Mike Naylor

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The Independent Online
Mike Naylor was a charismatic figure within the insurance industry and a man of considerable intellect and aggressive business acumen. He founded Endsleigh Insurance in 1965 and expanded the company from its student roots into one of the largest retail insurance chains in Britain.

Naylor was born in 1936 near Croydon, Surrey. His early days were overshadowed by the Second World War and his primary school days spent outside London. On completing his secondary education at Selhurst Grammar School in 1954, he went to Paris and worked at the Abbe Pierre Community, helping to care for down-and-outs on the streets of the French capital. At the end of 1955 he returned to England for his National Service. He joined up as a non-combatant in the Royal Air Force, serving as a regular for three years in its medical corps.

Between 1958 and 1959, Naylor worked for the London Underground as a lampman, cleaning the wicks of the oil lamps on the front and rear of trains. He often referred to himself as Lampman Naylor, and was able to quote his roll number without hesitation.

Throughout his formative years, Naylor had been deeply religious, at one time boycotting morning assembly at his school after informing his headmaster of the heretical nature of such occasions. It became his ambition to train for the Church of England ministry and in 1959 he went to Nottingham University to study Theology. In his second year he became the General Secretary of the Christian Association, the largest association within the university.

He was also elected Social Secretary to the Student Union. Naylor delighted in the responsibilities of the position, in particular the organising of the Annual Ball. He would reminisce about the splendour of the decorations he commissioned and it was said that the ball he organised was the finest the union had ever seen.

Naylor followed his success as Social Secretary by becoming the President of the Student Union. However, in those days the position of Student Union President was not a sabbatical post and the time spent away from his studies, combined with a developing disillusionment with the Church of England, resulted in his failure to complete his degree. He also converted to Roman Catholicism.

Pondering what to do next, he read a newspaper advertisement which was looking for graduates "who want to earn lots of money and have fun". He always said that the advertisement was written specifically for him: he joined the Imperial Life Insurance Company of Canada in 1962 as a salesman. He acquired a bedsit in Earls Court, west London, and his career in the insurance industry was under way.

In 1964 the National Union of Students was approached by an insurance organisation proposing to act on behalf of the NUS as its official insurance brokers. Many members of the National Executive were, at that time, both clients and friends of Mike Naylor and consequently they sought his advice. He explained to them that if the student body represented such an attractive marketplace to another company, then clearly they should form an insurance organisation of their own. The executive adopted his proposition and, on Christmas Eve 1964, Geoffrey Martin, the NUS President, invited Naylor to set up the first ever student-owned insurance organisation in Britain. In August the following year Endsleigh was born, taking its name from Endsleigh Street, where the NUS headquarters were sited.

Naylor then masterminded a unique cost-efficient approach to the handling of insurance business while also developing a product range (including motor, personal possessions, life and travel insurance) specifically designed for students who, at that time, were finding it extremely difficult to get sound and competitive cover. From 1965 to 1969, as general manager of Endsleigh, Naylor built a small network of campus bureaux and a national sales team with administrative headquarters in London. In 1969 he was appointed to the board of the company as managing director. His chairman was the President of the NUS, Jack Straw, now a Labour MP and a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

Endsleigh enjoyed considerable growth through the Seventies, becoming the dominant insurance company in the student environment. In 1971 Naylor also became managing director of a sister company, NUS Travel Ltd. Despite achieving dramatic growth for the next five years, NUS Travel went into receivership in 1976, as a direct consequence of the global oil crisis, and in order to guarantee Endsleigh's future success and financial stability Naylor oversaw the sale of the company to Goudse Verzekering Maatschcappij NV, a stable and reliable insurer in the Netherlands with whom he and the company had enjoyed a long-standing business relationship. Since then, the company has continued to build upon its success and now employs almost 1,000 staff, with over 140 shops throughout Britain.

In 1993 the company made the commercial decision to sponsor the Football League and, although a late developer in his interest in football, Naylor gained huge enjoyment from attending matches and debating the ins and outs of the national game with everyone from club chairmen to television commentators. His proudest moments were in 1994 and 1995 when he presented Endsleigh League prizes from the Royal Box at Wembley.

At the time of his death in a road accident, Naylor was in France with his key managers to discuss plans for Endsleigh's future and in particular new technological developments, new projects and new marketing initiatives. It was typical of Mike Naylor, and one of his great strengths, to build and unite a strong team of people who could deliver Endsleigh's future success beyond his planned retirement in five years' time.

Michael Jeremy Naylor, insurance broker: born Croydon, Surrey 10 April 1936; general manager, Endsleigh Insurance 1965-69, managing director 1969-95; managing director, NUS Travel 1971-76; died near Plaisance, France 14 July 1995.