Insurance broker aims for place in top ten

A YORKSHIRE-based independent insurance broker, which was founded with only four staff, plans to become one of the biggest firms in its sector by 2015.

The Insurance Partnership, which is based in Hull, has grown to 180 staff, and recently opened an office in Leeds as part of its expansion strategy.

Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, managing director Rob Worrell said: "We are in the top 30 in the UK independent insurance market. We hope to achieve top 10 status in the next three to five years. However, we won't chase growth at the expense of delivery."

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The company was established in September 1993 by four partners who had worked for Minet Insurance Brokers in Hull.

Today, it has 150 staff based in Hull, with around 90 per cent of them working in the company's general insurance broking arm.

The Insurance Partnership has staff specialising in areas including haulage, logistics, agriculture and private client management.

For many years, Hull had a strong insurance sector, with companies such as General Accident employing hundreds of people.

However, during the 1990s, many insurance companies moved their Hull operations to cities such as Leeds, which meant The Insurance Partnership had plenty of potential recruits in its early years.

Mr Worrell said: "Most leading insurers were represented in Hull in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their exodus left us with a wealth of talent to draw from.

"We have invested in training, continuous professional development and attained chartered insurance broker status."

Apart from Hull, the company has offices in York, Leeds, Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Dalkeith in Scotland.

Mr Worrell added: "The Leeds office opened in June and employs 12 people with dynamic expansion prospects."

Most of the company's growth has been organic. Over the last 17 years, it has only one made one acquisition, in Sutton Coldfield in 2004.

"While we haven't acquired since we learned some valuable lessons that make future ones a real possibility,'' Mr Worrell said.

The company has more than 100m of client funds under management. The insurance broking division handles more than 35m of clients' money annually.

The company moved to a purpose-built head office in Priory Park East in Hull in May 2007, but kept its former head office, in Beverley Road, Hull, to house its growing IFA (independent financial advice) business.

Mr Worrell added: "Insurance is a very personal business and we were incredibly fortunate that all our clients came with us when we set up on our own.

"We have a strategy for organic growth but never say never to possible acquisitions. Over the last 17 years we have always made a profit."

Although he enjoyed "putting his colours up" in other cities, Mr Worrell said he had never lost sight of the fact that he was answerable to the local community in Hull.

He added: "Our model is based around finding enthusiastic professionals who put the client first. Independence sits at the cornerstone of our plans. This is not a business for sale.

"We want to have the same values and independence but achieve a far greater critical mass.

"Our strength comes from our closeness to clients and insurers which helps us to form a relationship focusing on the identification, management and minimisation of risk."

Earlier this year, The Insurance Partnership recruited Bob Blackburn as associate director of its office in Monks Cross, York.

Mr Blackburn, who started his career in Harrogate in 1968, was joined by key commercial account handler Nick Savage, which brought the total number of staff in the York office to 18.

Further jobs are expected to be created in York this year.

Mr Blackburn said he had decided to join the company because there was "a strong synergy" between his clients and those of The Insurance Partnership.