BrokerLink’s M&A strategy remains focused on regions where it currently does business and is not looking to get into other verticals at the moment, senior executives at the brokerage tell Canadian Underwriter.
“The focus continues to be Ontario, Alberta, and Atlantic Canada for BrokerLink,” says the brokerage’s vice president of acquisitions, Michael Stack. That’s not to say the Intact Financial Corporation subsidiary can’t expand into other communities, as it has over the years — such as in northern Ontario, northern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. It’s just the focus remains on where the brokerage does well and has supports in place for employees.
As demographics change, and urbanization or post-COVID shifts occur, BrokerLink will adjust and move into communities where it hasn’t been historically due to the growth in these communities, Stack adds.
BrokerLink president Joe D’Annunzio notes the brokerage offers personal and commercial lines, along with a small life book of business, and MGA offerings. “So, we’re quite well-rounded in the P&C business,” he says. “There’s still plenty of opportunity in those core things that we do well…so we’re not looking to get into other verticals just yet.”
BrokerLink ranks among the largest brokerages in Canada, with more than $2.5 billion in annual premiums, and 3,000 employees in more than 200 locations across Canada. D’Annunzio says the goal is to grow both organically and by acquisition. “We’ll continue to be active in further consolidation of the marketplace, but also invest in the communities in which we operate and look for new ones where we believe we can grow and add value to other communities.”
Sharing of similar values is important, as is employee focus and a commitment to local communities. “We don’t shut down locations,” D’Annunzio says. “We want to be an inclusive broker.”
When you ask broker principals why they are looking to sell, D’Annunzio says, “they built a legacy in town and they really want to take care of the people, and so our model resonates with them.”
Stack says the brokerage has a variety of offerings that appeal to brokers, such as the ability to build on a legacy or a producer shop that needs a special type of transaction, for example. “We want stability for the employees,” he says. “We’re a Canadian company that’s invested for the long term.”
Stack was previously CEO of Archway Insurance, one of Atlantic Canada’s largest brokerages, which was acquired by BrokerLink last August.
For D’Annunzio, delivering an omni-channel experience is also important. “The customer gets to choose how they want to interact with us, not how we want to interact with them,” he says. For example, some clients may want to walk into a physical location, others may prefer a phone call (whether with a personal advisor or otherwise), while others may want a digital experience.
In the past two years, BrokerLink has completed more than 40 deals and welcomed more than 700 employees into the fold, D’Annunzio says. “Retention of our acquired employees is over 90% three years after the acquisition,” he adds. “For me, that’s a good stat to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by them, that they stay with us even after being acquired.”
Recently, BrokerLink completed its largest acquisition in Alberta to date with Bow Valley Insurance Services (2004) Ltd., effective Feb. 1. The brokerage has offered home, auto, farm, and business insurance to Calgary and nearby communities for more than 40 years.
Also effective Feb. 1, BrokerLink acquired Blair Insurance Brokers Ltd., which has served Markham, Ont. residents for more than 40 years with home, auto, business, and life and health insurance.
Its third acquisition in February was of Nova Scotia-based Bluenose Insurance. Bluenose has offered tailored auto, home, business, and life insurance coverage to its customers in Sydney, St. Peter’s and Arichat for more than 30 years. In 2021, BrokerLink doubled its size in Atlantic Canada to become one of the largest brokerages on the east coast, with more than 65 locations and 400 employees.