The theme I need to cowl on this editorial is brokerage mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and the way widespread consolidation is altering the insurance coverage distribution market. One dealer I spoke to at a latest convention stated they’d obtained three gives within the first day of the conference to promote their unbiased brokerage to bigger regional or nationwide brokerage entities.
I count on these propositions had been three of perhaps a whole bunch of offers that had been laid on the desk throughout that convention. This isn’t a brand new theme; it maybe simply felt extra intense as a result of the conferences had been all in-person and dealmakers may look one another within the eye and get an actual really feel for the proposals.
In recent times, there’s been file M&A within the brokerage sector. After a minor droop at the beginning of the pandemic, deal exercise amongst distributors – together with retail brokers, wholesale brokers, managing common brokers (MGAs) and reinsurance brokers – picked up dramatically from June 2020 onwards, and since then, the market hasn’t missed a beat. This exercise has been pushed, specifically, by non-public fairness (PE) consumers.
However what if brokers don’t need to promote? Is there room for high-quality, unbiased insurance coverage brokers in a market dominated by distribution giants, with deep PE-backed pockets? My reply to that’s ‘Sure’. I consider high-quality, unbiased brokerages will at all times be related, however they’re not at all times going to have a straightforward journey. Right here’s why:
Scale, which is most simply achieved by means of M&A, opens doorways that smaller unbiased brokers don’t have entry to. Giant regional and nationwide brokers usually have relationships with all the largest insurers; they’ve entry to know-how, analysis, and growth; they usually can put money into expertise attraction, retention, and growth.
Small brokerage house owners – even those that have been steadfast of their independence – are feeling the necessity for scale. They’re operating their companies from the entrance strains (typically carrying many hats), they’re attempting to drive EBITDA (earnings earlier than curiosity, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), they usually’re consistently weighing up the necessity for funding in know-how and innovation with the price of staffing, and better common enterprise prices on account of inflation. It’s a true juggling act.
Scale is clearly vital, however so is experience, ardour, and tenure. Many smaller unbiased brokerages have a sure je ne sais quoi about them. There’s one thing particular a couple of brokerage that has serviced the identical neighborhood for 50-years. They’re at one with the individuals and the companies they serve – and as such, I consider they will present probably the most tailor-made and bespoke insurance coverage options for his or her shoppers. It’s of their greatest pursuits to maintain their native communities as resilient as doable.
All of it comes down as to if insurance coverage suppliers are keen to take care of their relationships with small, native brokerages – acknowledging that they know their communities higher than anybody – or whether or not insurers are additionally chasing economies of scale. In spite of everything, it’s considerably extra environment friendly for insurers to commerce with fewer companions, however that doesn’t essentially imply they’ll get one of the best outcomes from these companions.
That is an fascinating and ever-changing area. There’s plenty of consolidation, plenty of innovation, and plenty of competing priorities. I consider the dealer channel will proceed to evolve. In the mean time, there’s room for everybody, however the want for scale is turning into prime of thoughts for unbiased brokerage house owners and will subsequently result in much more M&A exercise within the coming years.