Who owns your insurer?
Important Note: this blog post was written in 2007 – due to the ever-changing nature of the insurance market, ownership of brands, and the way that insurers, brokers and aggregators operate is subject to change from time to time, and as a result, this information may well be out of date in many cases.
One of the complaints that Direct Line made about the aggregators was about the ownership of the comparison sites, suggesting, I suppose, that perhaps the price comparison sites might be biased in favour of their owners.
What many people don’t realise is that many of the competing brands of insurance advertising on your TV screens every day are all owned by a relatively few companies, and very little mention is made of the links between them.
Direct Line have been very quick to point out the following ownership issues with the aggregators, but after reading the whole of this post, you might decide that they have been lobbing stones from their own glass dwelling.
Confused.com owned by Admiral. Yes, that Admiral. They also own elephant.co.uk, Bell Direct and Diamond, the womens car insurance specialist.
GoCompare are “independent” but have received a £30m loan from esure. If they can’t pay esure back in cash, esure become a major shareholder. That’s according to the Insurance Times.
Compare the Market is owned by Budget. This one is a bit naughty, as all of the brands quoted are Budget group companies – but they don’t make that obvious – they also own Dial Direct, “Local Broker“, ibuyeco, Quote Mart, and Junction who run the insurance arms of the Post Office, Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Bradford & Bingley, Homebase and yesinsurance.com.
MoneySupermarket have just floated (in what was described as an “unfortunate” stock market debut, they failed to raise as much cash as had been hoped for, partly due to a recent Google penalty for link spamming which saw their web traffic shrink alarmingly!). As such they are independent.
So much for the main price comparison sites, what about some of the other big insurance brands?
HBOS Group owns Halifax Insurance, esure, Sheilas Wheels and First Alternative.
Royal & SunAlliance owns More Than
GroupAMA owns Carole Nash, Choice Quote, Bollington & Lark
AXA owns Swiftcover andhas a share in Venture Preference. It also offers quotes as Lloyds TSB Insurance and insurance.co.uk
AON owns Firebond & Footman James
MMA owns Swinton, its4me & bullseye
Zurich owns Endsleigh
Fortis owns RIAS
Kwik-Fit Insurance Services owns Express Insurance
BDML Connect owns Lancaster
Fresh Insurance owns Ladybird and First Insurance
IAG owns Hastings Direct, People’s Choice, Diamond, Advantage, Open & Direct and Equity
There are loads more like this, but finally we come to
RBS Group – the Royal Bank of Scotland Group includes our old friends Direct Line, plus Churchill, Privilege, NIG as well as insurance sold branded as Tesco Insurance, Natwest, Virgin Money, MBNA, BMW Insurance, MINI Insurance, Mint, Egg, Nationwide, Age Concern, Vauxhall Insurance and several others!
Of course, I’m sure none of those brand affinity deals count as middle men, at least to Direct Line’s way of thinking. And I’m sure Direct Line think that everyone must know that they are part of a larger insurance group, otherwise they wouldn’t have made such a big fuss over the ownership of the price comparison sites. And I’m sure that none of the RBS Group would ever use a price comparison site, much less run one, given the arguments put forward so forcefully by Direct Line.
RBS Insurance, whose brands include Direct Line and Churchill, is understood to have invested millions of pounds in the venture.
All this makes me very grateful to work for a family owned specialist car insurance company – my life would be very confusing if I had to reconcile multiple sets of brand values that were pulling in different and mutually contradictory directions!
But for the customer – beware and make sure that when you ring round you are actually getting quotes from more than one company. And if you call us on 08000 838 833, we’ll impartially check our panel of over 40.
Update 21/09: Well what do you know! Tesco Compare has launched with a whole load of RBS Group brands offering quote comparisons “that you can’t get anywhere else” (although no Direct Line, of course) along with a large quota of HBOS companies.
Update 04/09/2008 – brands moved, bought etc. since last time I checked have now been added.