Belfast insurance company exports expertise to Thailand

Belfast-based Higgins Insurance and Investments (HII) is helping to insure some of Thailand’s leading companies and is also exploring opportunities in Vietnam following the decision to expand its business beyond Northern Ireland.

Higgins II, which took part in a recent Invest Northern Ireland trade mission to South East Asia, is providing expertise in a joint venture with Bangkok-based LawtonAsia. It recently signed major insurance deals, worth over £500,000, with two of Thailand’s fastest growing businesses - ThaiNox, the country’s largest stainless steel producer, and The Minor Group, a leading hotels, leisure and restaurant operator.

Commenting on the Thai venture, Gavin Higgins, Chief Executive of Higgins II, said: “We were researching market opportunities for growing our business beyond Northern Ireland, where we have a strong position as the provider of a unique range of insurance services, and had looked closely at Great Britain and the Irish Republic, with our research showing that both were highly competitive and offered limited opportunities. So we began to look further afield.

“We were ready to invest time and resources to develop in a new market and through existing contacts in the Far East I took the decision to relocate to Bangkok to see how we could provide our expertise and experience to a developing insurance market. I spent nearly two years making contacts and developing business there.

“My research found a growing demand for the type of sophisticated European insurance products in areas, such as commercial and medical lines, that we’ve been delivering successfully for many decades in Northern Ireland. The research also showed that the best way to enter the market was by means of a joint venture with a local operation. I subsequently identified LawtonAsia as a partner and then signed a joint venture in 2002.

“Our role in the strategic alliance is to bring expertise and knowledge of European insurance products to LawtonAsia as it seeks to meet the developing demand in South East Asia from indigenous companies and inward investors from Europe and US for cover including disaster insurance. For example, many businesses did not have insurance to cover events such as the Tsunami,” he added.

Welcoming the Belfast company’s success in Asia, Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade Director, said: “Higgins is an excellent example of a local services company which has spotted and developed a market opportunity to sell its expertise and knowledge outside Northern Ireland. This expansion is enabling the company to grow its business in Thailand and also to explore other neighbouring markets. It has taken advantage of the practical and cost-effective support that our trade mission programme offers ambitious companies keen to accelerate growth by investing the time and other resources to grow export business.”

Higgins Insurance and Investments was formed as a family business in 1969. It provides a comprehensive range of personal lines and commercial insurance, as well as investment advice and management. Based in the Titanic Quarter, the company employs around 50 people. A further 25 are employed by LawtonAsia in Bangkok.