Chris Wheal talks to Andrew McMillan about his life and career
Andrew McMillan is managing director of The Green Insurance Company, a new intermediary set up by Kwik Fit Insurance to target consumers who want a green alternative. The company started in August last year with 12 staff and is expanding to 28. It is based at Kwik Fit’s offices near Glasgow and offers environmental additions to a standard motor policy – underwritten by Fortis – targeting low-mileage users and those with less polluting cars. It conducts sales on the telephone and the internet, including aggregator sites and uses targeted advertising, not junk mail. The Green Insurance Company expects to have 20,000 customers by the end of the year, a turnover of £2m and is soon to add new product lines.
How did you make it to where you are today?
I am a product of Kwik Fit. I started 13 years ago as a part-time temp on the phone. I was at college studying for an HNC in business administration and I needed to earn some extra cash. When I qualified and became full-time I moved into underwriting area and was a team leader. I then moved into business development and got more technical and learnt about accounts and began managing some of our insurer relationships as well as pricing products. In 2002, I became marketing manager for Kwik Fit. In 2006 I spotted an opportunity in the market for an environmental motor insurance product and took it to the board. They bought into it and from about April that year I started setting it up.
What are the key challenges ahead?
To continue to grow. To get ‘out there’ what is different about us – our green credentials – and remaining profitable. In the current market continuing to make money out of car insurance is a challenge in itself.
What has changed the most since you started in insurance?
The distribution strategy. Direct Line had already started and Kwik Fit brought along something different but the introduction of online and aggregators has revolutionised it again. Linked to that is the way the industry has changed consumers’ buying habits so that they only buy on price. The whole industry has driven that.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out?
I never intended to have a career in insurance but I think it is a great industry. It is sometimes classed as being boring but it is not. There are lots of opportunities to do different things. Companies have a range of different roles, giving lots of career prospects, so I’d say make the most of that diversity and get as much experience as possible. I’d also point out what a worthwhile job insurance is. People forget the ethical side of it but insurance helps people and businesses in times of need. It really helps make the world go round.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
When I was marketing manager I pitched the idea of a large brand-awareness campaign. The board backed it and we invested heavily in it. I would probably have had better results specifically targeting immediate sales. The amount of money you need to sustain a brand awareness campaign is huge. The payback for it would have been five to seven years, whereas we might have had a payback within one to three years had we spent that money differently.
“All of our purchasing takes in an environmental as well as cost perspective
What was your biggest success?
The Green Insurance Company. I came up with the idea and was given the opportunity to set it up from scratch – and the chance to run it now. That is a clear winner.
Talk about some of your contemporaries and friends
I am a little more isolated in that respect. Chris Dobson of Fortis I admire. Fortis has been one of the few insurers that has consistently bucked the trend in car insurance. I have a lot of respect for what Fortis does and for what guys like Chris and his predecessors do – set themselves objectives and stick to them.
What is your unique selling point?
We do car insurance just like anybody else but then we add other green benefits at no extra costs. That can be from 100% carbon offset, extra discounts to reward greener behaviour, recycling of written-off cars or offering recycled parts when available. We try to be as green as we can. All of our purchasing takes in an environmental as well as cost perspective. We’ve put investment in staff training and added a significant cost to the business by providing all staff with a hybrid company car. Personally, my selling point is that I am enthusiastic and honest.
When you are not working, what do you do to relax?
I like movies and I like the odd game of five-a-side football and sometimes just going out with mates.
What is your favourite book/film/football team?
Book – Reach for the Sky, Paul Brickhill’s biography of Douglas Bader. I read it years ago and it is one of the few that has stuck in my memory. Film – Mr Holland’s Opus, with Richard Dreyfuss. Football – Scotland. I don’t really follow club football. IT