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US insurance firm to axe 270 jobs

A US insurance company is set to axe 270 jobs across Ireland.

The announcement by Liberty Insurance, the Irish subsidiary of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Group (LMI), of 250 job losses in the Republic of Ireland and 20 north of the border has been prompted by a decision to withdraw from the Great Britain personal motor insurance market.

The Boston-based mutual company, which took over the operations of Quinn Insurance in 2011, now intends to focus on the Republic of Ireland market.

It currently has bases in Co Fermanagh, Co Cavan and Blanchardstown in north west Dublin, as well as a small operation in London.

The company said it hoped the job cuts would be achieved through "voluntary-led" redundancies.

It is anticipated the jobs will go over the next 18 months.

Liberty Insurance currently employs more than 950 employees - 340 in Cavan; 370 in Blanchardstown; 245 in Enniskillen and seven in London.

It is expected that there could be approximately 135 redundancies in Dublin, 115 in Cavan and 20 in Enniskillen.

Liberty has also announced its intention to transfer its Enniskillen contact centre to a third party customer service management provider.

It said details of the plans would be provided once a preferred partner is agreed and contracts finalised.

The company said its review of its operations in Ireland would not impact on Co Down-based Hughes Insurance, which it acquired last year.

It said other Liberty Mutual Insurance subsidiaries operating in Great Britain would also not be affected.

Liberty said, subject to approval, customer management of current policy holders in Northern Ireland will be transferred on renewal to Hughes Insurance.

Tom McIlduff, chief executive of Liberty Insurance, said: "We have achieved a lot in our first few years in Ireland, having established a strong brand and grown our distribution network.

"However, the market is challenging and we have been loss making with an uncompetitive cost base. Withdrawing from the Great Britain market, focusing on Ireland and streamlining our operating model will enable us to strengthen our long term competitive position in Ireland in order to service our customers and brokers better.

"The plans we are announcing today reflect our commitment to retaining a contact centre at Enniskillen. We are examining options to transfer it to a third party operator which would preserve roles and potentially lead to future growth opportunities."

A 30-day consultation period between management and staff has been launched.

Luis Bonell, president of Liberty International, said: "Liberty Mutual remains fully committed to building a successful business in Ireland.

"In recent years, we have purchased the remaining minority stake in Liberty Insurance, announced the acquisition of Hughes Insurance and have continued to invest and create jobs in our Liberty IT division in both Dublin and Belfast.

"In the coming years, we will utilise Liberty's global expertise and resources to support our businesses in Ireland to enable their development into leading players in their respective markets."

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