Lives: Wandsworth, South London.
Born: 1961, South Africa.
Education: Bishops School, South Africa.
Career: Two years in the South African army from 1979. Came to the UK in 1981 and joined financial adviser Merchant Investors, where he met current business partner Arthur Davis. Started his own financial advice business, Baigrie Associates, in 1984 before joining forces with Davis in 1987 to form Baigrie Davis & Co. Set up LifeSearch in 1998 and introduced the IFA arm this year.
Career ambition: To fully develop LifeSearch and consolidate its position as the UK's biggest and best term insurance broker.
Life ambition: “To stay married to the same woman for the rest of my life and for my children to live longer than me.”
Likes: Rugby and cricket.
Dislikes: People who do not do what they say they are going to.
Peers say: “He is energising and very self-focused with high expectations.”
LifeSearch managing director Tom Baigrie is not afraid to face his fears. Riding his motorbike to work is an experience which scares him stiff, he readily confesses. Nevertheless, he elects to start his day with a pulse-racing ride rather than join most of the rest of London on the Tube.
But Baigrie's bold approach to his daily routine may provide some clues to the success of his career. Almost four years after founding online term insurance brokerage LifeSearch, his company now boasts an annual turnover of £10m and a team of 30 advisers – 29 more than he began with.
As one of the market leaders in the direct term insurance market, Baigrie is now looking to make himself a name in the intermediary market. A new service offers IFAs the chance to hand over their term insurance, life cover, critical illness and permanent health insurance business to LifeSearch, while keeping half their commission. With most IFAs carrying out only a small proportion of this sort of business, Baigrie believes many would be more than happy to receive a helping hand from a specialist.
He says: “The offering to IFAs who do not specialise in term insurance is that, by putting their clients over to us or getting in touch with us themselves, they can tap into our experience and get themselves the lowest prices along with specialist advice while incurring no cost to themselves.
“It is a market in which almost all IFAs dabble but very few have regular experience of it – certainly not 350 policies a week – and there will be many who feel the clients will be better serviced if they pass them over to us.”
As a practising IFA himself, Baigrie has a good understanding of the market. A few years after coming to the UK from South Africa in 1981, he set up his own financial advice shop before teaming up with long-term friend and business partner Arthur Davis to form Baigrie Davis & Co in 1987. Today, the firm has 12 RIs and has recently acquired another smaller IFA, Morestead Financial Services.
Baigrie now divides his time between running LifeSearch and his IFA firm, with each job complementing the other. He constantly aims to improve his businesses by learning from the mistakes of the industry and from talking to his clients. “My passion has always been for customer service, which may sound trite but at LifeSearch I have tried to build something that learns from all the mistakes that anyone might have made in the IFA world.”
Baigrie says the pride of his job is the customer feedback. To every LifeSearch customer, he sends a feedback form with a postage-paid reply envelope. With a 10 per cent response rate, he now has several thousand responses, nearly all of which have given his service glowing reviews. For those who have been dissatisfied, he has tried to adapt the service for the benefit of future clients. Now, he is looking to achieve the same reputation for service in the IFA arena.
B aigrie began to develop the IFA LifeSearch model earlier this year. Over the past three months, the service has been test-marketed with great success on the mortgage intermediary arena. While Baigrie confesses that LifeSearch is not the only service of its kind, he believes it differentiates itself by the standard of its employees and the level of service it offers.
He says: “The key factor which differentiates us is that the adviser the client talks to knows exactly what they are talking about. The certain truth is that there is no one else with a team of qualified advisers to help IFAs do this part of their business efficiently and cost-effectively.”
His ambitions for the new business are by no means modest. Having seen such success for the direct side, Baigrie is now looking to achieve no less in the intermediary market. Preliminary research has shown that there is certainly potential demand for the platform.
“There are huge numbers of professional advisers who fringe on the term insurance market but do not do much of it. All of them could benefit from having expertise on hand to take that side of the business off their shoulders. We have grown LifeSearch from January 1998 until now from one adviser to 30 advisers and a turnover of £10m. We expect to grow the business-to-business side at the same rate.”
Having been his own boss for most of his career, Baigrie's colleagues say he is a highly motivated and determined individual with the will and expertise to see LifeSearch succeed.
Born in South Africa, he confesses that he is predictably an avid cricket and rugby fan, with the rest of his spare time devoted to his wife and three children. Perhaps a final clue to his determined character is his two years spent in the South African army before he left for England at the age of 20. But Baigrie would beg to differ. “It was 'orrible,” he says.