Esure rises above industry woes

In a court case earlier this month, it was alleged that as many as one in seven road accidents in this country have been deliberately staged so those responsible can claim personal injury on the other party's insurance.

Anthony Hilton: 'The idea of investing in motor insurance at this juncture is risible, so it has been a feat to position ensure as different.'
Anthony Hilton: 'The idea of investing in motor insurance at this juncture is risible, so it has been a feat to position ensure as different.'

The crash-for-cash scams are costing the motor insurance industry and its customers hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Separately, there has been a vigorous debate in the letters pages of the Financial Times about the decline in the number of young people taking driving tests. You can in most parts of the country now get a test within a week. So is this happening because the recession is making driving lessons too expensive, or because the younger generation is falling out of love with cars?

Neither, came one response. The decline is because the theoretical part of the test has been stiffened and educational standards are so low that many people can't get through it. They just drive without a licence.

The motor insurance industry was described recently as one of the most dysfunctional parts of the financial services sector. It is ferociously price competitive; it is caught between the rock of fraud and the hard place of claims farmers who maximise legitimate claims. Almost all participants have been losing money for years.

So hats off to the team at Citigate Dewe Rogerson, which has been masterminding the share flotation of esure. On the surface the idea that anyone would want to invest in motor insurance at this juncture is risible, so it has been an feat to position esure as different.

It is also a classic example of the Richard Branson approach - the business idea may appear mad but because it is him we will believe it could work. In this case the entrepreneur is Peter Wood, the man who invented Direct Line 20 years ago, which transformed the way motor insurance was sold in this country. Esure is his 21st century follow-up. The message is that he did it once, and now it looks like he has done it again.

Time will tell whether the business will flourish when Wood, who is in his mid-sixties, decides to loosen his grip. But we should not let that get in the way of what has been a very good financial PR story.

Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London’s Evening Standard

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