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May 13, 2024

Insurer Beazley’s new, modern West Hartford digs aim to lure workers back to the office

HBJ PHOTO | DAVID KRECHEVSKY Beazley PLC hopes its open work areas, colorful accents and worker-friendly benefits will attract staff back to its new West Hartford office space.
Beazley PLC at a glance
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The marketing tagline for global liability insurer Beazley PLC is, “Insurance. Just different.”

Until you tour the company’s new office in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square, however, you likely don’t understand just how different this company truly is.

Beazley last month moved into its new 19,000-square-foot home on the third floor of 65 Memorial Road, a five-story, 172,865-square-foot office building in the heart of Blue Back Square. The company’s Connecticut office relocated from Farmington, where it had been based since 2006.

In October, Chief Operations Officer Troy Dehmann told Hartford Business Journal that West Hartford was the obvious choice for the company’s new home.

“It was obvious to me it was a vibrant, thriving urban-suburban location,” Dehmann said. “We are trying to build an environment where people will want to come in and also socialize and get to know each other.”

Sam Whiteley

That goal was reiterated during a recent tour of the bright, open office space with Samantha Whiteley, Beazley’s head of corporate affairs. She said the company, which was founded in 1986 in the United Kingdom but now has half of its staff working in various U.S. locations, values its employees.

It does that in a number of ways that include offering free lunches and six months of paid parental leave. Such employee-friendly benefits appear to have helped the bottom line: Beazley now underwrites about $2 billion worth of specialty insurance premiums in the U.S., or about 39% of its overall global business, Whiteley said.

Beazley, which is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, underwrites numerous mostly commercial insurance lines such as professional indemnity, cyber, property, marine, reinsurance, accident and life, and political risks and contingency. Policies range from small business event cancellation to political violence and deadly weapons protection coverage.

The company reported a record $1.25 billion pre-tax profit in 2023, with $5.6 billion in written insurance premiums.

Whiteley, who was visiting the West Hartford office from the U.K., said the goal is to offer a work environment that encourages staff to return to the office.

“If you go to any of our offices around the world, it’s all this look and feel,” she said of the open work spaces and collaboration areas. “It’s an issue all over the world about people coming back to the office, but here it’s a great, full space.”

‘Nobody has an office’

The office features a bright white floor, lots of windows, eye-catching decorations that include color-changing LED lights, a Scrabble board on a wall with the name “Beazley” in the middle and pink hat stands with bowler-style hats on them (more on that later). It also has ceiling-mounted speakers that play birdsong, giving the quieter areas the feeling of being outdoors.

Remarkably, though, there are no assigned offices or desks.

“It is busy in here; there’s a vibe in here,” Whiteley said. “We don’t want anyone to sit at their desk. People can chat and move around. You don’t have a desk for the day, that’s not how it is.”

She noted there are no desk drawers to store personal items and no trash cans underneath work stations, again to deter employees from parking themselves in one place for the day.

Beazley’s new office is located in the Rutherford Building in Blue Back Square, at 65 Memorial Road, West Hartford.

Staff are told not to eat at desks in order to keep the space clean; the office includes a full kitchen with tables and booths where employees can dine in groups or work alone while they eat.

“And nobody has an office,” Whiteley added. “Our chief executive in London doesn’t have an office.”

For those who temporarily need a more confined, quiet work space, the office has several “focus” rooms. The glass-enclosed spaces provide computer stations to allow for online conference calls. There is also a library with individual workstations featuring large monitors and headphones.

Conference rooms are named after various Connecticut towns, including Glastonbury and Simsbury, and feature wall-mounted tablets that can be used to reserve the rooms for meetings.

Whiteley said the 234-member staff — which includes underwriters and members of the finance, compliance, operations and marketing teams — is encouraged to work at least two days a week in the office, but many spend more time than that in the space.

She attributed that to the open, casual, collaborative atmosphere, but also to the advantages of the new location in West Hartford, which has one of the lowest office vacancy rates in the region, helped in part by its vibrant town center.

“West Hartford has all the additional benefits of being a great town where you can go out for lunch,” Whitelely said. “We wanted people to go out and get that from a restaurant they wanted to go to, and to be able to go out and maybe go shopping.”

All the benefits and amenities — there’s even a room with a pool table — and the big undisclosed investment Beazley has made in its new office space serve the company’s financial goals, she said.

“We want to grow in the United States,” Whiteley said. “We want to really drive growth in our businesses, and to do that you really need to swap ideas and work together. You can set things up remotely, but what we’re finding is that you can really spark things (in person) … that you just can’t get from Zoom.”

She added, “I think that’s why the collaboration spaces are just so important to the business.”

‘Slightly fun and playful’

As for the pink hats and hat stands, that’s a nod to the company’s roots in England. When it was founded by Andrew Beazley, Robert Hiscox and Nick Furlonge in 1986, it began in a small office that had little but a borrowed computer and an old hat stand.

Today, as visitors enter the West Hartford office through its large glass doors, they will notice a pink hat stand and two bowler hats in a seating area to their right. On the wall above a cushy bench is a pink artist’s depiction of the hat stand with words painted in black, “It all started with a hat stand ….”

Opposite the seating area is the receptionist’s station, which is in front of a deep purple wall with “beazley” painted on it in pink.

The combination almost immediately signifies that Beazley is not in a typical insurance office.

“It reflects our brand,” Whiteley said. “It’s slightly fun and playful. So, yes, we’re an insurance company, but it’s not meant to be boring, it’s meant to be exciting.”

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