IAG UK sell off leaves everyone smiling

See story: Duggan and Cullum linked to 23.5m Hastings buy-out

It was always tipped to be the obvious conclusion but the eventual management buy-out of IAG UK businesses Hastings Direct and Advantage coupled with the sale of Equity Insurance Brokers to rival Swinton left all the parties’ concerned skipping in to Christmas.

The MBO team lead by Hastings and Advantage chief executives Ed Fitzmaurice and Keith Charlton respectively, Swinton boss Patrick Smith as well as Australian insurer IAG all appear to be hugely relieved that the negotiations are over and each is now ready to take their business and go their separate ways.

The New Year however will bring new challenges and business plans will look a lot different to previous years. IAG may have lost the core of its UK business, but is confident in specialty motor underwriter Equity Red Star that it can drive forward under UK chief executive Neil Utley, leaving behind the ghost of Hastings and Advantage.

Swinton now has a new string to its bow. The personal lines high street firm has added 91 new branches with its £50m buy, giving it a total of 580 UK branches. The firm is no stranger to integrating new businesses in to its already vast branch network and Equity Insurance Brokers could well be the icing on the cake.

It could have been a different picture had the MBO team managed to steal Equity Insurance Brokers from under the noses of Swinton. It is thought that private equity backers were ready to pounce had the deal come to fruition.

However with Hastings Direct and Advantage, Fitzmaurice and Charlton have two businesses that can only go one way. Having struggled in recent years, they are confident that now is the time for their fortunes to turn and to do that they plan to invoke rapid change. The first challenge is to get the backing of the rest of the market, a prospect that might be easier said than done.