A fond farewell to Peter Bird on his retirement
27 May 21  /  News

On behalf of everyone at Mathews Comfort, I would like to wish Peter all the very best on his retirement. It has been a privilege and an honour to work with you over the years, Peter. Certainly, your hard work, professionalism and business ethics helped shape the firm into the successful, customer-orientated company it is today, and for that we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

No doubt about it, Peter, you will be very much missed and the office won’t be quite the same without you. It’s a real shame that, due to Covid, we couldn’t give you the send-off you deserve, but we will remember you with fondness, appreciation and respect. Enjoy your retirement and enjoy spending time with your family. You can look back on your time at Mathews Comfort with immense pride and satisfaction. Happy retirement!

Regards Dan and the team.

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A career in Peter’s words

Leaving school at 18 in 1969 was nothing like today. The question was “what job are you taking” rather than “have you got a job”. I was offered positions in shipping, banking, and insurance. I had no preference; the insurance job offered an extra £60 a year so my future was decided!

I entered the insurance profession via the Phoenix Life underwriting department. I learnt an unhealthy amount about medical conditions that still feeds my hypochondria to this day. I also recall the initial fear of business telephone calls, and the delights in the wonderful staff canteen and social club!

Fast forward to 1978, where following 2 relocations, I was an Inspector with Phoenix based in Oxford. My job was to support firms like Mathews Comfort, which meant encouraging them to sell Phoenix plans to their clients. Phoenix wanted me to move to Manchester and as a chattel (sorry servant) of the company, I had little choice, a refusal could damage my career.

Many of you will recall my understanding of geography is not what it should be, and as a North London boy, Watford was about as far north as I could comprehend, let alone Manchester! I was explaining my predicament to Derek Winter who simply said, “why don’t you join us?”. John Comfort was retiring, so everyone was moving up, and there was a place for me!

I accepted almost immediately. I wanted to stay in Oxfordshire and felt comfortable when I visited the Mathews Comfort offices. My notice period caused many sleepless nights, colleagues at Phoenix thought I was insane to give up a gold-plated career, and they somewhat undermined my confidence; had I made the right choice?

Money was not the incentive; I just wanted a settled life in Oxfordshire. My first day was 1st April 1978, it was not an April fools’ joke, I really had a good job!

Some years later most of my Phoenix colleagues were culled in a night of the long knives when Sun Alliance absorbed Phoenix, so much for a gold-plated job! By contrast I was doing well through hard work, a strong team at Mathews Comfort, and most importantly, marvelous clients.

Many of you will recall the early team of Derek Winter, Tony Waddington, Terry Tibbets, Paul Melville, Maurice Slaymaker, Christine Walker and many more. We were imbued with the deep sense of honesty and sound business ethics from John Comfort. My short period working with John before he retired, and my long association with Derek and Tony, helped me understand our clients’ needs must come first, and if they were happy, everything else clicked into place!

Over the years, along with my colleagues, we maintained the independence of our company, and I rose to the giddy height of Chairman, and became a controlling director. As with my predecessors, I came to an amicable agreement with my colleagues, and some years ago passed on my shares, and stepped down as Chairman and Director. I could do this safe in the knowledge that Dan Weston, Christine Walker, and the team could manage the firm very competently.

I continued with the part of the job I loved, talking! I am sure many of you are nodding your heads and share fond memories of the time we spent together. However, I was finding the technology difficult to comprehend, and the training was beyond my willingness to encompass. My colleagues were always patient with me, and willing to help, but the fun was diminishing, and the time had come to retire.

Thanks to Covid, my retirement was nothing like we planned. The last few weeks were emotional. It is hard to say goodbye, and thank you, to clients I could not visit, and no hugging of colleagues! I miss you all, especially the office banter which is hard to replace in retirement!

My greatest pleasure is my retirement gift of the many paintings by Ruth Piper and David Langford. They were right for the St Aldate’s office, but fortunately for me, they were out of place in our modern North Leigh office. I will be able to spend my retirement years with the constant reminder of the good times associated with these paintings.

I am so pleased I made that life changing decision back in 1978 and cannot express the depth of my gratitude to all the wonderful people I have worked with, especially our clients, who placed their trust and faith in me. Without you all, I would have been nothing.

We are planning a family get together when the Covid rules permit, and my toast with them will be:

“To all the wonderful people I have encountered during my career. Without them I would be much the poorer……. and I hope they feel the same!

Thank you all, and please remember me with fondness, I always did my best!

Peter Bird

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