Telebroker FirstQuote has become the first company in the UK to sell insurance interactively through digital television.
The broker has beaten the favourite Screentrade, the subsidiary of Misys, in the race.
FirstQuote first went live on Tuesday on Kingston TV – the regional cable firm covering Humberside, but which is soon to go national. It launched with household and pet cover and promised motor available from today (Thursday), motorbike insurance by the middle of next week and the rest of its smaller lines, such as breakdown cover, by the end of the month.
Screentrade intends to launch on Monday on Cable & Wireless, with just motor cover available, and even then, with the customer having to telephone to make the purchase. It will bring in household and travel in June when it also launches on Telewest. FirstQuote says it will launch a full service on Telewest before the end of the month, a full two months ahead of Screentrade.
FirstQuote has developed its technology in-house and has also established a live internet site, which is selling motorbike insurance, but is soon to have the full range.
Both the digital TV and internet operations interface directly into FirstQuote's Misys back-office system, instantly. All the policies and documents will be the same whether the policy is issued by phone, TV or internet, and customers can use any combination to contact the company.
Chief executive Ian Meyer said: "A guy could buy on digital TV in the morning, phone up five minutes later to check something and log on after that to the internet. The details would all be on the system."
Misys provides back-office systems to about 2,000 brokers, and its parent company owns Screentrade, the internet broking site that has been running for two years. Many brokers have complained that Screentrade was a competitor to them and Misys recently announced that it would make the Screentrade technology available to its brokers.
But FirstQuote, the trading name of £30m, 180-employee MRB Insurance Brokers, decided not to wait. It has a five-strong IT team, including a programmer and an engineer who are ex-Misys staff.
"We tend to feel that the early players will be the winners," said Meyer. "Screentrade have been building a brand for themselves while everyone waits for the software to become available. We wanted a solution that wasn't from another company sitting on another platform."
Nick Mercer, Screentrade's marketing director, said: "It's not a race. It's about putting things up in the right way."