Henry Engelhard & the Launch of Admiral Group

Fed up with the workaholic world of trading, Henry Engelhardt decided to launch a new career in insurance ‒ and founded the world-renowned Admiral Group

Name: Henry Engelhardt

Job Title: CEO and founder 

Company: Admiral Group

The son of a Chicago meat-packer, Henry Engelhardt once aspired to be a journalist ‒ even studying the subject at the University of Michigan ‒ before eventually pivoting in favour of entrepreneurship.

Of course, things then were very different to the early 1990s, when he was a fresh-faced 30-year-old with no idea he was on the precipice of changing the face of insurance in the UK. 

Today, according to Forbes, he is ranked number 1,730 on the billionaires list, with an estimated wealth of US$1.5bn.

Back in the 1980s, though, he was still living in Chicago with his French-born girlfriend, Diane (who would later become his wife), and desperately hated his job as a trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The first few years were fun but, according to Henry, the dynamics and personalities of the firm suddenly changed and it was a less pleasant place to work. 

It was a key moment and would come to shape his future management style at Admiral.

Engelhardt discovers insurance

Disillusioned with the status quo and thirsty for new adventures, Henry and Diane ‒ who had met as students ‒ quit their jobs and travelled around Asia for six months to reassess their future plans.

Henry then enrolled on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course in Paris and, following a stint in London as a management consultant, he applied for a job in car insurance. 

The prospect wasn’t one he relished. Speaking of that time, he says: “And I literally thought: Oh no, how boring, what could be worse than car insurance?”

However, Engelhardt was sure that he didn't want to be a management consultant any more, so he applied for the job, which was with Churchill. He then discovered that,to his surprise, the car insurance industry was exactly the type of career he wanted to pursue. 

His natural aptitude for the field saw Engelhardt  spend a further two years at Churchill, before being headhunted by Lloyds of London. Lloyds offered him the opportunity to launch and lead a new company in the sector, which would go on to become Admiral.

Work life balance priorities

From the outset, Engelhardt made sure his team understood that he was not a workaholic-style boss and that kind of culture was not something he would entertain in this company.  

The formula struck a chord with his colleagues and Admiral Group, which was founded in 1993. At the time, it was a tiny startup with just five staff and a lot of vision. Initially, it offered car and home insurance, while also launching the UK's first insurance price comparison website.

After almost 30 years at the helm, Engelhardt stepped down as Admiral Group’s CEO in May 2016. Today, the company turns over US$4bn annually and is considered one of the world’s leading car insurance companies. 

Still a keen advocate for a healthy work culture, Engelhard continues to be a part-time employee, mentoring senior managers and taking part in the company’s MBA recruitment drives. 

A family man

Still married to Diane, the couple have four now-adult children. He continues to reside in the UK, settling in Wales. 

Since living there, he and his wife, Diane, have developed the Moondance Foundation to support causes across Wales, including education, healthcare, poverty, and the arts.


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