Monday Interview: Polly Staveley, managing director at TL Dallas Group

“The Yorkshire region fits very much with our values. There are a lot of great family and independent businesses in this region and that’s our focus too,” says Polly Staveley, the managing director TL Dallas Group.

The Bradford-headquartered insurance brokerage and risk management firm is this year marking its 100th anniversary. The fourth-generation family business is headed up by Staveley, who has been working there for around 20 years; 2.5 years of which she has held her current position.

Before she joined the business, Staveley worked in banking and feels it was important to have had her career elsewhere before bringing her skills back to the business built up by her great-grandfather.

The firm has been acquisitive in its outlook over the years, snapping up independent brokerages, and now employs 120 people across all branches. It last reported a turnover of around £10m and Staveley described the last 12 months a period of “consolidation” with investments in its internal functions including new IT systems.

Staveley said the insurance brokerage sector was still going through significant change, with many smaller firms being snapped up by multi-nationals and the increasingly competitive marketplace with the rise of online services.

“We have been on a steady upward trajectory over the years. It is fair to say we are always looking for small businesses that we can acquire,” she explained.

The firm has offices in Scotland and London but Staveley says the firm sees Yorkshire as its “key strategic marketplace” because of the great opportunities” it presents and the ability to work with clients similar to its own values.

Staveley added: “For us, success is about offering great client service levels; a one-stop shop for insurance and commercial needs.

“We are not going to be able to compete with the rise of online but we offer a personal service to our customers and that is what I love about leading a family business. Our values fit hand in hand.”

She said that the key to success was also being ahead of the trends. The team have noticed a rise in businesses enquiring about insurance for water damage/flooding and also cyber attacks.

Staveley, whose brother is also a group director at the firm, said: “Being honest, insurance wouldn’t have been my first choice, I initially went into banking. But this industry is about the people you meet, and the businesses you go and see. It’s great to see the innovation occurring across all sectors and the wealth they are bringing to the UK.”

She added that she was incredibly proud to be running the family business, though sometimes it “could feel lonely at the top” so it was important to also get support from peers outside of the business too.

“We are really focused on the people we employ day to day. We want them to feel happy, motivated, rewarded and because we are independent, they are autonomous.

“My great-grandfather built this business on trust and integrity; everyone we employ upholds those values. It is a mixed emotion knowing you have 100 years of history in your hands.

“In my opinion, the best way to succeed is to surround yourself with people who are better than you are. People who will challenge decisions and move ahead with the right strategy.”