Sharp elbows: Reactions London market broking survey 2016

Sharp elbows: Reactions London market broking survey 2016

london cityNowhere else on the planet is there such a concentration of re/insurance broking talent as in London’s EC3 postcode, clustered around the confines of Lime Street, Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall, competing fiercely to place business in the world’s biggest insurance hub.

Amid soft market pricing, attention tends to focus on the squeeze on profits faced by the market’s underwriters, but brokers face much the same pressures. Your correspondent met one young reinsurance intermediary for a coffee recently, and was reminded of this fierce competition.

Brokers’ commissions on placements are subject to the same pricing pressures, while competing against fierce rivals to win clients and keep them happy. In this context, Reactions decided to online poll the market this January and February to find out who is doing well at present.

Somewhat predictably, competition was tight. In the overall categories for overall categories for primary and reinsurance broking – as in the bulk of more specific categories – it felt right to group the market by those largest brokers and then the medium and smaller sized entities that also compete in this densely populated hub. It should also be noted that although the focus of this survey is on London, most of the brokers named below have multinational networks to mirror the London market’s risk profile itself, with offices as far afield as Miami, Singapore and myriad places in-between.

In the primary broking overall ranking, among the biggest players, Aon and Willis (newly combined with Towers Watson post-merger) were tied at the top. It is indicative of just how competitive this market is that so many firms found themselves level or near level pegging in the survey’s results.

Meanwhile, among the smaller firms, Price Forbes topped the primary ranking, closely followed by Howden (its parent group Hyperion having recently acquired rival RK Harrison (RKH). Both these firms are notable in their investment in people in recent months, whether through ruthless hiring from rivals or outright acquisitions: the right teams and talent matters intensely in this market.

On the reinsurance broking side of things – always at the core of Reactions’ interest in the London market – Guy Carpenter and Aon Benfield were predictably neck and neck among the biggest firms, according to this poll. Both firms have enormous resources to deploy in the London market, particularly on the data and analytics side of things.

It is notable that Guy Carpenter together with its primary broking arm Marsh topped the rankings for finding new business, crucial for sharp elbowed intermediaries in such a closely competitive space, as well as in “reach”, shared with fellow giant, Aon. Meanwhile Aon and its reinsurance devoted entity Aon Benfield came out on top in the brand strength and reputation category, testament to the group’s weight of global resources it can bring to bear to serve its clients.

Among the smaller reinsurance brokers, boutique outfit RFIB emerged in first place. The broker is known for its specialty lines of business (a traditional London market strength) as well as for focusing on niche business and regions such as the Middle East. RFIB – full name Robert Fleming Insurance Brokers, the same family as Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond – recently gave itself a licence to expand its business with the help of new American private equity majority owner Calera Capital.

In a notable close second came Capsicum Re, the “incubator” founded by former Benfield man Grahame Chilton (who came up with the name – a Latin pun on his nickname “Chily”) and now led by Rupert Swallow, who took over the reins from Chilton, who now heads Gallagher International as CEO, which has a 20% stake in the venture.

Again the importance of having the right teams in place – and inevitably that means attracting key personnel to defect from rivals – is key here. When Reactions interviewed Swallow during the most recent Monte Carlo Rendezvous, he was keen to broadcast that “we are disruptors” out to shake up the market and scoop talent from rival intermediaries. “Clients love it, we’re stirring things up, and bringing us into play is to their advantage. Every placement, contract and hire we make is a win for us – the epitome of disruption we can cause,” Swallow added.

The jostling of firms in these rankings is testament to the vibrancy of London’s market for broking and in general. All of the re/insurance broking companies listed here – big and small – represent the best of broking talent in London’s dynamic global marketplace.

On that note, in a few months’ time, on June 23, another – very separate – process for highlighting the brightest and best across the London market (encompassing underwriters, brokers and services this time) will culminate with the Reactions’ London Market Awards 2016. Those awards will ultimately be decided by a high level judging panel, so stay tuned to Reactions to see how that one turns out!

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