Charles Taylor’s pleasant but unassuming offices in central London have the look of a small but successful start-up firm, rather than a more-than-a-century-old professional services firm with a presence in two-dozen countries and counting, and roughly 1000 employees.

In these offices, group CEO David Marock shows a map in a company brochure with dots illustrating all of its offices around the world – currently 50 in 25 countries – although if he has his way it will need very regular updating. He joined as chief executive two-and-a-half years ago with a growth objective that is based is partly on providing more products and services for clients but also on geographic expansion.

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Rapid expansion

As a company, Charles Taylor dates back some 130 years, when it started out running mutual insurance companies for international shipping clients. That still accounts for a chunk of the business but over the past few decades the company has expanded into loss adjusting services and a range of specialist niche insurance support services that includes everything from investment management to claims management to captive management.

“Everything we do is professional services and it is all technical high-end staff – people who have multiple qualifications behind their name or decades of experience in a sector – and people come to us for that technical expertise,” he says. This makes recruitment of the right employees essential, and that drives many of the company’s location choices as a result.

Since Mr Marock took the helm the company has set up new offices on the west coast of the US, in Brazil and Colombia, as well as in Saudi Arabia.

“In Brazil we have got an office now and have set up some associates but now we are starting to staff that office and that’s taking us a while. Then we will be building ourselves down further into Latin America while strengthening our base in the US where we have a number of offices already. We are also looking into eastern Europe and Russia and at some point I’m sure we will look at Africa.”

Excessive demand

The company has also been building new teams in existing offices in the Middle East and Asia, including in China and Indonesia, which hosts the company’s biggest office outside the UK with a 70-headcount office in Jakarta.

There is demand for the types of services Charles Taylor provides in nearly every market in the world so the company is ripe for even more expansion. But with a small team – and only so many places Mr Marock can fly to in any given week – the company has to pace itself when it comes to its international footprint.

“I am South African so I have a preference that we would open an office there, for example, but there’s only so much you can do at any one time,” he says.

“We are a traditional small and medium-sized enterprise but also a great deal smaller than some of the companies that might be setting up a 1000-person operation, a new mine or a new factory. But we obviously experience all the challenges of going into these territories that a big company would, in addition to the complexities of dealing with financial services and insurance regulations.”

What that means, he says, is if the company cannot find an efficient way to enter a new market, it simply might not happen.  

But despite being caught in the middle, somewhere between small and large, while navigating the nuances of crossborder expansion, Mr Marock insists it is not necessarily an uncomfortable position.

“It’s a wonderful business and we see all the challenges and the opportunities that bigger companies do when they’re trying to grow their businesses in all these countries. It is quite an exciting place to be,” he says.