Chairman Neil Utley outlines ambitious growth plans for flotation by 2012

Hastings Direct is to float by 2012, non-executive chairman Neil Utley has revealed.

Hastings is targeting between £500m and £700m premium income by flotation.

This year alone the firm claims it will generate around £20m profits, a stark turnaround from the £2.7m loss last year.

The float will include sister insurance company Advantage and specialist broker Renew. Advantage recently sealed a capacity deal with Lloyd's reinsurer Faraday and Novae.

Utley said Solvency 2, the regulatory shake-up and the RBS Insurance sale had created an environment for nimble players.

Utley said: "All of that creates an opportunity for companies that are fast and focused and know where they are going and not distracted, and that is what we are going to make sure this business is."

The company said it has doubled its customer base to 650,000 and increased premiums to more than £250m. Staff numbers have grown from 600 to 1000.

Chief executive Edward Fitzmaurice is confident the company can become a top five personal lines brokers in the UK by 2014 : "We have invested very heavily in the business and our people to create a company that can deliver great customer service and grow profitable sales. We are passionate about our market and our company."

He added: “In some of the toughest economic conditions for decades, I am delighted to be able to present the turnaround of Hastings Direct. The staff has worked tremendously hard over the last 18 months and their efforts shine through in our increased customer numbers, retention rates and profitability.”

Meanwhile, Hastings Direct has appointed Andy Kirton as new business development director, to develop its relationship with affinity partners.

He joins the company from Homeserve where he was trading director and will report directly to the managing director of Renew, Adrian Parry.