, we look at thing disruptively. We try not to follow the way that everybody else does. That goes right back from when the company was established in 1992. Very few people then were doing monthly insurance and policies, which is what the model that Douw and Steven brought over from South Africa. That’s what we tried.
Please explain that, monthly insurance?
We were selling monthly insurance through Budget Direct, as it was sold in South Africa. That was the formation of the company in the U.K.
Was it all annual insurance up to that point?
It was all annual, yes. All annual, very paper based, lots of proposal forms, lots of things posted, and the model that came into the U.K. was entirely paperless. A very different monthly underwritten premium, a monthly policy essentially, which just didn’t happen.
It just didn’t exist and, also some of the marketing back in those early days, door drops and the way that we adopted direct marketing techniques. Again, were really quite revolutionary in the U.K. at that point in time, which was a model that was honed over many years in South Africa.
Actually, that model we found was not the right model for the UK, so again, we looked at it differently, and stopped being a risk carrying transformed to essentially, become an intermediary. Again, looking at things differently. Looking at it through a different lens, seeing the problem and always find a way to overcome it.
Matthew, from your own perspective. You left school. Went straight into the business world, rather than going to university. You did do a MBA later on. But what was it that made you not go the traditional route?
That’s a great question. I’ve always enjoyed business and the whole business environment. I think I’ve got an intense drive for it, so I think it’s always been that sense of being involved in something, where we can make a difference. Deliver some different results.
I’ve always enjoyed, to some extent that – my parents always said to me, when I was even knee high, it was always going to be something involved in sales numbers, and I think probably in somewhere in what I’m doing now – they were probably right.
That, presumably, also made you very well suited for the business that you ended up working with, even though you did get there by accident rather than design.
Yeah, quite. I think for me it was always working with a private company and the culture of the business – it was always the most attractive. Teaming up with Douw, Steven, and Peter Winslow, the chief executive at the time – it felt immediately like the right home to me. It was a very bullish, ambitious, there’s an intense drive in the organisation to move forward, to succeed, do things differently, and yeah, we’ve enjoyed some success, which is great but it’s also been a lot of fun along the way.
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Douw Steyn has remained privately owned in pretty much all of his businesses but he’s also getting on a little now, he’ not ancient yet. But is he lining up for the next big one? Or do you think he’s starting to slow down a little?
Well, Douw is not actively involved in our UK business now. You’re probably aware his biggest project, at the moment, is being Steyn City, which now the first phase is up and running. The first plots have actually been sold and indeed, actually the first people living in the houses.
I’m not sure if you’ve been there but it is an amazing place. A great concept of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. I think it’s going to be a huge success, I really do.
So he’s investing his time there, as his next big project and it is worth billions of Rands as well, so is he spending most of his time living there or does he still come over and guide you guys?
No, he’s not been over to the UK for a while but I’m sure that could be anytime soon.
Then getting back to your next step, your next move. To have such a dominant market position in insurance, car insurance, home insurance, and life insurance is now a new opportunity. You did mention other market comparison opportunities. Where are you looking? Where is there low hanging fruit in the UK?
I think in a number of areas. We’ve already touched on the life insurance market. There were one-point-seven million term life policies sold in the UK at the moment, and less than 20% of those are sold directly from the providers, through to the customers, at the moment.
Why would that do well in the internet? You mentioned term policy. Just unpack that a little and why it’s commoditised?
Well, distribution is still stuck with the IFAs or indeed the banks. They offer one product rather than a comparison of products, so typically most people in the UK are way overpaying for their life insurance at the moment. As well as price has fallen in recent years. Anybody who’s got a term life policy in the UK, who is on a Price Comparison site, will almost certainly save 25, 30, or maybe 50% on their premium.
Okay, so we’ve got the insurance or the life assurance sorted out. What other areas or market opportunities are there?
Energy is a huge opportunity, so utility bills. That will be gas and electric, obviously.
So you have competition in those areas in the UK, which unfortunately we don’t have in South Africa.
There’s competition but there are numerous providers, but it is dominated by four big providers in the UK and, again anybody who visits Price Comparison compares their energy. It is really easy to do now. The Government are encouraging people to switch energy.
Anybody who visits the Price Comparison site will typically save 25% on their energy bills. We all know that energy bills have gone up substantially in recent years, so it really can make a difference to peoples’ household bills.
What about cellphones mobiles?
Mobiles, cellphones definitely. I think the device has become more commoditised, whether you’re on a Samsung or an Apple now or, frankly some of the much cheaper versions. The technology is all the same now.
I think therefore, people will be buying their devices independently, I’m sure in the future, and comparing tariffs more so.
It does exist, that comparison market at the moment, but again, it is still dominated by a small number of providers, where people get tied into long contracts. They buy directly, which they just need not do, and they’re not getting the best prices, so there will be an opportunity in the future.
How hard is it to innovate in a market like this? It is a mature market. Your Price Comparison online is, itself a very mature industry. Where do you get your creative spark from?
Yeah, well don’t forget I think the Price Comparison proposition, in its own right, is extremely compelling. Doing that and doing it well, whereby the customer actually enjoys the experience and indeed, in our case, is rewarded for the experience – not just with the great products at a great price. But also, we have an active rewards campaign for our customers also.
So that differentiates us to a point, but I think the way in which we interact with our consumers. It’s not about bombarding our customers with messages about the other products we can sell.
It’s actually providing the right service at the right time, and there are many innovations that we can still bring to market, around that service proposition for our consumers.
Look, we all probably sit there, on a Sunday evening with our pile of mail that we’ve not touched for the week. Our insurances, our credit card bills and all those other things, and actually our task, our vision in life, I guess, is to make it easier for our customers to manage all those household bills.
What you will see and compare the market in a number of months times, is some fairly innovative service propositions. That without having to input lots of details into a system. Without having, to make phone calls.
Just by merely, probably taking photographs actually, of the documents that come through. We will manage all that process for our customers, so there’s lots of opportunity in the future.
There’s another South African company that is highly innovative. It has just entered the U.K. market recently, Discovery. They made a big bang and a marketing appearance with Vitality. I see they’re stepping back a little bit on their spending. Is there a gap or is there a market in the gap that they appear to have identified?
Is this Discovery Life?
I’m talking about the Vitality – the medical aid.
Oh, the Vitality and medical, yeah. I think the medical market in the UK is not the same as many others because, of course we have a very good National Health Service.
Typically, in the UK, people get their health insurance through their employer, so it is a market that exists but it’s not a substantial market in the context of the population at this stage. I’m sure that with the value add that they provide then why not?
But what got me thinking along those lines was what you mentioned earlier about rewards, in other words incentivising people. That’s very much their business model as well. Do Brits want to be incentivised? Do they take to the reward system?
Well, I think we all like something for nothing, at the end of the day. When you’re rewarded, when you’re given a great proposition, a great service and you’re rewarded for it. Then yes, it engenders customer loyalty. We, as an organisation, I would say we are customer obsessed in delivering those propositions and rewarding our customers. Once we have a customer who’s chosen to deal with us, then we want to keep that customer for life. We don’t want to see them one year, and move onto the next, so yes, we invest very heavily in keeping our customers, rather than just spending on acquisition.
In technology – would you say you invest heavily in keeping your customers? How do you make sure that those three million customers of yours, before they leave you. That you know that they might be thinking that way.
Yeah, well I think we have eight million customers in the group, overall now, in the U.K. The three million are in the intermediated side of the business. We have the best service and I can say this with confidence. We have and we give the best service through our contact centres than I believe, any other provider in the U.K. for general insurance now. We obsess about our net promoter scores.
It’s kind of, to some extent, an old measure. We see that but have a look at some of our brands online. Look at the Reviewcentre.co.uk. Look at Budget Insurance on there. Compare it then with Direct Line or Churchill. We outstrip their service performance many times over.
So, yes, we invest in our contact centres. We invest heavily in our people, in terms of their training, their wellbeing, and the things that would go with that, and of course in the products and the propositions for the consumers.
Are you still based in Peterborough?
Still based in Peterborough, yeah, although we have a number of offices now around the UK We’re just in the process of setting up a new London office. That will be purely a tech based London office, but we have offices for a law firm on the M62 Corridor, in the North of England and a huge contact centre in Sunderland, as well as our Paris and Netherlands office now.
So we’re based in Peterborough but with tentacles moving out.
The contact centres are they British based.
All British based, yes.
Does it make a difference?
Well, I think it helps to maintain the quality. I don’t think we would say it has to be UK based but, without question, we have a very well refined model, of very well trained people that, inevitably it’s more difficult to manage if that is overseas, so it certainly works well for us.
You’ve got some big brands that you’re partnering with, Marks and Spencer, the British Post Office, so it’s deeply integrated. Your brand, itself is deeply integrated as it is, but then also marketing through other brands.
Marketing and distribution through other brands as well, so like you say, Marks and Spencer, Post Office, Lloyds Banking Group is a huge bank in the UK, who we also distribute for. That not only allows us to utilise the strengths of those brands to, of course to sell our products and their products, essentially.
It also allows us to get unique distribution, so as well as everything we do online, through Price Comparison sites, our own direct marketing.
We also sell directly, face-to-face, through Post Office branches and, indeed to Marks and Spencer customers. They will market directly through their own unique stores also, so it gives a very broad distribution, as well as just to use their brand.
It’s an incredible story. You’ve conquered the UK You’re now looking to conquer France and the Netherlands. What about the big market? What about the United States?
Yeah, well we’ve definitely not conquered the UK yet. We think there’s a long way to go, for all of our businesses.
Forty-one percent is certainly a huge market share but, I guess that’s only the online side. There’s still a bit of off-line that you can get.
Yeah, but the States is interesting. There’s no doubt about it. There are a number of Comparison Sites now appearing in the States, CoverHound and various others. Quite embryonic. I think there’s going to have to be an awful lot of money invested in that market.
The big incumbent insurers, GEICO or Progressive, they will simply not love the Price Comparison. These guys are spending well over a billion Dollars a year on developing their brand and they will not want that exposed to Price Comparison. I think it could be done.
It will have to be done, I think, State by State and it will be a long time before the insurers will truly support that model because you only need to look at the profits of those businesses. You can see they’re enjoying very, very high margins, at the moment. Not great for consumers but I think it would be a tough market to crack.
GEICO, the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary is a bit like OUTsurance in the South African market. They’ve got such a big share, why should they want to compete on a more open basis.
Yeah, I think in the short term they wouldn’t. I think eventually consumers will demand it. Consumers will realise – we shouldn’t forget our consumers are increasingly digitally and increasingly price savvy. They will get it and they will see that those who are not playing on there are the ones that are almost certainly charging the highest price.
So it’s an opportunity but it’s not something imminent at this junction?
And great opportunity for any new capacity or any new incumbent in the market. I think it will force them to do it eventually.
Matthew, just a few quick responses, some of your favourites. It is World Cup month, or two months in fact, here in the UK Who’s your favourite rugby player?
That’s a great question. I would, well…
Yeah, well historically Jason Leonard, no doubt about it. I like Dan Carter but I’ve got to go for England, so Jason Leonard will be my man, albeit it of yesteryear.
And your favourite rugby team?
Are they going to win the World Cup?
Well, I would hope but I think it’s going to be down to home advantage if we do. I would certainly hope that we can get out of the group. We’ve got a tough group. If we’re out of the group then it’s all to play for.
Football, soccer – your favourite soccer team?
That would be Bradford City, from many, many years back.
Not Peterborough, where you’re based?
I do take my son there now and again. I really follow local football rather than the big, Premiership teams. I used to be a season ticket holder back in Bradford.
Are you a soccer player or a rugby player?
Former rugby. I’ve still got the back injuries to prove it.
Okay. Favourite other company?
I think probably, I’m a big admirer of, well two actually, I’ll pull out in our sector. The Admiral Group in the UK – I think they’ve done a brilliant job building that business and, also Amazon. Amazon online – I think they generally do deliver first class consumer propositions. Have a look at their one-click purchase. They have an incredible logistics behind it. They’ve done a great job.
Also the company obsessed, which you’ve expressed.
Customer obsessed – Jeff Bezos. Your favourite other executive, outside of your group?
Douw Steyn, obviously.
Outside your group.
Okay, I’m not sure I necessarily have one. I wouldn’t say there’s anybody who particularly springs to mind.
The role model, the person who’s affected your life the most.
I think there’ve been many. Certainly, I’ll pick the team, actually of Auto and General, and Tellysure, so Douw Steyn clearly the pioneer, the start-up, who brought that.
Steven Klinker, who is an incredible individual, who is the perfect compliment for Douw and, indeed Peter Winslow, who is the chairman of our UK business now.
We’ve all worked together and Peter, Steve, and Douw, particularly in the early days, in setting the business up.
Are they all South Africans?
No, Peter is very English.
Okay. Your favourite car?
A Ranger of a sport. I think I’d go for a very, it just kind of does everything that it should do.
Taxi or Uber?
Oddly taxi still.
Even though you’re in a more Uber type business.
Yeah, well now you see it just shows how habits can stick with you.
Books – your favourite books?
Yeah, usually a whole variety but typically, autobiographies.
Your holiday location – what would that be? The best place, in the world, for you to go on holiday?
I enjoy the West Coast of Florida. Lovely beaches, great swimming, and an amazing ocean.
And your favourite animal, to end with? If you don’t say meerkat, you’re in trouble.
It’s got to be a meerkat.
Matthew Donaldson is the chief executive of the BGL Group and a fascinating story of a South African entrepreneur, Douw Steyn, who came to the UK in the early 1990s, and now dominates one of the major sectors of their financial services industry.
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