Old faces but new business - what's in store for Potts and Hutton?

Both Nick Potts and John Hutton had a number of opportunities within the insurance market to consider before deciding it was time to go back to their roots and begin a new era in high street broking. The pair are ideally placed to make a return to this sector of the market but is now the right time for a new player to be launching an assault on the embattled high street?

Potts admits that they have been called "brave" for stepping up to the challenge in the current market conditions. But many would also argue that there are not two better positioned individuals in the market at the present time to have a stab at launching a new high street broking venture. “That would be Nick and John right down to the ground, it’s what they know best,” said a former colleague of the pair.

Manchester broker John Wilson of Wilson Insurance Group along with his business partner Gareth Hooper will bankroll the new business, called NMJ Insurance Brokers, although Potts and Hutton will also be investing. Potts hopes that his and Hutton’s expertise of the branch business coupled with Wilson’s online background will compliment the business, although there are no plans to work with aggregator sites.

The model will be very much ‘buy and build’ with the first acquisitions already lined up for a September launch. It is set to target brokers in rural and market towns, an approach that Potts says will allow them to attract more loyal customers and offer insurers better loss ratios. “We know how to buy branches and businesses,” said Potts. “We know what we are looking for.”

He insists the business won’t set out to replicate the Swinton model of ‘bricks and clicks’, as more emphasis will be placed on the branch business and getting customers through the door. “[Swinton] have gone a bit more centralised in the commercial business. We definitely won’t do that. We very much see a branch as a one stop shop.”

Hastings Direct is also trialing high street shops, a move that was welcomed by Swinton chief executive Peter Halpin in a recent interview with Insurance Times. “It is an interesting development and one that we welcome. It is good to see other high street business flourishing,” he said. “I believe that there is room for a range of different business models provided that it is operated successfully.” However with Halpin predicting a continuing decline in the number of high street brokers because of pressure from the online world, could it prove to be a far bigger challenge than Potts and Hutton were expecting?

See story: Two former Equity directors launch high-street broker