Insurance staff share pounds 8m loyalty windfall

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 300 employees at Independent Insurance are to share a pounds 8m-plus windfall, thanks to the company's soaring stock market success. Some staff are set to receive shares worth up to pounds 100,000 each.

The insurer, led by colourful chief executive Michael Bright, is to hand out cut-price shares to 321 staff who saved an average of pounds 15,000 with the company since its 1993 flotation.

The awards are part of the company's first-ever Share Save scheme. Under the plan, staff were invited to give the company around pounds 250 a month for five years in exchange for shares at the end of the period.

The scheme matured in early February, and Independent has distributed more than 3.7 million shares to employees, giving them the chance to cash in on the rise in its share price. The savings scheme share price was fixed at 36p, a small discount to Independent's 45p price at the 1993 float. Since then the price has soared, reaching an high of 383p last June.

Despite a fall in recent months the stock, at 220p on Friday, is still at a massive premium to the Share Save price, enabling the staff who decide to sell to net a huge profit.

Independent has increased profits more than fivefold in the past five years from around pounds 10m in 1993 to over pounds 50m in 1997.

A sign of the company's growing strength came last year with Independent's attempt to buy part of its bigger rival GRE, although it was not successful.