Glen Allen, VA, August 29, 2012 --(PR.com
)-- Elephant Insurance Services LLC could have 300 to 500 employees at its Henrico County headquarters by the end of 2013, the company's chief executive officer told a local business group Monday.
The speed of that growth will depend partly on how rapidly Americans decide to transition their insurance shopping online, and the company expects to see more of that, said Kevin Chidwick, a United Kingdom native who was named chief executive officer of the company's U.S. operations this year.
Elephant now has about 240 employees at its offices in Henrico.
The company is a division of Admiral Group Plc, one of the U.K.'s leading insurance companies.
Its business model is focused on the online, direct-to-consumer market, and so far the insurer has picked up about 40,000 U.S. customers, Chidwick said.
"It will take several years to reach profitability," in the United States, Chidwick told members of Henrico Business Leaders, a business networking and civic organization.
To do that, the company needs about 200,000 to 300,000 customers. Chidwick said it will take "a long time" to develop a national business, but the four states where Elephant is selling insurance now hold the potential for millions of customers.
"Fortunately, we are patient," Chidwick said, adding that the company expects to expand staffing as it builds its customer base and brand awareness.
The company is recruiting for jobs including marketing, information technology and call-center representatives, and it will likely have 300 employees by the end of this year, Chidwick said.
The company started its U.S. operations in Virginia in 2009. Since then, it has expanded its sales territory into Maryland, Illinois and Texas.
Most U.S. consumers buy auto insurance from agents, while only about 25 percent buy it over the Internet or telephone, said Chidwick, who also is the chief financial officer of Admiral Group.
In the U.K., however, about 75 percent of customers buy online or by phone from direct-to-consumer companies, many of them after checking for the best deals on price comparison websites. That's a change that has happened in about 10 years, Chidwick said.
"That is a shift in distribution that we believe is going to happen in the U.S.," he said.
The company chose Virginia as a base for its U.S. operations, he said, because "when you start a business, you get things wrong and you have to change things all the time. Finding a state where the regulators are sympathetic to us having to change things a lot is important," he said.
"We've been very pleased with the environment, and very pleased with the employees," he said.