Canadian Underwriter

Acquisition sees Westland enter new industry vertical, U.S. market

September 8, 2022   by Jason Contant

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Westland Insurance has entered a new industry vertical and the U.S. market for the first time with the acquisition of Front Row Insurance Brokers Inc., one of the largest and most respected film and entertainment insurance brokers in North America.

Surrey, B.C.-headquartered Westland said the acquisition adds a key vertical under its corporate advisory & specialty practice, “positioning [Westland] as a market leader serving the rapidly evolving film and entertainment industry in Canada, the U.S. and internationally.”

Front Row is a Canadian brokerage with operations in the U.S. It offers fast insurance and risk management solutions to the entertainment industry, including film production, music, theatre, live performance and commercial photographers. It has eight offices across North America in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York.

Front Row will retain its name, logo, website and all of its 55 specially trained staff members, Westland said in a release on Wednesday, when it announced the acquisition.

The film and entertainment brokerage “is an entrepreneurial and creative culture, with staff that are passionate about the arts, highly engaged and driven,” Westland president and chief operating officer Jamie Lyons told Canadian Underwriter on Thursday. “Whether in the U.S. or Canada, we believe the tenets of this culture align extremely well with those at Westland.”

Front Row is also an “incredible complement and accelerator” to Westland’s commercial strategy, Lyons said in the release.

“They have deep expertise as a market-leading entertainment insurance broker and have incredibly strong brand equity in Canada and the United States,” he said. “They are entrepreneurs and innovators in an industry that is going through tremendous growth and change.”

David Hamilton, president and CEO of Front Row, said that “Westland’s vision to expand their specialty practice to include entertainment, arts and culture was immediately attractive to us.”

Canadian Underwriter asked why Westland decided to buy Front Row, particularly as COVID-19 has had quite an impact on the film and entertainment industry, and how it sees the film/entertainment insurance scene changing now that COVID restrictions have largely been lifted.

Lyons said Front Row’s expertise in documentaries, commercials and animation helped offset the downturn in feature films and TV series, especially during the height of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Coming out of the pandemic, film production has exceeded historic levels,” he added. “We’re seeing record highs for streaming and broadcasting and there are entertainment industry tailwinds that we believe Front Row is extremely well positioned to benefit from, especially given its dominant market presence and brand equity in both Canada and the U.S.”

Looking forward, Lyons said part of the strategy within Westland’s corporate advisory & specialty practice is to “continue investing in specialized and niche segments of the market where we can bring unique…solutions, expertise and capabilities to bear.

“This includes industries and segments where we already have a well-established presence like transportation and agriculture, as well as specialized industries and segments where we may be under-represented and feel our platform can deliver value. It also includes new, evolving or high-growth industries and segments of the Canadian, cross-border and global economy.”


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