Peter Halpin unveils plans for high street broker's commercial arm

Full interview: Peter Halpin

New Swinton chief executive Peter Halpin has unveiled plans to become a leading player in the SME market within the next three years.

In an exclusive interview with Insurance Times, Halpin said he planned to double the size of Swinton’s commercial business and make it a top ten UK commercial broker by 2012.

He also confirmed that Swinton expected to complete about 40 acquisitions this year, despite the slowdown in consolidation.

Speaking for the first time since stepping up in April to replace Patrick Smith – now Swinton chairman – Halpin said: “We have got a number of niche businesses that look after taxi, motorcycle, caravan and motor-home, and specialist vehicle. We are aiming to be leading providers in those niche markets across the business.

“We are relatively small there at the moment but our objective is to grow them substantially and become a leading player.”

Halpin also said the company planned to add a number of online sites for SME businesses. However, he said it would not compete directly with consolidators and national brokers.

“We are very much the lower end of the SME range; we are looking at small package insurance and small local businesses. We do have some larger businesses but that really isn’t our target market. ”

Swinton has a target of £150m of premium income in its commercial business by 2012, about 10% of its total premium.

At the end of 2008, the commercial business had a gross premium income of £75m; Halpin said he expected that figure to rise to £90m by the end of this year. Swinton’s acquisition of the Equity branch network from Insurance Australia Group at the end of 2008 added £30m of commercial business.

He said Swinton currently had an acquisition pipeline of 20 to 30 brokers across personal and commercial lines and that he expected to complete between six and ten of those deals over the next two to three months.

“We are still very active on the acquisition front but it is at the smaller end of the scale rather than the bigger deals,” he said.