Chris Baldwin

29th September 1944 – 9th October 2015

Fondly remembered and respected by all his friends and colleagues at Willis Towers Watson Health & Benefits. 

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"I first met Chris Baldwin in the autumn of 1993. I had recently joined PMI/CMM and he was the company’s new landlord, following the move to the Courtyard. At that time Chris used to visit PMI to collect his rent in person, taking the opportunity to have a good nose around asking me a lot of perceptive questions. His stature appeared a little intimidating  at first, but once I spoke to him he put me at ease with his style and we struck a rapport immediately.

"PMI/CMM was struggling in those days and Chris, with his strong business instincts sensed it, even though he did not have access to any figures. I think he also saw a business with a lot of potential, dealing with employee health issues which he could see from his experience in running other businesses were becoming more important. Even at that time PMI had an impressive list of clients, including Amec, Kimberley Clark, The Financial Times, Courtaulds and Greenalls.

"Within a few months, PMI reached the point where it could no longer pay its bills (including the rent!). Chris had made it known to Stanley Browne, PMI Managing Director, that, if the company needed additional investment, he may be interested. That need arrived in August 1994 and there was very little time – a significant sum was required to prevent PMI from going into liquidation. Chris looked at the opportunity and decided to take the risk, based on the limited information that I was able to give him. Once Chris had committed, a few other people also decided to take the risk and invest and the company survived.

"Very shortly after that Chris took on another very different challenge when he sailed down the Atlantic  with Matthew from Maine to Antigua. Not a challenge for the faint-hearted

"Once back from his sailing exploits, Chris took the controlling interest and quickly applied his experience of turning round other businesses, even though he had no previous experience of an insurance or medical company. Prior to him becoming involved the company had incurred very large losses. Following his involvement, the losses were reduced, the company then broke even before recording modest profits in the first few years. The approach that Chris took was a simple one. Know the company’s financial position and live within its means. I always said that Chris was a better accountant than me – he could look at a set of figures and pick out the key points straight away.

"It was more than just the financial side that needed attention though. PMI’s reputation within the market had been damaged by the previous regime and Chris had to work hard to ensure that this was repaired, meeting all of the key insurers on whom we relied for our existence and ensuring that we retained their support.

"Chris recognised straight away that a business involved in the service sector is only as good as its people and he quickly got to know the key people, spending time talking to them, understanding their points of view and giving them re-assurance about the company’s future.

"One thing that Chris did like was to be in control. After a couple of years, when we had made a small profit he decided that we should have a management away weekend.

"We arrived at the centre in the Lake District to be presented with a cryptic puzzle involving various shapes of wood that needed to be put together in a certain order. We failed.  The next morning, we attempted a few more exercises, a different team member taking charge each time but we failed miserably with all of them. Chris was not in charge of any of the exercises and after lunch he could not contain himself any longer. He furiously punched his fists on the table announcing “Right folks, I’ve had enough of this. I’m in charge now and you’re doing it my way”.

"He gave the team their brief for the next task, everyone quite shocked and listening very carefully making sure they understood the instructions. Needless to say, the team went away and made another hash of it! Chris wasn’t impressed, but remained quiet for a while - there wasn’t much he could say!

"From those early days, PMI developed into a very successful business and it has employed several hundred people in the Northwich area and beyond over that time.

"Chris was a giant. In his prime he was 6’4” and imposed every inch of that – there aren’t many people who can make me feel short, but he did! He was, however, a gentleman with it. We had many debates over the years and we did not always agree, but at no point did any disagreements become heated or personal; Chris would always listen to other points of view and would take them into account before arriving at a decision. There were, inevitably, some difficult decisions, but they were always made after very careful consideration. The overriding concern with any decision was always fairness, and this is an approach that Matthew clearly has as well.

"He had some great sayings about business. A couple that stuck in my mind were “If I had a pound for every good idea that someone had come up with I’d be very rich…. it’s making them work that really counts” and “Don’t go out of business by charging too little”.

"As well as being a very shrewd businessman, Chris was also great fun having a wonderful sense of humour. Meetings would frequently be interspersed with funny tales about people or things that had happened. He had a mischievous side and  you could always tell from the look on his face when was up to something. Chris enjoyed people’s company. He could certainly talk, but he could also listen and was always interested in people’s families – asking how they were and what they were doing. This helped to create the sense of family within PMI that  people have so often talked about.

"Chris’s achievements at PMI and the widespread respect that he gained in the industry were recognised at the 2013 Health Insurance Awards when he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. As he rose to the stage, he was given a long standing ovation by the whole audience. A genuine gesture of respect.

"You don’t meet many people in life who you could rightly describe as Great. In my life Chris has been one of those few people. It was a great privilege to work with him for so many years and I consider myself very fortunate to have done so. I learnt a great deal and thoroughly enjoyed it. He has also left a great legacy as we enter a new era and I am sure that I speak on behalf of everyone at PMI who worked with Chris to say that we are all very grateful for what he did for the company and all of its people over the past 21 years."

- Richard Munro, Managing Director at Willis Towers Watson Health  Benefits.