Leaked document reveals detail of Ageas redundancy risk

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The insurer is closing offices in Port Solent and Stoke-on-Trent affecting 597 staff and is also looking to move and downsize its America Square, London operation.

Details have emerged of Ageas’ plan to close two of its branches in a move that may hit up to 597 staff.

A leaked document, sent by UK CEO Andy Watson to staff, explained the thinking behind the closure of Port Solent and Stoke-on-Trent.

It also revealed plans to downsize and move its London, America Square office and seek an alternative Manchester base.

It further detailed plans to outsource its IT function to Tata Consultancy Services with staff being placed in TUPE measures

Watson wrote in the document: “Over the last few years, the number of people in our business has reduced. This is due to a combination of factors: we’ve responded to the changes in customer behaviour such as consumers increasingly choosing to buy and service policies through digital channels.

“In addition, we’ve simplified our business to remove complexity, and invested in technology, to make us more efficient and ensure that our premiums remain competitive.

“Our business plan projects that these trends will continue into the future, and while our ambition is to grow the business, we expect customers’ digital expectations to continue to accelerate at an even greater pace.”

Stoke-on-Trent is set to shut by June 2020 while Port Solent will be closed at the end of June 2019.

Watson pointed out that the seven office structure the provider currently has is largely due to legacy from previous acquisitions. He reflected that the current structure is more complex, less automated and more telephone-based than is now required.

He added: “This situation is further compounded by the necessary steps we have taken to restore profitability in the partnerships channel.”

Watson detailed that Ageas has “too much office space” and had to reconsider its needs as part of a multi-year budgeting process.

He commented: “Of our seven operational sites across the UK, we own three: Eastleigh, Bournemouth and Gloucester and the others are leased on various different terms and expiry dates.

“It makes sense for us to prioritise the sites we own, and the longer-term plan is to consolidate our operations into Eastleigh, Bournemouth and Gloucester, our core sites, where we will create larger, more effective teams. We will also retain two leased offices in London and Manchester.”

Staff numbers at Stoke-on-Trent are 388 with 208 working at Port Solent.

The Port Solent operation is expected to move to its Eastleigh site 20 miles away with Watson stating that the provider was focused on “encouraging and supporting people to make the move to Eastleigh”.

A formal consultation will take place for employees at both sites. The insurer first revealed plans for a major management restructure in October last year.

The communication also outlined plans to reduce the size of its London base and seek a new site in Manchester.

Watson stated: “In London, the lease on our current office space at America Square comes to an end in September 2019. It remains important for us to retain a leased office in London (albeit with a smaller footprint) due to its proximity to our partners, brokers and other external stakeholders.

“It will also enable us to access a pool of specialist skills that would otherwise be difficult to recruit for.”

Ageas hopes to confirm a new base later in 2019.

Its Manchester office will also see changes.

Watson said: “Manchester also remains an important location for us, largely due to the specialist skills based there.

“We will, therefore, retain our current leased office until its expiry, when we will look for an alternative site in Manchester.”

It is understood that Ageas is not planning to reduce staff numbers in either London or Manchester.

In addition the restructure will see the closure of the Eastleigh-based sale and service operation from April 1 2019.

The plan is to consolidate this arm of the business into its Gloucester site with all business transferring from June 2020.  

Watson said that he felt “regret” at the impact the developments would have on some staff but insisted the changes were “necessary” in order to create a sustainable business.

“If we ultimately have to let people go as a result of any of our proposed changes, we will work with the relevant bodies to provide the support our people need through what we understand could be a difficult time.”

Watson concluded: “Finally, although in any business you can never rule out further change, I can conclude by saying that there are no plans to implement in 2019 any further changes of the scale and significance that we have shared today [22 January].”

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