Hull Post COVID: An SME's View

Hull Post COVID: An SME's View

2020 has been a tough year for small business owners in Hull. Prior to COVID the city has been a enjoying a period of sustained growth and investment that has transformed it into a thriving, hi-tech city that is now playing on the world stage. Over the summer things improved significantly and the Hull Chamber of Commerce’s survey found its members were increasingly optimistic regard the region’s future. To gain some insight from the front line as to how Hull’s small business owners have weathered the COVID-19 storm, we caught up with Andy Price, founder of Coversure Insurance Hull and asked for him for his thoughts on this tumultuous year and what he thinks 2021 may bring.

How has business been since we’ve come out of lockdown? Have you seen a rise in activity, and if so in which sectors?

There’s definitely been a rise in business since lockdown ended, and we’ve been lucky in that we haven’t lost clients either. While we’re best known for our business and fleet insurance, we have quite a few landlord and liability insurance customers too which has given us some much-needed diversity. In terms of new business, we’ve had quite a few start-ups coming our way – everything from hi-tech consultancies to couriers.

Has COVID changed the way you/your customers work? What does the ‘new normal’ look like for Coversure Hull?

So far, the new normal looks like the old normal but with more people working from home. Hull’s become a digital innovation hub and firms like that have the flexibility to work remotely so it’s been less of a change for our customers in those fields. For others – like our truck owners and hauliers – it’s been a case of keep calm and carry on as best you can, but it’s not been easy.

There’s been a lot of talk in the press about people moving from the south east to places like Hull. Have you seen more activity in the property insurance sector? Prices in the city have risen by 2% in the last six months according to Zoopla.

We’ve seen a massive rise in the number of people looking for property cover – be that home insurance or landlord cover. I think that will continue as the city’s popularity has grown a lot since being City of Culture back in 2017; it has a lot to offer and it seems to be attracting plenty of younger people.

Insurance, like advertising, is a good barometer of the state of the economy. What’s the consensus on the future of the Hull economy? Are local businesspeople optimistic – the Chamber of Commerce has reported good Q3 growth.

The Chamber of Commerce has said that local businesses were becoming more optimistic and that sounds about right to me. It’s been a tough year for everybody and its going to be a while before we’re free/find a way to live with COVID, but I’m sure 2021 will be a better year.

Commercial vehicle insurance is a big part of your business and that’s a market that’s changed rapidly in the last few years thanks to the death of diesels and the rise of electric vehicles. Are you seeing drivers and fleet owners looking for EV cover?

We do a lot of fleet insurance and fleet managers have been asking us about it more and more of late. At the moment most are hedging their bets with hybrids rather than going full EV, but I can see that changing. There are more and more electric commercial vehicles coming out and the prices of EV cars is close to parity with petrol and diesel now. Give it another year or two and they’ll be mainstream.

Hull’s been through an exciting period of growth and change over the past few years, indeed its barely recognisable from the place it was in the 1980s. How do you see the city being defined over the next ten years? As a hi-tech centre – a ‘smart city even – or will traditional industries such as haulage remain dominant?

All the above! The port’s massively important to the area and it’s only going to become more important – especially if it gets free port status post Brexit. That will mean haulage firms will do well and if we can get trade deals then manufacturers and agricultural exporters will be in for more business too. The hi-tech side is really exciting, and I can see the city becoming a world class centre of green technology innovation. As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about Hull’s future.

Brexit is rarely far from the news at the moment as the question of deal/no-deal rears its head again. If we were to leave without a deal do you think Hull would fare well? Should it push to become a free port?

I like the idea of the free port as it could be really good for the local economy. That said if we can get a good trade deal with the EU and others then that would be brilliant. Either way I’m sure Hull will thrive post Brexit.

What are your predictions/hopes for 2021 for both your business and Hull?

Predictions? That things will get better in 2021, that we’ll overcome the challenges in front of us and that we’ll find a new normal that works for all. Hopes? That Hull City get promoted and that we can go and watch them do it!

Thanks, Andy, and good luck with the rest of the year.

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