Direct Line

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Direct Line
Direct Line
FounderMartin Long
Peter Wood
HeadquartersChurchill Court, Westmoreland Road, ,
Key people
Paul Geddes, CEO
ProductsVehicle Insurance, Home insurance, Life insurance, Pet Insurance
BrandsDirect Line for Business, Churchill Insurance, Privilege, Green Flag
Number of employees
ParentDirect Line Group

Direct Line is an insurance company of the United Kingdom based in Bromley, London. Founded in 1984, as the country's first direct car insurance company, it has since expanded to offer a range of general insurance products. Its policies are underwritten by the regulated subsidiary UK Insurance Limited, and it is owned by the Direct Line Group.

Company history[edit]

Founded in Croydon by Martin Long and Peter Wood with £20 million from the Royal Bank of Scotland, Direct Line sold its first motor insurance policy in 1985. It was the first insurance company in the United Kingdom to underwrite using computers and sell insurance directly by telephone, thus removing the need for a broker and reducing costs.

The company was also the first insurer in the United Kingdom to open its office in the evenings and weekends, and the first to offer a twenty four hour help line. In 1988, it started to sell home insurance. Direct Line is renowned for having transformed financial services in the United Kingdom.[1]

The company grew by advertising in the national press, television and marketing to RBS customers. It launched a long standing mascot of a red telephone on wheels in 1990, which rapidly established high levels of recall among consumers.[1] In September 2014, the brand worked with Saatchi and Saatchi to relaunch its advertising, using Hollywood actor Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe, a Mafia style 'fixer'.[2]

The company had one million customers after eight years.[3]

The company expanded with a series of new offshoots in the 1990s. In 1995, a Spanish offshoot, Linea Direct, started offering motor insurance in Spain. They expanded into travel insurance in 1996, pet insurance in 1997, and Direct Line Breakdown started offering breakdown insurance in 1998.

Their non general insurance products umbrella Direct Line Financial services launched their first non insurance product Direct Line Personal Loan in 1993, the following year, they started to offer mortgages, in 1995, Direct Line Life started offering life insurance, in 1996, they launched savings accounts and a PEP unit trust, and in 1998, the company started to offer pensions. The company's first website,, was launched in 1999.

The innovations extended into the 2000s with the launch of the first online claims registration and tracking facility in the United Kingdom for its motor insurance customers in 2001, and Home Response 24 Emergency Insurance, launching in 2003.[4] Direct Line was bought by RBS Insurance, a subsidiary of RBS Group, in 2003.[4] Royal Bank of Scotland was forced to sell Direct Line as a result of European regulations that prevent companies receiving state aid.

Direct Line floated on the London Stock Market in October 2012. The Direct Line Group owns a number of brands including Churchill Insurance, Privilege and Green Flag. The company made a number of tough financial decisions in the beginning of the 2010s, including abandoning some lines of business, making redundancies, and closing 14 of their 27 offices in the United Kingdom.[5]


Today, Direct Line offers a range of general insurance products including car, van, home, landlord, pet, and travel insurance as well as breakdown cover. They also offer life insurance.

2007 the company started a subsidiary, Direct Line for Business, which provides a range of business insurance products to landlords and the small business sector.


In January 2012, Direct Line, along with sister company Churchill Insurance, was fined £2.17m by the FSA, after being found guilty of altering complaints files.[6]


Direct Line has won a number of awards including:

  • The Financial Services Forum Awards 2016: Advertising; Customer Experience; Customer Loyalty and Retention, Judges’ Special Award for Marketing Excellence.[7]
  • Awards 2016: Direct Winners – Best Direct Car Insurance Provider[8]
  • Your Money Awards 2015: Direct Winners – Best Direct Car Insurance Provider[9]


In Italy and Germany, Direct Line was acquired by MAPFRE Group in September 2014,[10] and rebranded to Verti in January 2017. Verti is a brand owned by MAPFRE Group operating in Italy, Germany, Spain and the United States.[11]


  1. ^ a b (1 March 2004)Superbrands case studies: Direct Line Archived 2 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine Campaign
  2. ^ Kemp, Nicola (1 August 2016). Case Study: how Direct Line fixed the insurance market Archived 9 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine Campaign Magazine
  3. ^ Finch, Julia (27 June 2003). Cover model - Peter Wood, the founder of Direct Line Archived 11 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian
  4. ^ a b Royal Bank of Scotland - Heritage - Companies - Direct Line Archived 2 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Scott, Matt (14 March 2017). Inside a Turnaround: The Direct Line story.
  6. ^ Jill Treanor. "Churchill and Direct Line fined £2.1m by FSA". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  7. ^ "FSForum Awards for Marketing Effectiveness" (PDF).
  8. ^ (22 August 2016). Awards 2016: Direct winners Archived 6 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ (17 August 2015). Your Money Awards 2015: Direct winners Archived 2 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "MAPFRE closes acquisition of Direct Line in Italy and Germany after obtaining authorization from regulatory bodies".
  11. ^ "Mapfre ultima el lanzamiento de Verti, su filial digital, en EEUU".

External links[edit]