Astonishing turnaround for insurers in just four years...

hastings direct aerial view of staff
hastings direct aerial view of staff

JUST four years ago, Bexhill’s biggest employer was making losses and struggling to survive in a highly competitive market.

But today Hastings Insurance Services Limited, of which Hastings Direct is perhaps its best known division, is flying high, bucking the recession, winning award after award and looking to expand still further during 2013.

Its remarkable transformation into a financially sound, dynamic and rapidly growing business can be traced back to a management buyout in February 2009.

The company had been established in 1997 as a UK broker providing private car insurance policies and related products.

But within a decade it was looking moribund until a team led by Edward Fitzmaurice as chief executive officer stepped forward and acquired it from owners, the Insurance Australia Group, IAG.

The new managers set about injecting new life into the business and by July 2010 Hastings had doubled its market share to 600,000 customers.

The key milestone of its one millionth customer was passed on March 1 last year, and now with a staff of over 1,400, the company’s success has been little short of astonishing.

In November last year Edward Fitzmaurice switched to the role of executive chairman of Hastings Insurance Services and his place as Group CEO was taken by Gary Hoffman, whose distinguished career in the UK Financial Services Industry has included 25 years with Barclays Bank and being the man chosen to rescue and restructure Northern Rock at the height of Britain’s financial crisis.

Mr Hoffman said: “At Hastings we are single-minded in our ambition to build a UK business success story.

“We are already one of the largest employers in East Sussex, but we have ambitious plans to serve three million customers by 2020 and are recruiting again.”

That has meant creating job opportunities for another 400 people this year and further expansion of its services, which now include providing cover not only for drivers of cars, vans and motorbikes, but also householders and pet owners.

Inside Hastings’ modern, airy headquarters at Conquest House in Collington Avenue, Bexhill (the company also has offices in Newmarket, Suffolk) there is strong evidence that Mr Hoffman and his senior managers have a committed workforce behind them.

The slogan: “Protecting one in 10 by 2020” is everywhere, and noticeboards attest to awards and activities undertaken by staff that would be impossible without genuinely good morale.

Customer satisfaction rates are claimed to be above 90 per cent and electronic displays constantly update everyone on the company’s latest performance.

Clearly conscious of its place within the community, Hastings last year launched its A Helping Hand scheme, providing cash grants and help in kind to deserving local individuals and organisations.

And now there are hopes that Hastings Direct will be the main sponsor of the 2013 Bexhill Carnival - one of the oldest such events in the UK.

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