Profile: An Ill Wind That Blows Fair as the Weather Gets Warmer; David Jones Reports on How Global Climate Change May Indirectly Have a Hand to Play in the Growth of One Family Business
Byline: David Jones
GLOBAL warming and climate change have probably played a part in fuelling the growth of a specialist insurance contractor's business set up by Sean Walsh and his brother Mike.
Their company, Anglia Building & Decorating Contractors, works exclusively within the insurance industry, carrying out property repairs and refurbishment for major names such as Norwich Union.
North Wales-based Anglia specialises in the reinstatement of homes damaged by fire or flood, but its owners have noticed that the cyclical nature of the business seems to be vanishing.
Business used to peak in the winter when rivers burst their banks and there was extensive flooding, but Anglia now finds itself busy the year round. The effects of global warming on the British climate, perhaps? Sean Walsh is sure of it.
Being called out to help 600 flooded properties in Wigan after a downpour last summer convinced him of the link: `` It should not have happened after just 30 minutes of rainfall in June or July -but those houses were under three feet of water. If I had not seen it for myself I would not have believed it.
``I believe there is a change in the global climate and that incidents of flooding such as this are here to stay.''
The business grew from small beginnings after being started as a two-man business by the brothers seven years ago. Initial business revolved around emergency call-outs for local authorities and the police, boarding up and later renovating properties which had been broken into.
The business handled its first storm damage claim the following year, working for an insurance company through an intermediary agent. A breakthrough came in 1997 when Anglia began working directly for Royal Sun Alliance, the second largest insurer in the UK. Walsh says working directly for the insurer, rather than through an intermediary, is not necessarily more profitable, but it does enable the Welsh company to provide a better service to clients.
Business started to snowball for Anglia when major floods swept through Ruthin a few years ago and the company realised there was a niche market that it could operate in.
Anglia sees its role as to provide a quality service to those in need, having been appointed by the likes of Norwich Union or Abbey National to deal on their behalf with people who have submitted a claim. Most of the reinstatement works are carried out by Anglia's own workforce, although in a number of specialist areas it may call in approved subcontractors. But to carry out that work, Anglia first had to ensure its staff were fully trained in flood and fire restitution work and that meant getting full accreditation for the business from numerous professional organisations.
``In January 2001, after seven or eight months negotiation, we secured a contract with Norwich Union, the biggest insurer in the UK. We are now one of only 18 contractors nationwide who work directly for them,'' said Walsh.
``We do about pounds 6m worth of work a year for that company alone and they are our biggest client.''
Anglia -its name was chosen so that it could be found at the front of telephone directories -is headquartered at Dyserth, having relocated from its original, small base in Prestatyn. It has also opened an office in Shrewsbury, helping the business cover its core areas of North and Mid Wales, Cheshire, Wirral and Shropshire. It spent more than pounds 400,000 on its Dyserth site to provide new offices and stores and has plans for additional store and warehouse space on the site which will involve a further investment of pounds 270,000.
The business is diversifying its operations. A warehouse is being equipped with an air conditioning system to dry and clean furniture damaged by smoke and floodwater. At present, says Walsh, such furniture is transferred from North Wales to Liverpool or Manchester.
``We want that business to stay in this area and it is work which we estimate will be worth at least pounds 2m in the first year and growing in subsequent years,'' he said. …