Hughes Insurance to close Portadown office permanently

The Portadown branch of Hughes Insurance is closing its doors due to staff working remotely.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 4:44 pm

The insurance firm, which has been a fixture in the town for decades, said it remains committed to customers.

The company’s 250-strong workforce, who are based across NI, will now work remotely while also having the option to visit the Newtownards office up to two days per week when Government restrictions allow.

Hughes moved to an entirely remote working model in March 2020 as a result of the pandemic, but now the firm has taken the decision to move to a permanent remote setup.

Sarah Balmforth, Hughes Insurance.
Sarah Balmforth, Hughes Insurance.

It was influenced by employee research suggesting that 93% of staff do not want to return to the traditional working model.

The operational shift offers greater flexibility to staff who can now choose where they work, while also better supporting families to manage parenting responsibilities and enjoy more time together.

The Broker first began exploring a remote structure pre-pandemic, to better reflect the lifestyles of its employees, but also the behaviour of its customers, with reduced branch footfall and demand from consumers for telephone based and digital services becoming more apparent.

Hughes Insurance is confident that the new model will work well for its customers. Over the last 12 months, it has continued to provide a high level of customer service and this will remain the central focus as the remote structure develops. There are plans to further develop the remote customer offering to include enhanced virtual customer-services which would allow the traditional in-branch, face-to-face experience to be replicated in the digital format that customers want.

The move to removing working has not let to the loss of any jobs and no members of staff

The shift to remote working has so far allowed all staff to remain in full-time employment with no staff put on furlough throughout the pandemic. There is also no threat to jobs moving forward with Hughes Insurance currently undergoing a recruitment drive to fill an additional 10 new roles. It is expected that the decision to offer remote working will widen the talent pool available to Hughes Insurance as applicants no longer need to live near a branch.

All remote employees will receive an allowance to cover any remote working expenses and have the ability to choose where they work from geographically. Staff wellbeing will still be a key focus and all employees will avail of the company’s support programmes and initiatives.

Sarah Balmforth, Head of Human Resources at Hughes Insurance, said: “Hughes Insurance has been part of the fabric of NI for over 40 years and although we have adapted our offering in response to our customers needs, we are here to stay.

“The remote model has served us extremely well throughout the pandemic with customers enjoying an impressive level of service. The technology we have in place still ensures that customers feel connected to our employees.”

“We live by our value of putting our people first, and as such have created this model to align with both the strategy of the business and the needs of our employees.”

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