As BGL Group celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, chief executive Peter Winslow talks about sustaining a successful business model and market developments
Q: To what do you attribute BGL Group’s 20 years of success?
A: We have attracted exceptionally talented people over the years and that has undoubtedly been the bedrock. BGL’s founder, Douw Steyn, has an interesting and entrepreneurial view of life. A sure way to get his attention is to say something can’t be done. He simply doesn’t accept that and he has a long track record of trying things and, if they don’t work, taking what he has learnt from the negative and turning it into a success.
Q: How much of a role has diversification of the business played in that success?
A: I think if you look at the four pillars of our company - the intermediated parts (Junction, Frontline and Bennetts), Comparethemarket, legal services and our start-up businesses - one of our big advantages is that we are quite well spread in personal lines.
The intermediated businesses have not found it easy in the last three years, but in the last five months we have seen an almost transformational change.
I think investing in the insurer hub has helped, which, combined with the anti-fraud side, has enabled us to achieve better rates.
But we will have to wait and see what happens to the legal services with the Jackson reforms in April.
‘In the wider market, I think it is harder for brokers because more insurers can go direct at a relatively low cost’
Peter Winslow, BGL Group
Q: What growth areas are you targeting?
A: The three areas we are focused on at the moment are French aggregator LesFurets.com, Verzekeringssite.nl in Holland, and Beagle Street, the life business.
Those are basically our view of where we think there is a pretty good chance of achieving good future profit streams.
If we can roll out the Comparethemarket model and make it profitable abroad, that is going to be a massive source of future profit growth for the group. We are also investing heavily in what we have in the UK.
Q: What is your view of the market, particularly rates?
A: The heat is definitely coming out of rates. It will be interesting to see how much the referral fee ban will continue to affect rates. It is a softening market and that can only be good news for the consumer and us as well in the long run.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing personal lines brokers?
A: Uncertainty in the legal market doesn’t help any of us. Nobody pretends that it doesn’t make them money. But what we don’t do is ambulance chase and try to whip up claims that don’t exist. In the wider market, I think it is harder for brokers because more insurers can go direct at a relatively low cost.
Q: What is the future for aggregators?
A: They are an entirely consumer-based proposition. Our model has no bells and whistles or commission arrangements, it is a pure aggregator. The great thing about consumers is that they will vote with their feet. If our journey is rubbish or if we are not producing the right rates, they will disappear. So I think it is a model that is here to stay.