UK independent protection specialist LifeSearch is to open a new operation in South Africa with a view to developing further overseas operations, the firm has announced.
The office, which is initially providing both advice and customer services to UK clients only, has eight advisers, and went live last month.
Tom Baigrie, LifeSearch’s South Africa-raised chief executive, pictured left, said the company’s executives “first began seriously discussing the idea of expanding to South Africa in 2015, as it’s a place I know very well”.
He added that it was a good fit for LifeSearch, pointing out that Cape Town is a predominately English-speaking city, while the University (UCT) is “English as First Language and well regarded internationally.
“Cape Town is also on a similar time zone to Britain and South Africa has a very strong history in protection insurance as it is where critical illness cover was invented.
Bringing something back to his home town
“We plan to recruit over 50 advisers this year across our four locations: London, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Cape Town and though it will remain our smallest branch I do love that LifeSearch’s growth allows me to put something back into my home town.”
While the Cape Town office will service UK-based clients only, LifeSearch is not ruling out further expansion into international markets.
An open mind to international expansion
Emma Thomson, life office relationship director at LifeSearch, said: “LifeSearch has international ambitions, but as yet no experience of operating internationally, so initially we plan to do what we know how to do well, from an overseas base that we also know well.
“Once that office is established and successful, we will ask that team to work out how we can continue to grow beyond the UK.
“When they’ve shown us how to do that, we will have a blueprint for expansion into other countries, and eventually other languages, although we have no concrete plans beyond these initial ideas yet.”
Adam Winslow, CEO of AIG Life, one of the insurers with whom LifeSearch regularly works, said that it was good to see LifeSearch investing in a new team and overseas location to help serve the UK protection market.
“It’s a constant challenge to grow our market, reach more consumers and ensure more customers and families are protected, LifeSearch are finding bold ways to achieve this. We wish them well with their new operation in South Africa and I look forward to visiting the new office in person in November.”
LifeSearch has more than 250,000 customers and more than £10bn of cover arranged. It was founded in 1998 by Tom Baigrie and Arthur Davies.