Financial Services

Published: August 21, 2020 | Updated: August 21, 2020

No regrets but insurer admits: “We’ve been in survival mode with our backs against the wall”

Chris Booth, Managing Director, One Life Insurance Group.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Chris Booth’s business approach is probably best summed up by Billy Ocean’s 1985 hit.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going.

And, boy, has it been tough.

His business, One Life Insurance Group, began trading in December.

It hoped to have the right leads in place to hit the ground running from the start of the New Year.

But they didn’t materialise and Chris was forced to halve his eight-strong team.

And then, of course, along came Covid-19 in March and the lockdown.

The business was beset by technical issues as staff worked from home.

Data providers pulled out and One Life suffered many days of downtime.

Chris, Managing Director, said: “It hurt us – and hurt us badly.

“We were spending a lot of time on poor leads.

“But the last four months have toughened me up to business.

Chris, right, with his One Life team (left to right) Matthew Colson, Laurence Ainley, Katie Bryant and Amir Saghalati.

“We’ve had to change our ways to survive.

“We’ve been in survival mode with our backs against the wall.

“It’s been a challenge, but also exciting.

“You have to make your own way through as it’s all on you.

“But we have survived and are coming out of it now.”

Born and brought up in Bournemouth it was clear from an early age that Chris, 38, would one day work in a people business.

Like many schoolboys he was mad keen on soccer, at one stage making it onto the books of AFC Bournemouth.

“Looking back I didn’t take school seriously,” said Chris, who is married to Kayleigh, 33, and has two children, Mikey, ten, and Summer, six.

“My school reports said I had ability but I like to talk a lot.”

His Dad, a self-employed electrician, discovered that as well.

Chris joined him as a trainee electrician for two years but found his strength was actually talking to customers and getting business.

“I was not cut out to be an electrician. Dad is a fantastic role model but I was suited to something in sales rather than being an electrician,” he said.

Chris’ first job was with insurer RIAS in 2006, working in outbound sales.

It was, he said, a “total eye opener.”

But not as much as when he became one of the first ten staff at the then newly launched Castle Cover.

Chris said: “It gave me a thirst for doing my own thing one day.

“They were a fantastic team.

“I learned a lot, not least how you could grow a seed into a huge oak.”

Chris was to spend ten years at RIAS and Castle Cover, both now owned by Ageas, rising to the position of Senior Sales Manager and managing more than 65 people.

In 2016, he joined Bournemouth-based Protect Line as Sales Manager spending, in his words, “three good years getting to really know life insurance.”

But the desire to do his own thing was burning strong.

Chris said: “I always wanted to have my own business but had been putting it off.

“Over the years I had learned everything from my mentors and was very much ready to go out on my own.”

Chris pitched the idea of One Life to old school friend , and now business partner, Raymond Kidd.

School friend Ross Taylor, now Managing Director of Top Cat Media, was involved in the launch including building the website.

Chris said: “One Life specialises in giving honest and trustworthy advice to families on a proper protection solution.

“Our policies cover family, mortgage, income protection, over 50’s, funeral plans, critical illness, home and life insurance.

“We work closely with all the big providers including Scottish Widows, Aegon, Royal London, LV=, Aviva, Vitality and National Friendly.

“We have around 300 customers but are looking to grow this substantially.

“One thing we’ve learned is that as a small fish in a very big pond you don’t get the best leads so you have to fight twice as hard.”

One Life is now looking to recruit a marketing manager and a software engineer.

It is also seeking to work with partners such as accountants, estate agents and other like-minded businesses.

Chris said: “I may have had a few sleepless nights but I don’t regret going it alone.

“In fact, I couldn’t be happier in my mindset.

“I’m extremely optimistic about the future.”