Ben Woods, Business editor
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
A major insurer is to create a new hub near Norwich as part of a radical shake up of its regional businesses.
More than 80 jobs look set to be lost across East Anglia after Towergrate Insurance announced plans to restructure its operation and consolidate some provincial insurers into a central office.
The insurance brokers said it was looking at a site on the Broadland Business Park as the new home for more than 100 staff from the insurance broking arm at Norwich-based Smith & Pinching and Waveney Insurance Brokers in Lowestoft.
But the move would spark office changes, which will also see these parts of the organisation rebranded under the umbrella name of Towergate.
David Wrathall, regional trading director, said the restructure was likely to be finished by early 2015 – and could also see Great Yarmouth-based Towergate Risk Solutions transferred into the new office.
But he dismissed concerns that the company could lose its regional focus, claiming customers would still be able to call the same staff they had dealt with at its provisional brokers in the past.
“It is in our group strategy that we intend to maintain a presence locally,” he said. “We are not moving out of whole areas in East Anglia. We will maintain a presence in these counties.
“We believe provincial broking is where we come from and what we do. The key to it is corralling all of these provincial brokers to enable them to leverage the collective strength of the £130m worth of premium power we have in the region.”
“The vendors who have sold to us have done so because they have realised the need for scale in the market – many of them still work within the business,” he added.
The move comes after the company announced earlier this year that it would be moving its telephone operations to a new call centre in Manchester, leading to 600 redundancies across the UK.
Part of its plans will see it consolidate from 12 national sites to five, while also reducing 130 of its brands to 15.
According to its half year results, group income remained flat at £223m, as operating cash flow fell 18pc to £36.9m.
Mr Wrathall said the company – which employs 400 people in the east – was looking to “recruit aggressively” in the coming months, as well as ploughing fresh investment into a new IT system and staff training.
Smith & Pinching was founded in Norwich by Barry Pinching and Gerry Smith in 1973.
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