Minster, the ABS, and the mighty meerkat

Now that’s what you call a proper market shake-up. We’re going to resist the overwhelming urge to use the word “simples” and, er, simply unpick what BGL’s acquisition of Minster actually means.

Like rival volume insurance firm Parabis, Minster is a wildly successful newcomer to the profession. It only launched in 2005 but last year broke through the £100m turnover mark.

Today its biggest client unveiled plans to acquire the firm after it had gained ABS licence approval. It’s a move that feels as if it was a long time in the making.

For those of you unfamiliar with BGL, it is the corporate behind the hugely successful ComparetheMeerkat brand. It also owns specialist motorbike insurance broker Bennetts and insurance partnerships business Junction, handing it around four million customers. Not surprisingly it has been one of the biggest growers in the insurance intermediary market, posting pre-tax profits in 2011/12 of £88m, up 22 per cent on the previous year.

The broker already has one legal brand in its armoury, Advanced Claims Management. Now it has a real biggie on its hands.

The creation of Minster Law came less than a year after Sir David Clementi called for greater competition in the profession in December 2005. BGL has been a client pretty much since day one. Which prompts us to wonder just how long these two lovers have been gazing across the dance floor at each other.

A bit of certainty about its future might explain why the firm appeared unfazed about being at the top of The Lawyer debtor charts last year, with borrowings of £69m.

With the branding strength of BGL weighting in behind it as well as having several new routes to the motor and home insurance markets, Minster looks like the ABS that many meerkat, ahem market, watchers were waiting for.

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