My big idea: Starpeak insurance

Julian Hucks, founder and managing director at Starpeak Insurance Solutions , explains his business model
BizAge Interview Team
Julian Hucks

Hi Julian! What's your elevator pitch? 

Starpeak is a specialist digital insurance distributor serving niche markets. We provide insurance to over 100,000 policyholders annually across our specialist brands, partnering with leading insurers to provide a range of products directly to consumers and SMEs. 

What made you think there was money in this?

Starpeak, originally established in 1991 as SportsCover Direct was founded as the result of a paragliding training course in France. The inception came after purchasing a £25 policy from a French broker and realising the absence of a similar offering in the UK. This sparked the idea of finding a way to sell French-based policies to the UK market.  

Our first policy was sold in 1992 from brochures left in sports shops, with our inaugural online sale in 2002. Over time, Starpeak has become a technology-driven business delivering niche insurance to the UK market.  

Although our core vision and purpose has remained the same, the vision has evolved and so too has the brand. While our initial focus was on selling sports, leisure and travel insurance, we have leveraged our IT specialism and industry knowledge to diversify into emerging sectors under the Protectivity brand. Our corporate name change to Starpeak in September 2023 symbolises our continuous work towards delivering the best for our customers and partners, signalling a shift away from predominantly sports related cover. 

What does the market need it?

We serve niche markets and cater to a diverse range of customers in both the consumer and micro-SME markets. With more than three decades of experience, we have the professionalism, IT and industry expertise that will ensure our customers and partners such as AXA XL get the best outcomes. 

Since our first sale, we’ve continued to underpin our business with strong technological offerings, optimising every aspect of our operations from distribution to marketing and all the way through to customer service. The ownership and development of our own IT infrastructure have proven pivotal.

We differ from our competitors as we have an unwavering dedication to positioning our customers at the heart of the business. We empower them with the essential information and expertise, facilitating well-informed decision-making. 

Where is the business today? 

We live in a fast-changing world and our vision is to prioritise the needs and satisfaction of our customers whilst delivering profitable returns to insurers. 

The new corporate structure comes as a direct result of our growth. Starpeak's founding mission of offering competitive but simple and compliant insurance directly to the end-user, has expanded to cater to previously unserved online niche markets, specifically the SME segment. This makes it easier for customers to buy and cover their risks. 

Today, we partner with world-leading insurers and ambitious smaller insurers such as AXA XL, Peach Pi and Irwell Insurance to provide comprehensive service offerings to an often-underserved market that brokers are unable to cover. We offer a complete range of tailored, unique insurance products that span sectors such as sport, education, events, lifestyle, and wellbeing, along with other niche markets through our brands SportCover Direct and Protectivity. 

What's your biggest strength, personally? 

Patience and perseverance are probably my biggest strengths. A few lucky breaks have certainly helped – the advent of the internet and my technical background are not insignificant! It’s common to hear that startups need people with a thorough understanding of insurance alongside a technical background. As we scale-up the business, this dual expertise is proving to be essential, complemented by the talented team I work with. 

What is the secret to making the business work? 

Persistence and belief have been very important over the years, fortified by a steadfast support system. In the early days, my father manned the phones and processed the policies for over three years (whilst it was still a “side hustle”) and later, my partner. By not rushing things and embracing organic growth, averaging around 20% annually has allowed us to establish a solid foundation upon which to grow and diversify. 

What were you doing before? 

I have a background in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Bristol. I trained as a Chartered Engineer and have worked for various engineering and production companies (Tube Investments, Metal Box and Tefal in the UK). I even became the local Computer Doctor in the early years of running the insurance business without other support.  

At Starpeak I have always focused on offering comprehensive products and services, tailored to meet niche market needs. Today, I’m actively involved in all aspects of the company's operations, fostering a collaborative and innovative work environment.

What is the future vision? 

We’re committed to focusing on the niche insurance product areas in which we have become famous, as shown by the incredible milestone of selling our 500,000th policy in March 2023.  

Our objective is to double the turnover of the business over the next four years. This will be realised through launching new products and the pursuit of organic growth initiatives - a challenge we believe we can successfully meet. We welcome the opportunities that await Starpeak, and anticipate a promising future ahead.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
December 12, 2023
Written by
December 12, 2023