Lifesearch founder hands over to new CEO after 23 years

Lifesearch founder hands over to new CEO after 23 years
Debbie Kennedy takes over as CEO of Lifesearch

Lifesearch’s founder Tom Baigrie is to leave his role as chief executive after setting up the life insurance broker 23 years ago.

Baigrie will now lead Lifesearch as its chairman, making room for new CEO Debbie Kennedy, who currently heads up LV’s protection arm.

The former Royal London, Capita, and Axa executive will now lead Lifesearch through its next stage of growth.

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The firm, founded in 1998, employs 500 workers. To date, it claims to have protected more than 1m lives across the UK.

Yet to release its 2020 results, the insurance intermediary’s gross profit grew 29 per cent to £10.9m in the year to August 2019.

Data released by Lifesearch earlier this year suggested purchases of financial protection cover were up 25 per cent between March and July 2020, compared with the equivalent period starting in 2019. 

It put the uptick down to consumers thinking about their mortality and adopting a 'safety first' approach to their household finances.

The broker covers life insurance, critical illness cover, income protection, family income benefit, serious illness cover and business insurance.

LifeSearch’s incoming CEO said she “can’t think of a more iconic protection company to work with”. The LV executive is set to begin at Lifesearch’s helm at the beginning of November.

At Royal London, one of Kennedy’s previous employers, Baigrie said she “led the team that utterly transformed Royal London from a dormant brand into a market leader”.

Royal London is the largest mutual insurer in the UK. Between 2014 and 2017, Kennedy served as its group head of protection proposition strategy.

Alongside Kennedy, Lifesearch’s first chairman Baigrie will now “concentrate more” on partnerships, marketing, PR, and better connecting the dots between consumers and advisers.

A big issue Baigrie believes needs solving in the protection industry is advisers’ awareness around income protection.

Despite income protection claims accounting for a third of claims between January and November 2020, an 11 percentage point increase on 2019, Baigrie told FTAdviser last week: “Advisers sell [income protection] far too rarely and non-advisers barely at all”.

He continued: “A supply side revolution is what’s needed, with training and support for every protection adviser so that talking about income protection to clients who’ve never heard or thought of disability insurance becomes second nature.”

The income protection industry as a whole saw individual sales drop 1.2 per cent last year, which has prompted the Income Protection Task Force (IPTF) to embark on an awareness campaign to raise the profile of the protection industry.

The quasi-trade body will hold an income protection awareness week from September 20 to 24.

The week is designed to boost knowledge around “the need” for income protection, and “ultimately unite the protection industry” in propping up sales.