THE former boss of Kwik Fit Financial Services (KFFS) has launched a new car insurance broker which has plans to employ up to 140 staff over the next two years.
Brendan Devine has appointed a number of senior people at Sure Thing Insurance Services and taken on a lease for a 5,000 square feet office at Eurocentral.
There are 35 employees working there already and the company has an option to double the size of the office space if its growth trajectory meets internal projections.
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The business, which will trade as Sure Thing!, will specialise in car insurance and target higher premium drivers ranging from those who have recently passed the driving test to owners of powerful and imported vehicles, as well as anyone who may have accrued points on their licence.
Mr Devine said: "Our business model has been carefully developed to widen the choice and accessibility of insurance to an area of the market that I believe has had limited options in the past." The venture has received multi-million pound support from the Bermuda and London-based investment firm Primary Group, which has previously been involved in establishing Swiftcover and over-50s insurance specialist Castle Cover.
Swiftcover was bought by Axa in February 2007 for a sum reported at £110 million, while Castle Cover got snapped up by Ageas in a £52.8m deal three years ago.
Experienced industry veterans Steve Hardy, co-founder of Swiftcover, and Peter Hubbard, chief executive of UK General Insurance, have joined the board of Sure Thing as non-executive directors.
Alongside them Stevie Sutherland, previously of Ageas Retail, has been appointed as commercial director, former Towergate Insurance executive Eileen McFadden becomes operations director, Axa's Vincent Goldie has moved to become head of finance, while Michael Lynch, previously at Hastings Direct and KFFS, is marketing director.
Mr Devine, who has worked in financial services for 25 years including spells at GE and Woodchester Credit Lyonnais, said he has been working on the start-up process for most of the past 10 months.
After initially approaching Primary Group with a proposal he quickly gained their backing.
Mr Devine said: "As it turned out, they had been watching me anyway because of my previous background as it fitted with the kind of business leaders they were looking for.
"They were looking at this marketplace and I was looking at it, so when I came with the proposition they got it straight away.
"We have got substantial backing, as it will take a bit of time before we are in a profits scenario. We understand the mechanics of this and how much money it will cost us to get there."
Mr Devine outlined that there had been heavy investment in back office systems, market research and design in order to make the Sure Thing website is as customer friendly as possible across multiple devices and browsers.
He said: "We did a lot of research and saw that our [potential] customers love their cars, but they probably don't love insurance. We know most of our customers are online customers anyway which is why we have given the technology the weight we have.
"What we wanted to do was make it as straightforward and simple for them to buy insurance," he added.
That includes automatically populating as many information fields as possible from small chunks of information, such as a car registration.
Mr Devine was managing director of KFFS from January 2009 and was there when it was sold to Fortis, now called Ageas, in 2010 for £215m.
He then became commercial director for Ageas retail but left in April last year.