In the first of a new series showcasing the characters at the core of ActiveQuote.com’s success, we put new MD Rob Saunders in the chair. Rob joined ActiveQuote.com in July from CompareTheMarket, where he was Head of Money, Life & Health Insurance. We find out how he’s settling into AQ HQ and, more importantly, if he’s looking forward to match day in Cardiff...
Hi Rob, what did you study at university and what career plans did you have around that time?
Records show that I studied Business and Marketing at Birmingham University, but recollections from that period remain a little fuzzy! It would be fair to say that I didn’t really start to think seriously about my future until I started work, which thankfully happened whilst I was still finishing off my studies.
Tell us about your early career and how you found your way into the comparison industry.
My very early career was in estate agency, but my first step on any sort of career ladder was through Financial Services when I enrolled on a post-graduate scheme with the Halifax to become a mortgage adviser. It was during this period that I developed an appreciation for financial planning and insurance protection. After several years advising, I left the coalface to take up a role in Sales Support & Partnerships, with my first folly into comparison in 2012 when I took up a Commercial Manager role at Comparethemarket.com, supporting their new Money proposition.
What did you achieve - and learn - at comparethemarket.com?
One of the most valuable lessons learned at CTM was the impact that a true ‘consumer centric’ approach can have across a business, in terms of culture, employee engagement and success. Delivered effectively, the compound impact is significant and a principle that will always be first and last on my agenda. I was fortunate at CTM to be part of a fantastic team that was able to deliver record levels of growth, not only in my own product verticals but also in support of broader market share aspirations.
What drew you to the role at ActiveQuote.com?
Unfortunately the majority of the Financial Services industry is still antiquated and, while the emergence of the FinTech agenda has been a breath of fresh air, many, in my opinion, are still ‘talking the talk’ rather than ‘walking the walk’. When I met (AQ founder) Richard Theo back in 2013, I met an entrepreneur who was already walking at pace in terms of the innovation and agenda he had for the private medical industry. So impressed was I with Richard’s vision for disruption through technology that I remained an avid follower of ActiveQuote’s progress, and when the opportunity emerged for me to get involved in leading the business through its next stage of growth, I simply couldn’t say no.
What is your vision for ActiveQuote and your immediate priorities?
I want ActiveQuote to transform and ‘own’ the way customers buy health and protection insurance in the UK. We are uniquely placed in the market and must take responsibility for inspiring customers to take control of their future health and protection needs today. I have been fortunate enough to inherit a talented team of people who share the same passion for customer excellence that I do, so our immediate priorities are to build on these foundations while exploring new ways for us to connect with even more people.
You commute from Bedfordshire to Cardiff – how do you make that work?
Thankfully, I have a very supportive wife who juggles childcare, work and our social calendar with ruthless efficiency! So, while I’m setting off ‘on holiday’ every Monday morning, she is the glue that keeps everything at home ticking over so that when I come home at the end of the week, we can simply focus on having fun, whether individually, as a couple or as a family.
How do you like to unwind?
I’m a horse racing enthusiast, so a day at the races is one of my favourite pastimes. Thankfully my wife enjoys the odd day as well, so it’s something we do together and as a family. As a family we’re quite outdoorsy, so we do a lot of walking, biking and scooting at weekends, along with regular trips to the cinema when a new Disney film comes out (Moana is still our favourite at the moment).
Since being in Cardiff, I’ve started playing football more regularly, which, having only done moderate exercise for the last five years, has been a steep learning curve - I’ve always said I’ll run a marathon before my 40th birthday, so the pressure’s on!
How are you finding Cardiff and what do you like about Wales?
Cardiff has a real energy, which I’ve felt from day one. People always seem to be off doing something, which is testimony to the amount of accessible facilities the city has to offer. Everyone keeps telling me that this energy goes to another level when the Six Nations is on, so as a rugby enthusiast I’m really looking forward to seeing this first hand!