After leaving school in 1969, Derek Bell qualified as an Organisation & Methods Engineer with Cummins Diesel Engines in Darlington in 1973. His job entailed overcoming problems on the engine production lines and if a potential problem could not be overcome by O & M techniques, he insured against the problem holding up production. This led him to work closely with the company insurance brokers, which resulted in Derek joining them in 1974. After a few months in April 1974, Derek was transferred to Bristol to open a new branch, and took over an ailing office as Branch Manager in Birmingham. After a year, he moved to Norwich where in 1978, he decided to establish his own insurance brokerage.
His initial customer base was the British Army of the Rhine and he started a branch office in Dortmund, West Germany. One day in 1979, he was sitting in his office in Norwich, when his secretary put a call through to him from one of the soldiers, who was on leave in London and drinking in the World Ends Pub on New Kings Road, London who introduced him to someone who had some insurance problems. The individual told Derek that he was the Road Manager for an internationally acclaimed Heavy Metal Rock band and he was having trouble arranging car insurance for the drummer. This led Derek to gaining the Band as his first clients in London and in 1982 Derek relocated the company to London where he enjoyed a lucrative client base within the music and film businesses. His ethos was and still is; that insurance is not a complicated business (although some practitioners try to make it more complicated than it really is) and is really about transferring an unknown liability from a company’s balance sheet and transferring it to a third party which has a stronger balance sheet, so he was able to develop and expanded into all areas of insurance, including what is now referred to as Financial Services. The Who (were not his clients) played a concert in 1979 in Cincinnati, USA and the crowd stampeded resulting in the deaths of 11 fans, after which, it was impossible to obtain Third Party Liability insurance for British Bands touring the USA. In 1980 one of his music clients were scheduled to tour the USA but were unable to get suitable insurance cover in the UK market or Lloyds. As a result, Derek flew to the USA and met an Insurance Company who offered the required insurance but following the Cincinnati incident and some well publicised bad behaviour issues, considered British Bands to be wild and unreliable. Derek was able to show that his clients were all family men and he explained how he had trained their management in risk management techniques which lessoned the potential risks; showing that a heavy metal band playing to 50,000 fans at a football stadium in the USA was a better risk than a Punk Band playing in front of 100 fans in an underground venue in London. Derek also introduced the concept of subscription rating i.e. charging a premium on the number of attendees, as a result, he was responsible for re-establishing a line of third party liability capacity.
This led Derek to signing the Hard Rock Café as clients and he managed all their insurance requirements in Europe and the USA. In 1989, he sold out to a small boutique Merchant Bank in the City of London, but a clash of cultures resulted in Derek leading a management buyout to re-acquire the business. Between 1992 and 1998 Derek built this business into the 8th largest insurance broking business in the UK, which had insurance broking, reinsurance and financial services divisions and he created a captive reinsurance company in the Cayman Islands to handle Caribbean Hurricane insurance and in conjunction with World Bank he established an Insurance Company in Uganda and became the largest reinsurance brokers for insurance companies in Sub-Sahara Africa.
He left the main business in 1998 to develop an IT business and remained as a non-executive director of the financial services business until 2006. A number of his previous employees now hold significant positions in the London Insurance market, partly as a result of the training they received with him, have gone on enjoy great success outside of the Insurance and Financial services Industries. Having been an early adopter of IT (Bands managers used to send Derek their US concert attendance data for subscription rating by sndmsg – in early 1980’s, which was a forerunner of Lotus Notes email in 1989 and Microsoft in 1993) and an investor in the IT sector during the emergence of the worldwide web during the mid-1990’s. In 2002 he formed an IT company based in Edinburgh with a programming office in Kiev, Ukraine, out of which, an enterprise level customer billing management system was developed which is used by a number of Network Operators in the UK and Europe and more recently his company has developed a system whereby SME’s can replace all their onsite physical in-house IT infrastructure buy a hosted Cloud system which is accessed from anywhere in the world by a virtual desktop.