Focus on price comparison websites helps boost insurer Hastings

Hastings' Direct's offices in Newmarket.

Hastings' Direct's offices in Newmarket. - Credit: Hastings Direct

Insurer Hastings has lifted revenues and profits after efforts to drive growth through price comparison websites paid off.

Hastings' Direct chief executive Gary Hoffman.

Hastings' Direct chief executive Gary Hoffman. - Credit: Hastings Direct

The Sussex-based group, which has offices in Newmarket employing around 100 staff, said pre-tax profits rose by 36% to £57.9m for the half year, thanks to a 28% jump in gross written premiums to £462m.

Net revenues also climbed by 22% to £345.2m after its market share expanded from 6.2% to 7% over the period. Chief executive Gary Hoffman said the firm was on track to hit its “ambitious 2019 targets” and deliver strong growth in the second half of the year.

He said: “Our significant presence and strategic focus on price comparison websites, together with our straightforward insurance offering appeals to customers and we continue to grow our market share by both attracting new customers and maintaining strong retention levels.”

The firm, based at Bexhill, which employs around 2,900 staff and also has offices in Leicester and Gibraltar, said live customer policies stepped up by 15% to £2.5m for the first six months of the year.

Shares were up close to 1% in early afternoon trading on the London Stock Exchange, with investors cheering a 24% rise in the interim dividend to 4.1p.

The group also made a “significant improvement” to its Solvency II requirements.

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Under Solvency II, which requires insurance companies to prove they can withstand a major financial shock, the firm increased its coverage ratio to 173%, up from 140% over the period last year.

Peel Hunt analyst Andreas van Embden said it was “another strong set of results from Hastings”.

He added: “We stay positive as Hastings remains one of the standout insurers in the competitive UK motor market.”