Canadian Underwriter

How M&A deals have re-arranged the pecking order of brokerages

July 5, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

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Hub International Ltd. has reached fifth place worldwide on A.M. Best Company Inc.‘s ranking of brokerages.

Hub was formed in 1998 through the merger of 11 Canadian brokerages and has since moved its head office to Chicago. It acquired 13 brokerages in Canada in 2018, A.M. Best reported in “Top Global Insurance Brokers,” an article published July 2 in the latest monthly issue of Best’s Review. As recently as Wednesday, Hub acquired Edmonton-based Berk Bilgen Insurance Ltd., which places home and auto coverage.

Mergers and acquisition activity has “reshaped the landscape” among global brokerages in 2018, A.M. Best said in Top Global Insurance Brokers. “The white-hot mergers and acquisitions market continued unabated in a record-breaking 2018. ”

Quoting consulting firm Optis Partners, A.M. Best said 631 brokerage M&A transactions were tracked in 2018 in Canada and the United States.

“The entire landscape could have shifted in March 2019, when No. 2 Aon announced it was considering an all-stock offer of No. 3 Willis Towers Watson. The merger quickly fell through,” A.M. Best said in the report, which ranks the top 20 brokerages worldwide.

Hub climbed the rankings the quickest from 2017 to 2018. By total revenue worldwide, Hub ranked eighth in 2017, rising to fifth in 2018 with US$2.15 billion in revenues.

The top four brokers in 2018 were Marsh & McLennan ($14.95 billion in revenue in 2018), Aon ($10.77 billion), Willis Towers Watson ($8.61 billion) and Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. ($6.93 billion). All figures are in United States dollars.

Previously placing ahead of Hub in 2017 were BB&T (5th in 2017), Brown and Brown Inc. (6th) and Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group plc (7th). JLT was bought by Marsh & McLennan in a US$5.6-billion deal that closed Apr. 1, 2019.

BB&T, Brown and Brown and JLT dropped to sixth, seventh and eighth respectively in 2018. Placing ninth and 10th last year were Lockton Inc. and USI Insurance Services respectively.

A.M. Best counted JLT and Marsh & McLennan as separate firms in 2017 and 2018.

Gallagher completed 48 deals in 2018, said A.M Best.

Shortly after brokers rang in the new year in 2019, Gallagher acquired Jones Brown Inc., a commecrial and personal P&C insurance brokerage with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Hamilton. Last year, Gallagher bought Palmer Atlantic, an Eastern Canada brokerage whose offerings include commercial auto. In 2014, Gallagher acquired Noraxis, which includes CG&B Group and Stevenson & Hunt.

A.M. Best reported July 2 that New York City-based NFP Corp. dropped from 12th place in 2017 to 13th last year. NPF acquired Ancaster, Ont.-based Dalton Timmis Insurance Group Inc. in 2017. NPF made 40 acquisitions in 2018, A.M. Best said.

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