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Direct line to start selling own brand policies on price comparison websites

Direct Line – one of the UK’s biggest insurers – is to start selling its own-brand policies on price comparison websites for the first time as part of a major change in strategy.

Until now, the company has prided itself on dealing directly with customers, rather than through portals like Money Supermarket and Confused.

But yesterday chief executive Adam Winslow, who took over in March, said the policy needed to change and criticized previous bosses for not doing so sooner.

“Over the past five years, comparison sites have continued to increase their share of new business from around 80 percent to 90 percent. To grow, it’s critical to win the price comparison,” said Winslow.

Turnover: Direct line will start selling own-brand policies on online price comparison sites for the first time as part of a major change in strategy

He added that Direct Line would introduce «bespoke» products on the site, but with a «clear distinction» from those it would continue to sell direct.

Other brands in the group – Churchill, Privilege, Darwin and By Miles – already use them.

The announcement was part of a major strategy as Direct Line reiterated plans to cut costs by £100m a year and said it would mean job cuts.

Winslow said it’s increasingly focused on digital, which means it will need «a different profile of resources and probably fewer resources,» including people.

He said no announcement of job cuts would be made without consulting staff. The company employs approximately 9,000 people.

Winslow is struggling to turn around its fortunes after a turbulent 2023 when previous boss Penny James stepped down amid a profit warning.

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And Direct Line has also had to fend off interest from Belgian insurer Ageas, which rejected a £3.1bn takeover bid earlier this year.

Winslow said he had suffered from a «historic underperformance» and had «lost his technical edge». He said the business would now «do fewer things better» and focus on home and commercial insurance and breakdown cover, while exiting or retreating in other areas such as insurance partnerships with car manufacturers.

Shares rose 3.3 per cent, or 6.3p, to 199.2pa, up almost 10 per cent year to date.

Russ Mould, chief investment officer at AJ Bell, said Direct Line was «finally pulling back» in what was a «fundamental change for the business». ‘

It has become second nature for people to buy insurance through comparison sites, which are now often the first place they can get a quote,” Mold said.

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