Welsh International Business Achiever series

By Kate Madley

In six short years Hayley Parsons, founder and chief executive officer of Gocompare.com has grown one of the UK’s most successful insurance comparison services from Newport, South Wales.

The start-up, established in 2006, has seen an astonishing rate of growth and now has a multi million pound turnover. In January 2012 Hayley was awarded an OBE for her services to the economy, one of just many accolades given to the entrepreneur and Gocompare.com.

A business with its roots firmly in Wales, Hayley has developed Gocompare.com from an initial team of six to one of Wales’s most internationally-acclaimed firms employing 150 people.

Born in Cwmbran, Hayley attended Croesyceiliog Comprehensive until the age of 16 when she left to join a local insurance broker. She then worked for Admiral Group and helped to set up Confused.com before leaving to establish her own venture. In 2011, Hayley was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Newport, Wales.

As part of our celebration of Welsh International Business Achievers, Wales World Wide discussed with Hayley Parsons business opportunities, Wales and her own entrepreneurial success.

Do you think Wales is a good place to start a successful business? Why did you choose to start your business in Wales?

I am very proud to be Welsh, and would never consider living or working anywhere else. Everything our business needs – creative, committed and qualified staff – is here, right on our doorstep.  Wales is a great place to start a business, and I think Gocompare.com is testament to that fact.

Apart from what you are doing now, what are your main business achievements?

I have worked in the insurance industry throughout my career and now have over 20 years’ experience. Some of my most significant achievements, besides setting up Gocompare.com, include being one of the youngest directors at Gladiator (a subsidiary of Admiral), and being one of the founders of Confused.com, the original car insurance comparison site. I believe that the key factors that have contributed to my success are my knowledge of the industry and my commitment to developing a customer-focused comparison proposition.

To what do you owe your success?

I couldn’t have achieved what I have without the support of the Gocompare.com team. In fact, you could say that the secret to my success is that I have surrounded myself with people that are much better than me! I am very aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and having the right team in place lets me concentrate on growing the business safe in the knowledge that, operationally, everything is being taken care of.  Having the encouragement and love of my family has also been vital to me. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my husband, sons, mother, father and brother.

How did the Gocompare.com venture come about?

Traditionally, comparison sites provided a purely price-based service, showing only the cheapest options available to the customer. But with Gocompare.com we wanted to evolve this model and provide a service that would help consumers make an informed choice about their insurance policy. By introducing this innovation into the marketplace, Gocompare.com was able to compete with the more established players, cementing our place in the ‘big four’ of the comparison site market – and we did it quickly, too!

Today, Gocompare.com has become one of the most successful comparison sites in the UK, with the equivalent of a quote being carried out every second during 2011. We provide one of the most comprehensive online car insurance comparison services in the UK as well as comparing home insurance, pet insurance, breakdown cover, and bike and van insurance.

With Gocompare.com, customers can also compare a wide variety of other products and services, including credit cards, travel insurance and business products, plus gas and electricity and other household services.

How is Gocompare.com going?

Gocompare.com started life as six people around my kitchen table, and launched in November 2006. Today, Gocompare.com employs nearly 150 people. The company has grown at breakneck speed, and we posted pre-tax profits of £34.7 million in 2011, a 15 per cent increase on 2010. 

Away from financial performance, we’re also proud to have been the first comparison site to compare over 100 different car insurance brands; the first, and still the only, comparison site to be invited to join British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba) due to our customer focus; and we’ve also been acknowledged by Investors In People and Best Companies for our commitment to our employees.

Where do you think the biggest opportunities for business are?

That’s a difficult one, and it depends very much on the industry, the size of the prospective market, how competitive it is and whether local laws and regulations would make setting up a business difficult. That said, I think there’s still plenty of untapped potential when it comes to online businesses – either ones that sell a product or service, or those that enable people and businesses to communicate and interact with one another more effectively.

What is your motto in life?

These aren’t mottos, per se, but I like them and they reflect my outlook on life:
‘Life isn’t measured by the breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away,’ and
‘Well behaved women seldom make history.’

Who do you consider as a Welsh international business achiever?

Serial entrepreneur, Sir Terry Matthews.