Broker chief executive says that being acquired by Markerstudy Group has created a ‘formidable’ player in the personal lines market that does not have ‘any bounds in terms of ambitions’

Markerstudy-owned digital centric insurance intermediary BGL Insurance (BGLI) is this month (December 2022) celebrating the 30th anniversary of its operations in the UK – the broker’s chief executive Peter Thompson attributes the firm’s success to date to its “challenge anything” mindset, “giving people [the] freedom to act” and being bold.

BGLI initially started life as a risk carrier in South Africa, growing from an estate agency business that decided to start selling monthly combined home and motor insurance policies. In 1992, the business – then known as Budget – arrived in the UK.

BGLI’s expansion was not smooth sailing however – Brits were not a fan of BGLI’s monthly combined cover product, so it pivoted its proposition to offer separate motor and home insurances on an annual basis.

The business experienced further teething pains when fully realising the differences between South African and British insurance models.

For example, at that time, South African insurers would often pick up bent metal costs within motor insurance policies, but personal injury costs were instead covered by the state. This contrasted heavily with the UK’s approach, meaning that BGLI “lost a fortune” – around £50m – within its first five years in the UK, Thompson tells Insurance Times.

At this point, BGLI once again changed its model to become a distributor – it subsequently “sought [out] risk carrying partners [and] that’s when the panel model came about in 1997”, Thompson adds.

This was when BGLI began to find its feet in the UKGI market and “the business has grown from strength to strength from there”, Thompson continues. BGLI then launched its affinity business in 2002 and was acquired by Markerstudy Group in May 2022.

Peter Thompson 3

Peter Thompson

Ambition that knows no bounds

For Thompson, BGLI’s 30th anniversary milestone is “unbelievable” and “really something we need to celebrate properly”.

He says: “We don’t really know any bounds in terms of ambitions.

“[BGLI has been] a brilliant place to be and learn and grow and challenge. Everything was up for grabs.

“We didn’t have that mindset [of] ‘well, we’ve always done it that way’ or ‘the industry does it that way’. It was completely fresh and I think that’s one of the big things that’s been behind our success – [being] able to challenge anything.”

To celebrate its anniversary, BGLI is gifting free insurance to the 30 Budget Insurance customers who have held a policy with the business since its launch. It is also recognising its longest serving employees – Thompson notes that some staff have been with the business for 20 to 25 years – as well as arranging a number of gifts, parties and surprises for BGLI’s teams.

“[The 30th anniversary is] just a fantastic point in our development [and] something to celebrate with all of our colleagues,” Thompson adds.

Thinking big and being bold

Over the course of the last 30 years, BGLI has grown its customer base to three million and its staff headcount to 1,700. Employees are based across three operating locations in Peterborough, Sunderland and Wakefield.

In 2023, the business aims to hire an additional 300 staff.

Thompson has been working at BGLI for the past 15 years, although he only took the helm as chief executive in June 2021.

He tells Insurance Times that the key learnings over his tenure so far are to “always be bold”, “think big” and give “people [the] freedom to act”.

He explains: “The cleaner you can make your lines of accountability, the more performance you’ll deliver because people really stand up. When they’re accountable, they’ve got control and feel responsible. They perform in a way that they won’t otherwise.

“It’s like asking someone to have a look at the contract and see if it’s alright, versus asking someone to sign a contract. You take your responsibilities wholly differently if it’s your signature going on the contract. It’s a similar thing in terms of building clean lines of accountability in a business that allows individuals to really stand up, take the responsibilities and perform.

“What I love is leadership. I love the whole concept of leadership. I love driving performance through teams. That, for me, has been probably one of the most rewarding things. To see your people and your team grow, that gives you a real kick.”

A ‘formidable’ opponent

As well as celebrating the growth of the past, Thompson is also looking ahead to the future and the next 30 odd years of business – in particular, how BGLI and Markerstudy Group can be a “really formidable” combination.

He says: “The group is in a better place for the future than I’ve ever known it to be because now we’ve got all the strength and depth that Markerstudy Group brings and because we have got that really nice complementary fit with little overlap.

“It’s an exciting place to be if we can leverage all of that - that’s the challenge for the management team. We’ve definitely got the potential, we can all see it. And it’s unlocking that through working together.

“Markerstudy Group now is really formidable.

“You look at our trajectory versus others. I have massive confidence that we will achieve the number one spot in the marketplace. I don’t know quite when we’ll achieve it yet, but we will.”