GroupSchemes.com: Staff benefits market proves lucrative
Co-founder Tom O'Driscoll gets papped at meeting in absence of rugby legend cousin Brian ahead of Six Nations competition
But that was largely because Svmcards managing director Brian Dunne is a proud Irishman himself and when he learned that Brian O'Driscoll's cousin was sitting opposite him at the boardroom table he came across all giddy.
He then insisted on having his picture taken with Tom O'Driscoll, co-founder of Groupschemes.com, the staff and company benefits firm that has been making waves across the pond of late.
The company was established over a decade ago, when co-founder and former pilot Peter Jenkinson, alongside colleagues at Dublin airport, who had become exasperated with being charged up to 20pc more than the going rate for car insurance.
It was a loading based on an outdated notion than they would be so exhausted once they landed that they couldn’t drive safely.
Jenkinson, by then a 23-year Aer Lingus veteran, decided to take matters into his own hands.
With the pilots’ backing, he challenged the insurers on the premiums and won, creating a group discount scheme for his colleagues at the airport. From then on, securing such discounts became the Dubliner’s raison d’etre.
“I thought ‘if I could stick up a decent offer on something else, like home or travel insurance, would that be viable too?” said Jenkinson, the 54-year-old son of a Skerries baker. “The product range grew out from the airport community on piecemeal basis. When we had enough offers, we decided we should really centralise this and make it available to others online.”
And so, GroupSchemes.com was born. It uses economies of scale to generate large discounts on goods and services for the employees and customers of companies, including the Irish divisions of Microsoft, KPMG, Pfizer, IBM, Deloitte and Musgrave Group. In total, it operates 300 online portals for staff benefits and customer loyalty programmes in Ireland and the UK.
The company has been profitable and debt-free since its foundation in 2000. GroupSchemes.com posted turnover of €1m last year and expects that to rise to €1.4m by the end of 2014.
“As companies come out of a long period of austerity, with cutbacks in benefits and in wages, they see providing additional benefits to staff again as part of the way forward,” Jenkinson said. At any one time, there are about 800 offers on our platforms.”
Since GroupSchemes.com is already the largest company of its kind in Ireland, it has long since set its sights on the UK for growth. It began operating online benefits portals for employees of the National Health Service in London five years ago to test the British market and now has 150,000 users at 10 NHS trusts. Jenkinson expects that figure to climb to 250,000 by the end of this quarter and 500,000 by the end of 2015.
The company, which employs just 15 staff of its own, is also in talks with two British utilities about introducing loyalty schemes for their customers and plans to roll out the staff benefits programmes to employees of its existing clients into continental Europe.