Group wants to break into Spanish and Portuguese private car and commercial vehicle market

Barbon Insurance Group chief executive Martin Oliver is to join The A&A Group as UK chief executive, giving group chief executive Tony Allen more time to expand the
business overseas.

The group wants to break into the Spanish and Portuguese private car and commercial vehicle markets after building up business in the UK and France.
Allen said: “It’s great for me to take a bit of a step back and move more into the international side.”

“We are really pleased, it was a natural progression. [Martin] will help build the group - we have known him for a long time.”

Barbon announced this week that Oliver had resigned and will leave the company in six months after he has worked his notice period.
Barbon has not yet announced a replacement.

Barbon chairman Tim Redburn said: “We thank Martin for his contribution and wish him well as
he embarks on the next stage of his career. We will be making an announcement about Martin’s replacement as Barbon chief executive in due course.”

In January, Allen and his senior management, supported by Darwin Private Equity, carried out a management buyout of A&A. The group is made of Hyperformance and The A&A Group Limited, previously Allen & Allen.

Moving to motor specialist A&A means Oliver can bring his knowledge of personal lines to bear from his time at Kwik-Fit. Market sources said that this made Oliver a “perfect fit” for A&A.

A source said: “Private equity demands track record. If you are private equity you have got to transform a business you invest in, so you look around for the right person.”

Another source said that Oliver might have chosen to change roles because personal lines business is looking more profitable than commercial lines at the moment, meaning any possible Barbon flotation could be delayed.

The source said: “I suspect that commercial lines is at a poor point in the cycle. So would Oliver slog it out for a better commercial market or go back to his first love, personal lines?”

Oliver joined Barbon in 2008 to turn around the problems inherited from its predecessor Erinaceous, which went into administration.

Aviva trading director Phil Bayles said: “He did a good job at Barbon. It is a well-run business that has put its problems behind it, with a sound management team.”

Last week Barbon overhauled its top management and created four managing directors for the four businesses within its property and commercial division.

Three existing heads of business have been promoted to the new positions, while Tim Wilson has joined the business from AXA, where he was strategic relationship manager, to take up the fourth. Penny Jepson from Barbon’s constituent business Deacon, Joe Murphy from FARR and Wayne Tonge from Keelan Westall have been promoted.

This week A&A also launched a telematics project. A&A will broker the products and Claimwitness will supply the telematics ‘black box’. To accompany this, A&A has also launched a smartphone app that lets policyholders monitor the standard of their own driving.

A&A group sales and marketing director Steve McPherson said: “I am convinced it will make a significant impact, and that can only be a good thing for all concerned.

“I am confident that our approach will lead the way in developing the telematics potential and we are extremely excited about its future.”

Last month Barbon suspended two executives after the FSA scrutinised how contents insurance was sold through one of its brands, HomeLet.

The regulator is talking to HomeLet about a clause in some letting agents’ tenancy contracts requiring tenants to buy contents insurance.

The clause breaches FSA and Office of Fair Trading guidelines, which state that a tenant cannot be asked to buy their own contents insurance but can be asked to buy insurance that covers their landlord’s possessions.

Talking points …

● Who will take over Martin Oliver’s role as chief executive of Barbon? Will Barbon look to promote internally or search outside the firm?
● Would Barbon ever look to float and, if so, when?
● The new A&A telematics scheme claims to be able to save drivers around 20% on their premiums when compared to standard motor premiums.