Chris Wilkinson, the senior partner of Heritage Classic Car Insurance explains how the company was formed 50 years ago.
It’s been over 50 years since Chris Wilkinson decided to go it alone in the car insurance industry and as you can imagine there have been a lot of changes over the years.
Chris Wilkinson is the founder of Heritage Classic Car Insurance and one thing is certain, he has seen it all. A classic car enthusiast through and through, he has combined his passion for cars with good business sense and has developed the skill and knowledge in the industry to succeed.
He recalls: “When I started working in insurance, I was a door-to-door salesman. From meeting people on a daily basis, it seemed the most common topic was car insurance and how people were dissatisfied with the general service provided.” This gave Chris his new direction; to meet the public’s demands and hence forth Norton Insurance was born.
Chris started from the ground up working from home initially. His office was also a classic car on occasion, a Healey Sprite. Busy at the roadside when it suited arranging meetings on the dashboard of his roadster, Chris worked all hours to setup Norton Insurance.
He, as you would expect, has owned many classic cars over the years. He explains: “My first car was an Austin A40 Devon, which wasn’t so much a classic back then. Soon after I purchased a Triumph Roadster for just £75. This was an absolute bargain at the time, although I very often had to start it manually with a seven foot starter handle, which was not for the faint hearted! Sadly the roadster was written off by a maniac driving an Austin A35!” Chris was of course insured at the time and even got his £75 back.
He was the first in his family to delve into the uncertain and sometimes misconceived industry of insurance. His father was the proprietor of a commercial cleaning company. “In the early days my father shared an office (for want of a better word) with a local bespoke tailor in Birmingham, in fact it was more of a fitting room,” Chris adds. “My father used to let me borrow the office sometimes for meetings, however it was always best to get there early to tidy up the mountain of fine quality material and half finished suits that covered the place!”
In 1967 Norton Insurance finally moved into its own premises. No more meetings on the move or tidying the fitting room, it was the big time from now on as the doors opened at the office in Alum Rock, Birmingham.
It seemed inevitable that things would start to move at a quicker pace now and it wasn’t long before plans to diversify were steaming ahead. Chris explains: “There weren’t many insurers at the time with a specialist policy designed for the classic car owner. So discussions with a reputable underwriter were planned and, with my personal input, terms and conditions were established and a policy was developed under the Heritage name.”
At this time no other intermediary had a policy like it, well not with this particular underwriter. Today every classic car broker in the land probably has some form of scheme or classic car policy underwritten by them, thanks to Chris.
It wasn’t long before this niche market grew, with many other insurance companies setting up policies for the classic enthusiast, giving Heritage the ability to choose the right insurance policy for their customer’s requirements.
When asked about the bad times as well as good times, especially with insurance being regulated so strictly these days and the need for transparency being so prominent, Chris simply smiles and says: “If there were bad times I wouldn’t tell you about them! But seriously moving with the times has never presented a problem, providing you do things properly in the first place.”
So after 50 years, what’s the key to success? “I’ve always been hungry” Chris replies. You’ll be glad to hear Chris has no plans to retire and still remains hungry. He’s keen to see the Heritage 50th anniversary through to then next big milestone.
So as you can see things have come a long way since the early days and Heritage Classic Car Insurance has grown into a successful legacy that Chris Wilkinson can be extremely proud of. As he continues to play an unexpendable role at the company, his original ideals and aspirations hold firm and move forward, and that is simply meeting the requirements of our customers with a like-minded view. This is why after 50 years Heritage will always be “run for enthusiasts by enthusiasts”.