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AR group collapses as insurers go unpaid

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Perth-based authorised representative (AR) group Winley Insurance Group is being wound up amid allegations of financial irregularities.

The company, which has previously engaged in heavy levels of advertising to recruit ARs, is to be wound up by MD Jeff Bailey after its major investors left the country, sources have told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

One insurance company source told insuranceNEWS.com.au some underwriters have not been paid by Winley for several months and “we suspect premiums may have followed directors overseas”.

It is understood insurers are owed millions of dollars, and that the investors, US citizens Steve and Chandanie Godwin, had access to the broker trust fund.

“[The Australian Securities and Investments Commission] is aware of this situation and insurers have been advised,” the source said.

Other sources allege Winley has not submitted its annual return to the regulator for the past two years.

Winley MD Jeff Bailey did not respond to insuranceNEWS.com.au requests to be interviewed. It is understood he will wind up Winley by June 1.

A number of Winley’s largest ARs have already moved to other groups. These include Mr Bailey’s own company, Sunset Coast Insurance Services.

He is understood to be moving his company to former rival Apollo Risk Services in Perth, and a significant number of former Winley ARs have followed his lead.

insuranceNEWS.com.au was told early last week that Winley, which was not affiliated to any broker group, was being “hocked around Perth”. But by the end of last week, with members quitting, there was apparently little left to sell and Mr Bailey told insurers he would wind up Winley.

The company had about 70 ARs. Many were small-scale operators, with the company inviting applications from ARs with “portfolios ranging from less than $100,000 gross written premium to $10 million or more”.

Its advertising claimed “the lowest fees in the industry”, plus free professional indemnity cover and free access to broker systems.

“Their low fees are going to be a problem for ARs looking to move to other groups,” a leading broking figure in Perth told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Winley had very low management fees 8%, and ARs aren’t going to get the sort of deals they had anywhere else.”