Argo Group

High Performing Talent Leads to Stock Improvement

The Company

Since 1957, Argo has worked with independent agents, wholesale brokers and retail brokerage partners to become a leader in the international specialty insurance marketplace.

When Mark Watson took over the company in 2000, the stock had tanked. Watson approached Brad Smart at a YPO presentation saying, "I want to create a successful company."

No. of Employees: 1,300
Industry: Global Insurance


  • Improved from 51% to 96% A Players hired and promoted in management (AVP and above)
  • 15%+ compounded stock performance since Topgrading
  • Sales increase from $200 million in 2000 to $3 billion in 2020

Solutions and Results

Argo contracted Topgrading to:

  • License the Topgrading software platform
  • Train all managers in the hiring methodology
  • Over time, certify internal trainers for Topgrading train-the-trainer
  • Conduct Topgrading Interviews of candidates for senior positions, where the cost of a hiring mistake was extremely high
  • Periodically assess and coach the top team

Use of the Topgrading methodology led to an improvement in Argo's hiring and promoting from 51% to 96% high performers. The improved talent drove the company's success, leading to sales increase from $200 Million in 2000 to $3 Billion in 2020, and 15%+ compounded stock performance since Topgrading began.

"Argo is more successful as a company because Topgrading has resulted in a higher percentage of A Players."

- Mark Watson, CEO

Quotes from Interview with CEO Mark Watson

  • We’re a capital intensive company, but a lot of our capital is intellectual capital, our people, and so much of our success is making sure we have the very best people that we can have.
  • We use Topgrading at all levels of the organization. It starts with me. I’ve done Topgrading Interviews on every single employee that reports to me directly — even incumbent employees on my management team. I expect all managers to do the same with their subordinates and cascade it all the way down through the organization.
  • Topgrading taught us to measure the costs of all mis-hires, and of course we’ve had a few, even after launching Topgrading. The financial costs and the time wasted are always way above what we initially thought. That exercise motivates us to stick with the Topgrading disciplines.
  • With Topgrading, you don’t need as many people. Instead of 12 on a team you might just need 8 people – and at least 7 are A Players. Not only are As more productive individually but they work better as team players. And A teams are happier – they like working with one another and like being in a successful company, where there are growth opportunities.
  • Just because somebody is a C Player in the role they're in – assuming they’re committed to the company – doesn’t mean that you can’t retool them into another role in the company where they would be an A Player. We use Topgrading methods to assess and coach a lot of people, and not only have we transferred some Bs and Cs into jobs where they became As, a few Bs and Cs were coached and became As in their current job.
  • We Topgrade in all the countries we’re in. Initially there is resistance but as soon as they see the results, managers everywhere get on board.
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