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Direct Line to start selling its own-brand policies on price comparison sites

Direct Line to start selling its own-brand policies on price comparison sites

Direct Line, one of the UK’s largest insurers, is to make a significant change in its strategy and start selling its own-brand policies on price comparison sites for the first time.

Until now, the company has prided itself on communicating directly with its customers, rather than through portals such as Money Supermarket and Confused.

But CEO Adam Winslow, who took over in March, said yesterday that the policy needed to change and criticised previous executives for not doing so sooner.

‘Over the past five years, price comparison websites have continued to increase their share of new business from 80 per cent to 90 per cent. Winning at price comparison is critical to growth,’ Winslow said.

U-turn: Direct Line to start selling its own-brand policies on price comparison sites for the first time in major strategy change

He added that Direct Line would offer ‘special’ products on the sites but that these would be ‘clearly differentiated’ from the products it continues to sell direct.

Other brands in the group (Churchill, Privilege, Darwin and By Miles) also use them.

The announcement was part of a key strategy as Direct Line reiterated plans for £100m annual cost cuts, which it said would mean job cuts.

Winslow said they were becoming increasingly digitally focused, which meant a “different resource profile and probably fewer resources” would be needed, including people.

He said any announcements about layoffs would not be made without consulting staff. The company employs about 9,000 people.

Winslow is battling to regain his fortunes after a turbulent 2023 when previous boss Penny James resigned following a profit warning.

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

Winslow said it had suffered “historic underperformance” and had “lost its 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 shrinking other areas such as insurance partnerships with car manufacturers.

Shares rose 3.3 per cent, or 6.3p, to 199.2p and are up nearly 10 per cent since the start of the year.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said Direct Line had “ultimately caved” in what was a “big change for the business”.

“It has become second nature for people to use comparison sites to buy insurance, they are now the first place they go to get a quote,” Mould said.

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