Square Mile’s specialist commercial insurance offerings feature in the YORKSHIRE POST Business News.
You can read the full article, below, or visit the original page at www.yorkshirepost.co.uk.
Insurance business takes off in new directions
BRITAIN’S insurance industry is starting to resemble the budget airline sector, where ancillary services drive profitability, according to the managing director of UK General Insurance.
Michael Warren made the comments after UK General Insurance, which employs 180 of its 220 staff in Leeds, revealed that, since the start of the year, it had signed contracts with a number of big names, including Everest, Ryanair and Debenhams.
The firm plans to hire more staff, but Mr Warren warned that it was becoming harder to make a profit selling standard insurance products.
He told the Yorkshire Post: “Insurance has been a challenging market for some time.
“To combat that, our strategy has been to specialise.”
Mr Warren said the business expected to increase its staffing levels to 250 by 2014, with most of the extra jobs being created in Leeds.
UK General Insurance, which has its registered office in Leeds, is the name of the newly combined business of PBS Holdings and Longhawk Insurance Group.
In March, UK General announced the launch of a three-year partnership with Ryanair to sell travel insurance across 22 EU countries. The company has also signed a big affinity deal with Everest, one of Britain’s biggest home-improvement firms, and recently launched an “off-the-shelf” wedding insurance product for Debenhams.
Mr Warren, who joined the group in 2008 after spending 16 years in senior roles at Halifax and HBOS, said: “Ryanair was a competitive pitch and was probably one of our biggest successes of the last 12 months. We were up against some large names in the insurance sector.
“The Ryanair transaction involved us constructing 22 different websites in 12 different languages and we packaged the whole thing together and delivered it in three months. Ryanair is an organisation that can work at that pace.”
Mr Warren said that, over the last year, the premiums written for the insurance business were just over £200m.
“We expect to increase that figure to more than £300m over a three-year period,’’ he said.
Mr Warren said the business expected to achieve steady growth over the next three years by attracting new clients and affinity partners.
UK General has launched a commercial insurance scheme for a national broker specialising in insurance for Bangladeshi and Indian restaurants.
Square Mile Insurance Services identified a gap in the market for specialist commercial insurance products.
Square Mile’s managing director, Jan Knights, has a strong relationship with the Bangladeshi Catering Association, which represents thousands of restaurants in the UK.
Ms Knights has visited Sylhet, in Bangladesh, to enhance her understanding of the needs of the Bangladeshi restaurant trade.
The agreement with UK General allows Square Mile Insurance Services to sell products under its own brand, on a delegated authority basis.
Mr Warren added: “Bangladeshi restaurants may have subtle differences in the supply chain. There are a whole plethora of different tweaks and twists that can be built into an insurance policy to tailor it to their needs.”
Mr Warren said UK General was seeking “specialisms around the edges” of the insurance sector.
He added: “A good example is helmets and leathers cover for motorcycles.
“An insurance broker may have access to a customer base of motorcyclists who might want cover for their motorcycle gear.
“We structure a simplified product for a broker to sell.
“Having seen the success of that, we take it to other parts of the country.
“But we don’t sell motorcycle insurance, because that’s a relatively commoditised market.”
He said Leeds had been picked as the head office of the merged business because it offered greater flexibility in terms of employment opportunities and cost.
“The skills base is very good, although there are gaps,” he said.
“We have to search long and hard for experienced under-writing people.”
“We may need to develop our recruitment strategy beyond Leeds if we can’t get those people easily enough.”
Merger cost 25 jobs
The merger of PBS Holdings and the Longhawk Insurance Group, in 2010, to create UK General Insurance, led to job losses, Michael Warren, the managing director said.
Mr Warren confirmed that the centralising of underwriting into Leeds led to a reduction of 25 roles in other parts of the UK.
Before the merger, PBSH had regional offices around the country and a head office in London.
The rationalisation also involved merging the support functions of the two businesses into Leeds.
Mr Warren said the company’s cost base was running 25 per cent below the combined cost base of the two businesses before the merger.
Read the original article at www.yorkshirepost.co.uk.