20 jobs to go as insurance firm ‘restructures’

The Hughes Insurance head office in Newtownards
The Hughes Insurance head office in Newtownards

Newtownards based Hughes Insurance has annouced the loss of around 20 jobs as the firm said it is to close six of its high street branches.

The “operational restructure” will see branches in Ballymena, Ballynahinch, Lisburn, Magherafelt, Newry and Omagh shut in April in a plan the firm said was designed to accommodate changes in consumers’ buying patterns as customers increasingly purchase insurance policies online.

There will also be a restructure at the company’s headquarters.

In contrast the firm said branches in Coleraine, Londonderry, Glengormley, Portadown and Belfast are earmarked for growth and will maintain a strong regional presence for the brand in key regional locations.

“In a relatively short period of time consumer behaviour in the local insurance industry has changed considerably,” said chief executive Brian McDowell Hughes.

“Ninety per cent of our customers deal with us either online or on the phone, with 50% of all our business originating online.”

As a result, he said there had been a steady decline in branch footfall, leaving the current branch network unsustainable.

“It is regrettable that these potential branch closures may be necessary, but the reality is that we must keep pace with advances in market technology to support customer demand,” he added.

The firm said it will make every effort to avoid redundancies where possible and the majority of staff in affected branches will be offered the opportunity to relocate to company headquarters or one of the remaining branches.

“We’re committed to creating a best in class, agile business model that allows us to offer our customers the best possible price and service,” added Mr McDowell.

“We also plan to invest £1 million in a new e-commerce platform to ensure Hughes Insurance remains one of Northern Ireland’s leading and most competitive insurance brokerages.”