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Direct Line

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Direct Line is out of the ordinary when it comes to much of the rest of the British insurance industry. It has none of the history dating back to the 18th or 19th centuries that is claimed by many of its competitors - instead it is very much a creation of the 20th century and proud to have started entirely from scratch as recently as 1985.


So how did Direct Line break into an industry then dominated by long-established giants? The answer lay in its novel and innovative marketing technique of selling almost entirely by telephone, rather than through the network of high street brokers used by other companies.

20 years ago, selling direct to the customer in this way was entirely new and one of the company's main marketing pitches was that this cut out the commissions otherwise paid to "middle men" and, thus, cheaper insurance premiums for Direct Line's clients.

In today's age of internet sales, it may be difficult to remember quite how innovative was Direct Line's decision to communicate directly with its customers by telephone.

How it worked

Since the telephone was the principal channel of communication, Direct Line was one of the first major UK companies to rely upon the call centre. It started with just one - in Croydon - but now has five others, in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. According to the company's own records, its call centres dealt with a total of 22 million telephone calls in 2004.

Direct Line has also broken into lucrative markets abroad, with operations in Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain.

Direct Line was part of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) group. Following the banking crisis and the publicly funded bail out of RBS, the bank sold part of its holding in Direct Line, with a further sale in March 2013. As a result, RBS no longer holds a controlling stake in the insurance company.