A life insurance and income protection intermediary is aiming to make Leeds its primary point of growth having just moved into new office space in the city centre.
LifeSearch currently employs 120 people in Leeds and has moved into the Broad Gate building. The company also has bases in London, where it was established in 1998, and Milton Keynes.
However, Leeds will be the “primary point of growth” for LifeSearch says CEO Tom Baigrie.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Baigrie said: “We estimate that we have around 5.5 to 6 per cent of the UK market.
“We aim in a few years to get to 10 per cent of the market and go from there. It may be that this isn’t our last office in Leeds and that we need another one in three or four years.”
Mr Baigrie hopes the move to Broad Gate will provide his staff with a good environment to work in.
“If you want your team to treat your customers really well then you have to treat your team really well,” he said. “Spoil the customer, spoil the team – I mean spoil in a good sense.”
He added that “coincidentally” all the company’s offices are on the top floor of their buildings.
“We like to give our people a bit of a view and have an atmosphere that makes work fun,” he said.
LifeSearch employs 350 people across the group and the company has a profit share scheme for its staff.
“We call it a partnership payout,” said Mr Baigrie. “Broadly speaking between a quarter and a third of the profits of the business are paid out in February of the following year to all staff who have been here three years.” The payout is inspired by the John Lewis model, he added.
“Putting people in lovely offices and looking after them does help with retention,” says Mr Baigrie, but other factors also have to be right.
Mr Baigrie is originally from South Africa, moving to London in 1981, where he got a job selling insurance. He launched his own financial planning business called Baigrie Davies in 1984 with Arthur Davies. The company was sold to Standard Life earlier this year.
Around 20 years ago Mr Baigrie had a watershed moment that would lead to the formation of LifeSearch. Mr Baigrie said: “Back in the 90s I helped a customer protect their family. The wife was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years later and then died a few years after that.
“They had little children and that was just the best day’s work I had ever done. I think I did more good on that day than helping any number of rich people get slightly richer or pay less tax. So when it came to setting up a business that we hoped would grow and become an important financial services business I decided I could get worked up about protection.”
The CEO of LifeSearch believes that doing work that has a positive impact on people leads to better staff retention as well.
He said: “The more important factor than lovely offices and good pay, we think, is whether people feel their job is important and doing good. Serving the community. People will tend to stick in jobs that are like that.”
Mr Baigrie uses the ancient Greek word Agape to motivate his staff. “The word Agape can be translated as the love of the good one can do for another,” he says.
“It’s really cool if you go to work thinking I’m here for the love of the good I can do for another.”
Mr Baigrie also encourages his employees to be honest. “That’s easy to say but to be honest you have to take personal responsibility,” he added.
He says that the problem with taking personal responsibility is that when mistakes happen they can be much worse. “That means mistakes have to be treated with tolerance. What I call corporate humility, i.e no one in the company can say they have made fewer mistakes than you have.”
We are Leeds...
The availability of staff is one of the motivating factors for LifeSearch’s expansion into Leeds. “One of the reasons why Leeds is key to our expansion plans is that we do find lots of good candidates here,” Mr Baigrie said. The CEO of LifeSearch also has a personal affection for the city as a result of Leeds United. He remembers seeing a football match involving Leeds in the 70s on the TV in South Africa.