Ex-independent staff share their memories of the day the insurer died. Christine Seib finds out about life after Independent Insurance
Then:Sales inspector with Independent's Leicester office
Now:On a secondment project at Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA)
I remember the day the company went into provisional liquidation. I was in a car park, outside a broker's office in Mansfield. I got a call from a Glasgow college telling me that Independent had just announced to the stock market that PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) had been appointed as provisional liquidatiors. I then rang the Leicester Office and was told I should return to the office and cancel all my appointments that day. At this stage, it was still unclear how bad things were. The journey back to the office was a touch surreal. I suppose I was still clinging to the belief that everything would work out.
The PWC provisional liquidation team came to the office that afternoon, giving us brief details of what was happening. In the preceding difficult weeks, we had all pulled together as a team, keeping spirits high and our attitudes positive. That morning we came down to earth with a bump.
There was a lot of anger towards the senior management. This was compounded when I had to get out of my company flat and give up my company car with very little notice.
Independent has had a reasonable amount of bad press, but I learnt a lot from the people there. The training was first-class and the people were excellent. As a result of my time at Independent I have become more focused on my career and have learnt that persistence and determination are key drivers for success.
If I could turn the clock back I would still have joined Independent (although I would not have bought so many shares).
Deep down, I would still like to know what happened. Nothing seems concrete and I think that everyone involved in Independent would like to know what exactly happened.
Then:Sales assistant at Independent's Birmingham office
Now:Business development at Heath Lambert's Birmingham office
I was gobsmacked when they announced the liquidation. We were writing bigger and bigger bits of business - 100%, with extra discounts for the full three-year premium being paid within 30 days. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall.
On the day we stopped writing new business, we drank a lot of beer. When we went into liquidation, people's moods went from disbelief to anger. I was living in a company flat and was evicted from that as well. But if I had the time again, I'd work for Independent again. Absolutely. Corporate entertaining like that will never happen again, we spent more per head of staff on entertaining than any other company in the UK, let alone any other insurer. It was like Marmite, you either loved it or you hated it, and I loved it.
Then:Head office liability underwriting controller
Now:Similar role at another insurer he does not wish to name
I was absolutely gutted when it finally became clear that the company was going under. While it was widely suspected that silly things had been done in the London Market operation, we were confident that the provincial account was sound.
On 29 June 2001, when I learned that I was not being asked to stay on, I was simply numb, but also there was a sense of relief at knowing for certain that I had to move on.
I moved into another job in about five weeks. It was noticeable that some insurers who had expressed keenness to recruit ex-Indie staff failed to respond to applications. I suspect their HR departments simply couldn't cope with the numbers.
I enjoyed my six years at Indie and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. There is still a strong sense of camaraderie among ex-Indie staff. Mike Bright was fond of telling the staff that the company's success was down to their efforts: it's so ironic and very sad that in the end he let them down so badly.
Then:Trainee commercial surveyor at Independent's Leicester office
Now:Working for a Nottingham broker
The provisional liquidation was not entirely unexpected as the meetings/incidents prior to the announcement gave everyone a pretty good idea of where things were going. Of course, this didn't really make things any better, seeing as I had recently moved to the East Midlands down from Cheadle only two months prior.
I was fortunate in obtaining alternative employment with Allianz Cornhill more or less straight away, as I could see what was happening with Independent and had the foresight to send out my CV. I worked for Cornhill from July 2001 to March 2002 but did not really enjoy my time there and am now working for an insurance broker based in Nottingham. I now feel more settled than I ever did at Cornhill.
I've now worked for four insurance companies and Independent was, without a shadow of a doubt, the cream of the crop, while things lasted at least.
Then:Regional liability underwriter at Independent's Cheadle office
Now:Underwriter on multinational casualty and liability accounts for Ace's Manchester office
I was shocked and extremely worried when liquidation was announced. In the first week of June, word from management had been that, despite the freeze on writing new business and adverse press, it was business as usual on renewals. I was despondent for a month or so after the collapse.
Of course, 100 underwriters from Cheadle were suddenly on the market in Manchester and Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) and AXA snapped many up. I registered at agencies, and, with four years broking on my CV, was recommended to fall back on broking short-term. I had two offers in August from brokers - that came as quite a relief.
I was going to join a Stockport broker in early September, but an old contact at Ace Leeds got in touch in late August, asking if they could interest me in a Manchester underwriting position.
It's taken time to readjust to pace of work and I was told to slow down a little when I first started.
I have no regrets about working for Indie. They were largely good times and great supportive people. I was lucky. I never bought shares and I went through a superb relocation package.
Then:Manager of environmental risk services at Independent
Now:Manager of environmental risk services at R&SA
Friday 15 June 2001 felt like the end of the world. We were called down to the restaurant in Cheadle. Phil Condon, seemingly as implacable as ever, stood at the front of the crowd and called the suspension of new business a `temporary setback'. The truth was we'd all seen the stock exchange announcements and most of us could hear the wobble in his voice, see the tears in his eyes. We were all stunned and, oddly, no one really had the heart to give him a hard time.
Over 1,000 people lost their jobs on Friday 29 June 2001. I didn't, but it didn't make me feel any better. I saw a lot of good teams broken up.
Environmental risk services (ERS) was in an odd position. We, like PCS, were a wholly owned subsidiary of Independent. We were solvent, and overnight, we became an asset that could be sold off.
PWC really didn't know where to start. Self-help was the order of the day, and the days and weeks that followed were the most stressful of my life. I had to resist the temptation to look for a job, and keep faith that the team was a much greater asset together than apart.
On the home front, things were also difficult, trying to resist the urge to panic when we knew the mortgage still had to be paid and trying to explain to my wife why we'd moved half way across the country for a job that no longer existed.
In the end things moved extremely rapidly and turned out to be much better than any of us could have imagined. Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA), quickly identified that we were a unique asset which would complement their business strategy well.
By mid-August 2001, the deal was done and the team and assets moved to R&SA's Manchester office.
Then:Commercial underwriter at Independent's Cheadle office
Now:Underwriter for R&SA's northern region
When it was announced that we had gone into provisional liquidation we were all obviously concerned about our jobs and futures. One of the most annoying things was that all the hard work that we had put in during the previous years was completely wasted. It was unbelievable that the company we had helped to grow could end up in such a dire state of affairs. I think it was summed up by MJB himself, who was recently chatting to an ex-employee from the comfort of a bar in Spain. He said something along the lines of: "The bubble was bound to burst eventually."
Although Independent put me through one of the most difficult years yet, I can't forget the good times, the way we were rewarded for our efforts and the great people we met there and the friends we made.
I don't regret working for them, quite the opposite.
Then:Cconstruction underwriter for Independent
Now:Account underwriter at R&SA's UK commercial property department
In the weeks leading up to the collapse, no one seemed to realise quite how serious the situation had become. One moment we were posting excellent results, the next we started hearing rumours around the market. These rumours were eventually part-qualified by our senior management, but with the firm belief that a rescue package was on the table and that the company would be saved. When news finally filtered through that the rescue package had failed and that we would be made redundant within two weeks I felt a mixture of anger and disbelief.
I look back at my time with Independent with some fond memories tinged with regret over what happened.
But I do wonder how such a situation could have been allowed to happen without people heeding warning signals. Will we ever find out what really went on in the preceding months and who was to blame?
Then:Administrative assistant at the Edenbridge branch
Now:Accounts assistant with Barrier Smith
I was gutted by the announcement, but not all that surprised. It was very easy to get another job and I love it. Independent taught me nothing that has been of use to me in my new job.
But, despite being made redundant twice by Independent I would work for them again and that's due to the people I worked with. They were brilliant and I miss them all very much.