Minster acquired by Compare the Market owner BGL

Insurance business BGL Group, the owners of insurance website comparethemarket.com, has acquired volume personal injury firm Minster Law.

Peter Winslow
Peter Winslow

The insurance intermediary, best-known for the upper-class meerkat that stars in its advertising campaigns, has been cleared to acquire the York-headquartered firm after Minster was granted approval by the SRA to become an alternative business structure (ABS). The firm’s employees will be retained in the acquisition.

Minster was established in 2005 and has since made a name for itself as the largest road traffic accident personal injury practice in the UK. However, due to the high-volume nature of its work – the firm handled 60,000 personal injury claims in the financial year 2011-12 – the firm has an extremely low profit margin when compared to more traditional law firms (15 August 2011). In 2011-12 Minster’s net profit was £2.2m, giving it a margin of 2 per cent.

The two businesses have been working together for the last seven years, with Minster managing the claims process for the group’s motor and bike insurance customers.

Aristocratic meerkat Aleksandr Orlov, the star of comparethemarket.com’s TV adverts known for his catchphrase “simples”, has helped bring huge commercial success for BGL’s comparison website. The group also owns various other brands including Dial Direct and Bennetts bike insurance.

Minster boosted its turnover by 27 per cent to break the £100m barrier for the first time last year, posting an overall turnover of £104.1m for the 2011-2012 financial year.

The business is the latest insurer to partner up with a law firm following a ban on referral fees earlier this year. In 2011 then justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said the existence of referral fees had contributed to the creation of a compensation culture and had forced insurance companies to push up motor premiums. By acquiring a firm that has an ABS licence, insurers are able to take legal work in-house, enabling them a share of the profit earned by lawyers.

Admiral stepped into the legal sector via two ABS joint ventures in April (8 April 2013), while insurer Ageas obtained the go-ahead to offer legal services with Cardiff-based NewLaw Solicitors on 28 March (4 April 2013).

SRA executive director Samantha Barrass said:  “Minster Law showed early interest in applying to become an ABS and it has been necessary for the process to involve a very detailed consideration of Minster Law’s application as it has a complex ownership structure.”

Minster’s chairman and sole owner Adrian Christmas will become non-executive chairman of Minster Law.