….and a picture to prove it
Ten years ago Darren Roberts sat down with his first customer and did his first deal as head of a new Liverpool insurance broking service. A decade later, almost to the day, we were chatting about how far the company had developed when the same customer walked in to discuss his insurance. Darren even dug out the photo that was taken on that first day and it proved that if you get the product right you are more than likely to generate customer loyalty.
Darren had been asked by business owner Phil Catterall to set up the Liverpool office in 1995.It was a difficult time for insurance brokers, he explained: “Broking changed in the early 1990s with Direct Line, when brokers were part of the supply chain. “We had to look at other products we could sell that would be ‘Direct’ proof. Private cars can now go to Tesco for insurance cover, but we wanted to stay in motor insurance where we could give specialist advice.”
The firm’s main product was taxi insurance, but it has since diversified into the motor trade, so-called “white van man” self-employed businesses, haulage and commercial vehicles and motorbikes. In 1995 the business comprised a Bury office and the fledgling Liverpool site which were joing over the next five years by offices in Leeds, Birmingham and Basingstoke. But by 2003 the firm was reorganised to leave a small Manchester office of six staff and Liverpool as the headquarters employing 50 staff at its Green Lane site in Old Swan.
Turnover has been static for the past two years at £15m, but Darren explained: “Business has been profitable because we are writing the same amount of business from two sites rather than five.”
The business is also tentatively testing the water on the internet, first by selling motorbike insurance online: “Insurance brokers tend to be traditional, but all the indications so far show there is a fast shift towards the net,” said Darren.
Having consolidated, he said the next challenge is to double turnover in the next four yesrs through organic and acquisitional growth.
“We aim to expand in motor traders, from one-man bands to dealerships and also offer insurance for small businesses on bricks and mortar and liablities,” he said.
But with Liverpool boasting the second biggest concentration of taxis outside London, Darren said the cab market will still remain a key part of the firm’s future.