ERS puts staff on notice

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Specialist motor insurer ERS has put 380 staff on notice of redundancy ahead of the closure of its Brentwood office, Post Online has revealed.

The company will enter a 45-day consultation period until 14 May for 350 Brentwood-based staff, who cover a range of business functions, and 30 London staff, who are mainly fleet underwriters, Post understands.

The closure of the Brentwood facility is part of a company restructure, which will see underwriting roles moved to London to be closer to brokers and operational roles moved to an expanded Swansea office.

The headcount for the new London office will be 240 while an enlarged Swansea office on new premises will house 398 staff.

Equity CEO Ian Parker said he ‘could not say’ how many redundancies there would be and that not every role would be relocated but said he expected ‘the vast majority of the 240 [staff] we’ll have in London [to be] current employees’.

The restructure is part of a three-phase approach to improve profitability at ERS, with the firm targeting a 90% combined operating ratio within five years.

Last year ERS posted its first profit since its acquisition by private equity house Aquiline. However, with a COR of 101.5% it still failed to achieve a technical underwriting profit, something the firm is looking to rectify, Parker said.

‘As a motor specialist insurer we think we should outperform the vast majority of insurers. The UK motor market as a whole has only made a profit in three of the last twenty-eight years so if you want to make a profit then you need to outperform,’ he commented.

Along with removing costs from its operation, ERS is also aiming to increase its marketshare, although it will not stray from its ‘motor only, broker only’ approach, Parker said.

While the ERS CEO would not be drawn on specific actions to achieve this, he said the firm had seen an uptick in interest since its rebrand last year, which it expected to continue.

‘Brokers are starting to think of ERS when they’ve got a specialist motor risk whereas in the past they wouldn’t have done. From what we see we think there’s considerable opportunity for growth.’

Discussing the impact on staff Parker said, ‘The move will mean employees face more change but, as our first full year profit for five years proves, our employees understand why we have taken the difficult decisions we have to turn our business around.’

‘The decision to focus on two locations has not been taken lightly and is the product of months of strategic planning. I am confident when I say that we would not be able to get to where we need to, and where we are able to if we did not take this action,’ he added.