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Former Admiral CEO named IOD Wales Chairman award recipient

L-R: David Stevens, Richard Selby.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) Wales has named David Stevens as the recipient of this year’s Chairman’s Award for Excellence in Director and Board Practice, as part of its Director of the Year Awards.

Richard Selby, Chair, IoD Wales said: “Without doubt, David’s success on a global scale with insurance giant Admiral has been phenomenal, but he also demonstrates the selfless, charitable and humble side of being a great leader every day.”

David joined Admiral in 1991 and was appointed CEO in 2015. After almost 30 years within the organisation, he retired in 2020. Admiral is Wales’ only FTSE 100 company, has over 11,000 employees and lists on the London Stock Exchange.

Asked how he sums up his years at Admiral, David said: “I have a huge amount of gratitude. It’s pretty unusual to help set up a company that succeeded so fabulously, and not only has it succeeded as a business financially, but it really is a great place to work and has made a difference to thousands of people in south Wales.”

David was widely recognised and awarded as a leader several times during his career. What makes a good leader? “I think it varies by the company’s situation, but at the end of the day, you need to make the right call more often than not. Furthermore, you need a team that not only believes in you, but also the direction of the company. Make sure you live the company values as I always tried to do, it’s not rocket science. Often, it’s more about listening than actioning, and you should empower everyone to feel able to make suggestions and remember the team, the team, the team. It should always be seen as a collective and never an autocracy.”

Even today, at the heart of Admiral’s success is its employees, and David said this was always founder Henry Engelhardt’s vision. I joined Henry right at the beginning because he was very bright, and I knew we shared a lot of values. We appreciated the need for work life balance of staff, and that we needed to support the welfare of everyone. It was always part of our ambition to offer a different working culture, as well as being a brilliant insurance company.

“We were big believers in giving back because it increases people’s involvement, their concern for the underlying health of the business and ultimately we want people to behave like they own the business.  So, we made them owners. Admiral was so successful because of what our staff did, and we share that amazing good fortune.”

A man of integrity and living by those values, he shared £10million between staff members as his retirement gift to them.

When asked what piece of advice he would offer business leaders across Wales, he said: “It’s very important for senior managers to not allow themselves to be overly internally focused, and only think about how their own business is doing. I’m a big believer in spending time with others, understanding their challenges and problems, even if you’re in different industries. You must commit to learning yourself; it’s very easy to rely on external advisors, so commit to your own development and path.”

Today, David spends time working with the Cardiff Capital Region Economic Growth Partnership, continuing his Waterloo Foundation charity work, and spends valuable time with his family enjoying the simpler things in life like breakfast with his wife each morning and walking their dogs.

Richard continued: “At the IoD we talk about how better directors build a better world and David is a shining example of this. We hope his ethos and commitment to staff as people, can be an inspiration to business leaders across Wales, regardless of their size.”

David will be formally presented with his award at the IoD Wales Director of the Year Awards on 14 January 2022 at ICC Wales, Newport.