Tell us about yourself, Luke. Where did it all begin for you?
Ironically, it all began just down the road from the very office where we sit today at Leeds General Infirmary. Born in the heart of the city into a family fanatical about Leeds United meant that on the way home from the hospital I was taken on a slight detour to the place where I have spent a large proportion of my life – Elland Road – so that my Dad could lay down a few ground rules as to what he expected of me in terms of my footballing allegiances!
We were beaten that day and I’ve seen countless defeats since but I still find myself travelling the length and breadth of the country following the club I had no choice but to support so whatever he said on that day must have worked!
Given your passion for football, I guess your younger life was dominated by the sport?
It was to some extent during my early years. I enjoyed time playing for several small clubs across the city and my continued exposure to a football led to trials with a big local club, but as I progressed through school I quickly began finding it extremely difficult to continue playing the sport whilst attaining the academic results I was determined to achieve.
We’re intrigued … Tell us more about your education, Luke.
I was very fortunate to have gone to a very reputable school in Wakefield. The fees to attend the school were substantial and given they were funded by our small family business at the time, I was well aware that sacrifices were being made in order to send me there. It was undoubtedly this knowledge that spurred me on to achieve the best results I possibly could throughout my school life.
After several years of continued academic success, I was rewarded with an academic scholarship to the Sixth Form – Much to the delight of my Dad who was overcome with joy at the knowledge that he would now have a good few extra quid to spend watching his beloved Leeds United!
Tell us about how your Sixth Form life led you into the world of work.
In a school where 97% of students go to University, the expectation was that I would follow suit. However, I had other ideas! From a very young age, I had helped within the family business during my weekends and school holidays and so there was no doubt in my mind that I would be more suited to the world of work rather than University unlike many of my peers. Whilst my friends spent their spare time lazing around in bed, I was out helping my Dad to deliver solid fuel and bottled gas to service stations across the county and I was genuinely enjoying myself!
We take it then that you joined the family business immediately after leaving Sixth Form?
Whilst joining the family business would have been the obvious route for me to take, I once again had other ideas! I felt that undertaking a professional qualification alongside a job was the route I should take and so I began my search for full-time employment.
I spent hours searching newspapers, journals and the internet for a suitable role only to find one that appealed to me. Whilst I was continuously told by friends, family members and teachers not to “put all my eggs in one basket”, I made the brave and somewhat risky decision of only applying for this one role. Instead of worrying about only having one option, I just told myself that I had no alternative but to get the job!
Fortunately, the hard work did pay off and after a lengthy recruitment process, I began my employment working as a Commercial Insurance Underwriter specialising in Property and Liability for Aviva. The first nine months at the company were a whirlwind of opportunities as I quickly progressed through my Underwriting licences and professional qualifications as I strived to become a Chartered Insurer.
My quick progression and commitment to the company didn’t go unnoticed. After little over nine months working for the company, I was promoted to a more senior role working on the build of a new Commercial Underwriting system in Perth, Scotland. At the time, the project was very high profile within Aviva and it was the biggest of its kind in Europe. I had assumed the role of ‘Subject Matter Expert’ – A bit too much of a flash title for somebody who was used to spending his time delivering dirty bags of coal for some extra pocket money!
The six-hour commute to work every Monday morning and the six-hour commute back home every Friday night for nine months was far from ideal! I was firmly out of my comfort zone in some respects, but the opportunities were second to none within the company and the role was sought after by people much more experienced than myself so I was determined to make a success of it!
That sounds brilliant, Luke. Were there any highlights that stand out?
There are too many highlights to mention them all, but there is one that stands out. I recall being asked by my Manager at the time to do a presentation and demonstration based on the new Underwriting system that we had designed. I was used to doing such things and so I accepted the invitation without hesitation. It was only the following day that I found out that the presentation was going to be to the Executive Board of Aviva at the company head office opposite The Gherkin building in Central London! Thankfully the day went well and it certainly gained me a few brownie points with the people upstairs!
After your time in Perth and London, what made you come back to Leeds?
After nine months on the project in Perth, I was asked if I would like to return to Leeds to manage a substantial broking account for the company alongside a colleague. The travelling to Perth was starting to become a little tiresome and I felt as if I had explored all the possible opportunities available to me in Scotland so I decided to accept the offer.
Whilst I spent a further fantastic six months working for the company now back on home turf, I was fully aware that the family business was rapidly expanding and my Dad was now working more hours than ever before. I had a dilemma whether to leave the company that had given me such amazing opportunities so quickly into my career in order to change my path and explore the avenue that I could have done right from the very start some years previous. I make the difficult decision to follow my gut instinct and leave Aviva in order to run the family business alongside my Dad.
So, finally, how did that decision lead you to your new role here at innergy Group?
The family firm that my Dad established over thirty years ago has recently merged with innergy Group which has subsequently led me to my new role within the combined firm. The expansion of the family business since I joined as a full time employee has been quite surreal. The business was set-up over thirty years ago, but it has never seen such a vast upturn in custom as it has over the last twelve months. We decided to seek a merger with innergy because we believe that a larger organisation will allow us to provide a wider array of products and services to a wider geographical area. We hold similar values and philosophy for doing business with an emphasis on honesty and integrity and the importance of providing our customers with an excellent service. We conducted an extensive search within our region looking for an opportunity like this and innergy exceeded our hopes for a firm we can combine with and continue the tradition we have for excellent service and expertise. I am excited about the prospect of helping the company reach its ambitious growth aspirations and I am confident that our new affiliation will serve us all well.
In terms of my journey to working for the business, I just like to think that I opted for taking the scenic route.