PI firm maintains huge growth of accident management business

Winn: Open to acquisitions

Private-equity backed personal injury business Winn Group continues to buck the market trend, with turnover for the first half of 2023/24 up 35% to nearly £143m.

It has also indicated greater interest in growing through acquisition than in the past.

The Newcastle-based group is an accident management company that provides a one-stop shop of services.

These are made up of insurance-related products, vehicle hire and repair, recovery and storage, as well as personal injury advice, although the latter now accounts for only around 7% of turnover.

The group’s brands are Winn Solicitors, Winn National Accident Specialists, Winn Legal, On Medical, On Hire, On Insurance and Onhealth. Souter Investments – the private investment vehicle of transport entrepreneur Sir Brian Souter – has a 43% stake in the business.

Earlier this year, it announced that, in the year to 31 March, turnover increased by 139%, from £98m to £235m, having been £54m the year before. EBITDA in the year was £24.7m, up from £15.8m.

Newly published figures for the first six months of the current year show that the group continues to grow rapidly, with turnover of £143m, up 35% compared to the first half last year, and EBITA 62% higher at £17m.

Winn says it is the country’s second biggest accident management company after Auxilis – owned by Redde Northgate, which in turn owns NewLaw Solicitors.

It attributes its success to an ability to process claims from any part of the UK without the involvement of external third-party companies, 24/7 first notification of loss service, and the fact that it does not use the GTA – the General Terms of Agreement, a voluntary agreement on credit hire service standards and costs.

Winn has now agreed bespoke protocols with 50% of insurers – twice the number at this time last year – that enable rapid payment.

Mr Winn told Legal Futures in July that he struck the agreements after showing the insurers “what we win at court and what they can save” by agreeing to a protocol. One insurer was saving £2-3m a year on legal costs.

He said yesterday: “We consistently show that protocol agreements reduce insurers’ costs and provide claims managers with the certainty they need to effectively plan their claims cost strategy.

“We have built up considerable trust with business partners because invoices go through at the agreed rate, which means no surprises or variations from what has been agreed.

“Over the next six months, we will be looking to align the business with insurance consolidators where there is sufficient volume as well as maintaining our momentum to drive growth from our existing agreements.”

He added that he was “also open to acquisition opportunities if there is a good strategic fit with the business” – hitherto, the group has shown no interest in acquisitions.

Chief executive Chris Birkett explained: “We have grown exponentially over the last 18 months and it’s important we remain fully focused on delivering for our existing partners.

“But, should an opportunity present itself, for example in the credit hire sector, we would take a serious look at it, but the price has to be right and it will have to deliver scale that we cannot achieve organically in the short-term.”

Mr Birkett said Winn’s performance has been achieved against a background of challenging headwinds in the claims supply chain, especially motor.

“Government intervention in the claims market has created problems for many players, not least because fees have not risen anything like the level of inflation and neither have disbursements, which, coupled with the whiplash reforms, have led to a large number of practitioners exiting the market.

“There is a concern that government action has resulted in claims becoming uneconomic for firms to take on, especially minor claims, which threatens access to justice for citizens seeking redress after an accident.”

Credit hire was also an issue, with companies running older fleets – with higher running costs – because vehicle manufacturers were not releasing new vehicles, while the increasing number of electric vehicles was causing much higher repair costs too, with some insurers refusing to cover them or charging much higher premiums.

The group revealed too that it has engaged Palladium, a provider of digital transformation and management consulting services, to explore the potential of AI-based technology within accident management.

Winn has donated nearly £80,000 to charity so far this year, more than double the contributions made at the same point in 2022.

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