Posted on Wednesday 22 June 2011 by Ulster Business

Hughes Insurance

Newtownards-based Hughes Insurance has revealed it intends to move into the Great Britain and Republic of Ireland markets over the next few years as part of ambitious expansion plans.

The company, Northern Ireland's largest independent insurance broker, made the announcement as it officially opened a £2m extension of its headquarters which it believes will be necessary to service projected increases in its business. Hughes said it already has a 20% share of the car insurance market in the province and is targeting 25%-30% of this and other personal lines insurance business by 2012. Recent growth has led to an ongoing recruitment drive, with 38 new staff members hired so far in 2011 and a further 17 expected to be taken on before the end of the year. Chairman of the company Leslie Hughes told Ulster Business the extension to the headquarters it moved into 11 years ago was essential because projections dictate that the firm may need to cater for up to 150 new employees in the near future. "The new extension brings us up to some 47,000 square feet and gives us plenty of room for expansion in the future. This is forward planning," he said. "We always send out signals of intent and we have always been very positive as a business. We have a lot of big plans for the future - this is about remaining competitive in a competitive business." Managing director Gareth Brady added that Hughes was looking at launching in Great Britain on a niche basis, but more immediately feels it has the credentials to set up an operation in the Republic of Ireland that will offer a range of products. "In terms of the GB project the timeframe is to be confirmed but the Republic of Ireland will be some time in the next two years. It could be in the next year, depending on market conditions," he said. "We are not just going in there on a whim, we already have an understanding with a number of insurers whereby when the time is right, they will support us to bring a competitive product into the Republic of Ireland market place. But the resourcing and capability will remain Newtownards-based." Mr Brady said that as well as the Irish plans, Hughes expects to increase its workforce because it is moving into new products such as affinity scheme business with the banks and is aiming to up its market share outside of motor cover. "On the Northern Ireland side we have a relatively low market share in home insurance compared with car insurance. But we know how many of our customers need home insurance and we can see a very clear path to delivering significant growth," he said.


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