Wesleyan Assurance Society is set to create 90 new jobs at its head office in Birmingham as it invests in a new division to boost sales.

The Birmingham-based mutual, which specialises in financial services for doctors, dentists, lawyers and teachers, is setting up a new centre aimed at increasing the productivity of its sales staff.

Local business leaders welcomed the announcement, which comes at a time when the region is set to lose thousands of public sector jobs through cutbacks to Government spending.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said Wesleyan’s recruitment drive would help Birmingham build its name as a financial services centre.

“It’s heartening to hear of a long-established Birmingham company like Wesleyan bucking the trend and recruiting more staff,” he said.

“This will be a boost to Birmingham’s reputation for being the UK’s largest centre for financial and professional services, outside of London. Wesleyan is one of the few financial services companies to emerge unscathed from the downturn in this sector.

“Moreover, as a mutual it has no shareholders and is run for the benefit of its members.

“In these uncertain times, this single-minded focus has been key to Wesleyan’s success.”

Wesleyan, whose history stretches back to 1841, employs around 1,000 people with two-thirds based at its head office in Birmingham and the remainder forming part of a national sales force.

The mutual’s expansion drive comes six months after its acquisition of the £50 million personal loan portfolio of Liverpool Victoria Banking Services, doubling the assets of its subsidiary the Wesleyan Bank and prompting it to take on new staff.

It also bought Poole-based firm Key Business Professions at the same time, a provider of short-term loans for lawyers.

Wesleyan is embarking on its latest recruitment drive after internal research revealed that its financial consultants were spending nearly as much time setting up appointments as they were spending with customers.

In response, it ran a year-long pilot for its Sales Relationship Centre (SRC) which allowed financial consultants to spend more time with customers and increased the number of clients seen and sales made.

Sam Porter, Wesleyan’s director of marketing said: “The pilot shows that creating an SRC will not only help to increase sales force productivity but will also allow financial consultants to spend more quality time with clients discussing their financial needs.

“As a specialist provider we have a clear understanding of the needs of our customers and the issues that are impacting on them and their professions.

“This insight will allow the SRC to support customers who might be affected by changes in pension schemes or tax legislation, for example, in a timely manner.”