Admiral chief executive Henry Engelhardt is stepping down, after 24 years at the helm of the business he founded in 1991. But investors worried about continuity at the FTSE 100 insurer need not fear: his replacement is co-founder and chief operating officer David Stevens.
‘Don't bury me yet, Guys!’ Engelhardt said (not sure why the capital letter was strictly necessary). ‘I still have 12 months on the job and lots to accomplish in that time. But I see the wealth of management talent we have rising up in the organisation and I think that in a year it will be the right moment to start the transition towards that younger, very talented team.’
Not that that team is all that much younger – Stevens is 52 to Engelhardt’s 57. And his former boss, who still owns 11.7% of the company, could still be hanging around Admiral’s Cardiff hq. ‘Whilst Henry will cease to be the CEO and a director at Admiral, I am very pleased to be discussing with him ways in which he might continue to make his unique skills and experience available to the Group after he steps down,’ Stevens said.
It is no easy task replacing an iconic founder. As Admiral’s chairman Alistair Lyons said, ‘There is no way to measure adequately the contribution of the founder of a business that has grown from zero to over £4 billion market capitalisation, employs over 7,000 people and serves more than 4 million customers.’
The bow tie-sporting Engelhardt is certainly unique. He set up a ‘Ministry of Fun’ for employees, which included a yearly ‘egg roulette’, and handed out puzzle pieces to remind them that they were part of a bigger picture (a beautiful thought, isn’t it?). He also has a way with words, describing 2014 as ‘the year of the Baked Alaska - hot and cold in a single bite’, after revenues and profits slipped, while 2013 was a dull and dependable ‘baked potato’.
Stevens shouldn’t try to imitate the outgoing eccentric, but he’s worked alongside him long enough to pick up some tips on employee engagement.