When two British expats in Florida, Nigel P. Beatty and Christopher (Mark) Abba decided to start their own risk management firm in early 2015, neither knew exactly how things would progress with this insurance startup in an already established industry.
SGRM stands for ‘Someya Group Risk Management’, born out of a larger (non-insurance) investment management firm based in Asia and then established in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in early 2015. Ten months on and the firm is still relatively small but ‘flying’ and gaining a solid reputation, as people are starting to talk and encourage others to take advantage of SGRM’s services.
“We never wanted to be a small cottage style firm”, explains Nigel Beatty, “We always wanted to be more corporate, dealing with very large accounts; working with big corporations or firms with hundreds or even thousands of personnel. Even so, we do deal with individual people we know, families and smaller companies and we treat these of course with the same care and attention as the big accounts. However our focus going forward is definitely larger entities.”
Beatty continues “We were obviously a very small firm at the beginning, just three of us, but using connections we were able to build quickly and get important customers. I used to be a captain on large yachts and the majority of the owners I worked for had large workforce; they are captains of industry. I am still in contact with many of these guys and some I consider friends. So I called them up and gave them a push in our direction. We are still a relatively small firm to be dealing with big corporations, so maybe our little startup is more of an upstart!”
Abba jumps into the conversation at this point, “This is not being an upstart in the arrogant sense of the word. More that we were suddenly working with entities that large, long established firms would usually work with… you know those firms with the logo rights on the tops of buildings in major cities!”
“However you have to understand,” Abba continues “that these guys Nigel has contacted are businessmen first and foremost. They are not going to blindly come over put the welfare of their workforce in our hands, just because their former yacht Captain asked them to. We had to prove ourselves and there was some suspicion at first. We showed them that we were licensed in 46 states of the US and were affiliated with over 50 domestic and worldwide carriers and that we could handle the national and international structures in their companies. But it still took time.”
As mentioned Nigel Beatty started as a yacht Captain, but in 2005 he came ashore and started building companies. His first was Super Yacht Logistics (SYL), which started with a bedroom office in Florida and a spare desk in a friend’s office in Japan. SYL soon moved out of the bedroom and now has 2 offices in Japan, and one in Florida, Australia, Taiwan and the UK.
SYL was acquired by The Someya Group (a Hong Kong company) in 2011 and Beatty retained as a director. Since then he has gone on to set up and Fathom Supply, Yotfix, Creation USA and now SGRM.
“I am not an insurance person” explains Beatty, “I am a maritime person and my full time job is being a luxury asset broker (primarily yachts) for private clients, while others run the various companies I own. Although I promote and bring clients to the firm, I stay away from the day to day stuff; insurance is Mark’s field of expertise.”
Christopher (Mark) Abba, he is generally referred to by his middle name, is an experienced insurance professional, with particular areas of expertise being Project and Risk Management and before joining SGRM, he created and headed up the Life and Health division for a major international brokerage.
However, he has not always been in the risk management business. Prior to insurance he spent more than twenty years working in the cruise and hospitality industries in various corporate management capacities, most notably in casinos worldwide and this considerable experience has provided an excellent background for the transition into risk management and insurance.
Luckily with Abba’s insurance pedigree and Beatty’s connections, SGRM has already signed major clients in the USA, Singapore, Japan, Europe and in the UK.
“It has been good,” says Abba, “June through August 2015 was a massive turning point for the firm with some high profile corporate clients coming onboard from the offshore oil and gas industry in Texas [SGRM has a licensed brokerage branch in Houston]. As well as this new clients from the yachting industry have moved over to work with SGRM, both large yacht crews themselves, management companies and local companies that support and maintain large yachts. In addition a medium to large bank based on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA is now working with us and loving our dynamic approach to managing their risk and protecting their workforce, whilst finding solutions particular to them. Now we have just partnered with a major European long haul airline to oversee their risk management and broker their insurance needs for their staff in the USA, Europe, Hong Kong and Singapore. They are blown away by our approach to this business and their employees are over the moon.”
Both Beatty and Abba explain that by working diligently for the clients of SGRM, greater rewards will come.
“It is a big market out there and there are many solutions” says Beatty “Every client is different and needs a different solution, so hard selling one type of policy to everyone is just unacceptable. It may make more money in the short term, but that is just short term and plain short sighted! Every single case that SGRM deals with, I want carefully analyzed and for the firm to work closely with the client so that they get as near to the perfect solution as possible. Clients appreciate this kind of diligence and I refuse to have the firm work to a lesser standard.”
So are you a startup or an upstart?
“A little bit of both” Beatty laughs, “we have certainly ruffled some feathers with other outfits, but these companies that are getting ruffled must be doing something wrong to be so afraid of a little firm like ours! I prefer to be a regarded disruptor; this is why we started SGRM. Because other firms are stale, they are not adapting to the needs of large entities and are not moving with the times, whereas SGRM is… we can think outside of that box.”
Abba agrees “we have been an ‘upstart startup’ but we are moving away from this. We already have branch offices in Houston and Tokyo and affiliate offices in Singapore and Hong Kong now, with a view to establish permanent offices there, plus a UK office in mid-2016. We are becoming more established and therefore soon neither “startup” or “upstart” will apply to SGRM, but we will never stop acting the way we do by being at the forefront, pushing new ideas into this industry and trying to be the absolute best in the business.”
Joanne Banks spoke to Mark Abba and Nigel Beatty, principles at SGRM – Someya Group Risk Management.