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New rules a boost for esure loyalty
Esure said retention rates at Sheilas' Wheels had risen following December's introduction of gender-neutral pricing
Insurer esure said rules banning cheaper car cover for women drivers had benefited its Sheilas' Wheels business as customers chose to stay with the group thanks to minimum disruption to its prices.
In its first update since floating on the stock exchange in March, esure said retention rates at Sheilas' Wheels had risen following December's introduction of gender-neutral pricing.
As around 95% of its 700,000 Sheilas' Wheels customers are women, the group has not had to shift prices for female drivers as dramatically as many rivals, rising prices by around 4% on average against hikes of up to 20% elsewhere in the market.
It said it hoped to see further benefits over the second half as more policies come up for renewal following a rush to secure cover at the end of 2012 before the new rules came into effect.
Esure, which was valued at £1.2 billion when it made its stock market debut earlier this year, said overall premiums rose 1.6% in the first three months of 2013 and were 3.4% higher across its core insurance brands.
Motor cover premiums increased by 3.1% to £99.2 million and home insurance by 5% to £21 million, while it increased its total customer base by 1.8% to 1.8 million during the first quarter.
The group said it was also looking to re-enter a number of areas of the motor insurance market after recent civil justice reforms, which included the banning of referral fees for personal injury claims. Esure pulled out of more risky areas of cover between 2009 and 2011 when personal injury claims were soaring, but said the April 1 reforms should "provide the group with the opportunity" to expand its cover again.
Nick Johnson, analyst at Numis Securities, said esure had made a "reassuring start to the year".
Surrey-based Esure placed 50% of shares in public hands when it listed, raising £50 million towards paying off company debt. The group's shares have risen from 290p on flotation to nearly 311p, meaning it is now worth £1.3 billion.
Founder Peter Wood secured a multimillion-pound payday after the initial public offering, banking in the region of £190 million after reducing his stake to 30.9%. The esure business, which was made famous by the late Michael Winner's ''Calm down, dear'' television ads, was created out of a joint venture with the Halifax before Lloyds Banking Group sold its 70% stake in 2010.