Broker shifts online products to panels after sales drop

Online Purchase

Broking group Brightside has dropped Aviva and Southern Rock as sole underwriters of its online home and van products respectively after a slump in sales.

Both companies will still underwrite the products, however. The products will instead be underwritten by a panel of insurers.

Brightside is now planning to launch new versions of eHome and eVan. Chief executive Martyn Holman (pictured) expects the new eHome product to go live this October, and the eVan proposition to launch in time for the new year.

Aviva will be on the eHome panel and Southern Rock may continue underwriting eVan policies.

Brightside revealed in its first-half 2012 results that online home policy sales slumped by 74% to 2,570. The company blamed this on Aviva’s “significant” price hikes, which it argued made the product uncompetitive.

In response, Holman said the company had taken the eHome product offline and moved it into Brightside’s household division, where it is now being brokered to Brightside’s panel of household insurers.

“What we are intending to do is move back into the online market with a new product and I’m hopeful that will be live within the next month,” he said.

A spokesman for Aviva said: “We are supportive of the decision to move to a panel.”

Van policy sales dropped 6% to 58,653 in the first half of 2012 (H1 2011: 62,486). Holman blamed the slump on waning appetite from Southern Rock for eVan policies.

I’m hopeful eHome will be live within the next month”

Martyn Holman, Brightside

Martyn Holman, Brightside

“We will be looking at relaunching the eVan proposition in time for the new year,” he said.

Holman added that Gibraltar-based Southern Rock, part-owned by Brightside co-founder and finance director Paul Chase-Gardener, may continue to underwrite the eVan product but that its participation would be “significantly reduced”.

He said: “We are looking at new principal providers of capacity in that product. We have a couple lined up but nothing is signed as yet.”
Overall, first-half 2012 policy sales at Brightside were down 5% at 227,610 (H1 2011: 240,665).

Despite the fall, Brightside’s profit after tax rose 11% to £5.6m (H1 2011: £5m). Future results could be boosted by the successful launch of its Asda Money and Debenhams-branded insurance products in July.

Holman said Brightside was also working on further white-label deals. “We are in advanced discussions with a couple of other brands to provide both online solutions and a back-up telesales solution,” he said.