The Ardonagh Group, owners of Bishopsgate Insurance. Carole Nash Insurance Consultants, Geo Underwriting, Towergate and more, anoounced the formal completion of the Swinton buyout deal, with regulatory aproval granted, just as 2018 drew to a close.
The deal will see the famous Swinton brand name continue, which is a decent sized player in the UK, with some 1.6 million live policies, 1500 staff and about £168m of annual turnover. The purchase price for Swinton was reportedly around £165 million, with Ardonagh raising cash via a debt/bond, worth about £175 million.
Interestingly Swinton still has about 60 branches across the UK, although it closed about 40 early in 2018. It remains an old fashioned presence on the UK High Street in many areas and Ardonagh will pull off something of a miracle if they manage to keep the declining branch network alive, as insurance increasingly migrates online.
With about ten percent of UK households steadfastly refusing to connect to the inetrnet, there is room for a traditional insurance brokerage. As most online refuseniks are over 60 years of age, the logical solution would have been for Swinton branches to double as Post Offices, but that ship has already sailed to WH Smith. Much to the annoyance of many long-time Post Office customers, who find WH Smiths stores exceptionally difficult to navigate – especially for the less physically able-bodied.
Maybe there is still time for Swinton to become agents for another service, which appeals to the older, internet-shy consumer, and so make the branch network pay its way? Lloyds Pharmacy, dog-friendly Metro Bank or Johnsons Dry Cleaners all spring to mind. If shops on the High Street are to survive in hgih numbers then brands big and small must find a way to share space, and thus halve their overheads. Otherwise the British High St is finished, forever.