Biz Extra

Published: May 15, 2022 | Updated: May 16, 2022

Hugh Vyvyan on his journey from rugby pro to Gallagher’s business development director…

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Gallagher has a long-term association with Premiership Rugby and been the league’s official title sponsor since the 2018/2019 season, writes Matt Williams, Head of Office, Gallagher Poole.

My colleague Hugh Vyvyan, our Gallagher Business Development Director, enjoyed an incredible professional career in the sport racking up nearly 250 appearances for Newcastle Falcons and Saracens over 16 years.

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Hugh, many thanks for taking the time to talk to your Gallagher colleagues in Poole! Could you start by giving us a brief overview of your rugby career and some of your achievements?

I was fortunate to go to Newcastle University when rugby became professional and Sir John Hall, the owner of Newcastle United, bought Newcastle rugby club. The Falcons won the Premiership in its first year and I was fortunate to cut my teeth in the game with some of rugby’s finest players like Rob Andrew, Dean Ryan, Pat Lam, Doddie Weir and the late, great Inga Tuigamala. Oh and I may have come through the academy with some bloke called Jonny Wilkinson who made a slightly bigger impression on the game than me!

In my last year at the Falcons I captained the team to win the Powergen Cup in 2003 and then headed to London and Saracens. The eight year journey at Saracens was very special, going from regular under achievers to being part of a team who developed an amazing culture culminating in winning the club’s first Premiership title in 2011.

What would you say was your proudest moment in rugby?

When I played with my 6 brothers and we won the Penryn 7’s in Cornwall. Winning Saracens 1st Premiership was a great way to finish my playing career and I am proud to have played for England.

What do you miss most about playing professional professionally?

All rugby matches are a battle, so sitting in the changing room after a win having shared the field with great team mates, knowing we do not have to play again for a week! Those are moments that are hard to beat.

After you retired from rugby did you already have plans for what you wanted to do next?  Has it turned out like you expected?

I was interested in the commercials around sport, but not interested in coaching. Retiring from rugby is a difficult transition but I was prepared knowing it was going to be difficult and the next few years were going to be about getting my head down to build up the next career aged 35. I became the Saracens Commercial Director and worked hard at sales, something that I enjoyed doing and find very rewarding, and still do now at Gallagher.

Rugby pro to insurance broking! What led to you becoming involved with Gallagher?

Haha that was not in my career plans!  But I can honestly say it has been one of the best decisions. In all seriousness an insurance brokerage is much like a rugby team – individual specialist who need each other to find a solution to a situation. The best teams are ones that rely and trust each other’s strengths to get the results needed. I think Gallagher is an incredible team and the results are clearly there to support that statement.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at Gallagher and your key areas of responsibility?

I manage the relationship with our banking partners who introduce business banking, commercial and corporate customers to Gallagher as their insurance partner of choice. The role takes me up and down the UK supporting our branches in engaging with the regional bank teams. It is essentially a relationship role where we get a large group of people from different organisations (the banks and Gallagher) marching in the same direction, well that’s the plan anyway.

Did you find anything you learned from your professional sports career helped in your business career?

Yes a huge amount, I remember being told by a senior rugby player to KISS “Keep it simple stupid”. Life, sport and work can get complicated if we allow it to. Have a simple plan, communicate the plan and do what you say you are going to do. Having honest conversations is a useful tool. Sport has taught me to be balanced through the highs and lows which will inevitably happen through any project. Hard work is also a common denominator in performance outputs!

Hugh Vyvyan, of Saracens, makes a catch during the Guinness Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Saracens at Twickenham Stadium in May, 2010. Picture: Mark Wieland/Getty Images.

How do you find working within the insurance industry? What has surprised you the most?

How insurance and risk management can be a critical business enabler is something I did not fully appreciate. The level of knowledge that people have within Gallagher is amazing, there are so many specialists in their sectors it’s seriously impressive.

Finally, the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham is on the 18th June – who you picking to win?

Well as Newcastle are the wrong end of the table my heart tells me Saracens. However with my brain Quins proved last season that on the day they can beat anyone, Leicester are back to their menacing best so those 3 teams will be battling the title out. If I have to pick one it would be Saracens, I am a season ticket holder after all!