Westland Insurance has expanded its partnership with Blackstone Credit, which will be investing $250 million towards Westland’s acquisition strategy.
And where will this M&A strategy focus next?
“Our ambitions are to continue to grow, expand, to serve as many communities in Canada as we can serve, and it will continue for us in 2022 and beyond,” Westland president and chief operating office Jamie Lyons, tells Canadian Underwriter. “We’re continuing to look at opportunities to grow, more specifically in the prairie provinces, in Ontario, and Atlantic. And we’ll do that in a number of different ways, including M&A.”
Lyons says Westland considers several factors when it comes to making brokerage acquisitions.
“We look for brokerages that have been in their communities for a number of years, have a very strong reputation, long-standing partnerships and relationships with insurers, have a really good presence within their communities, strong staff, great people working for them,” he says. “We find those to be the best fit for us.”
Brokerages of interest to Westland aim to serve a broad range of the Canadian marketplace, from small rural communities to urban centers. “That’s the journey we’re on. For us, it’s continued growth, continued national expansion,” Lyons adds.
Lyons appreciates the Blackstone partnership because it allows Westland to grow while maintaining a family-oriented ownership structure.
“What we really liked about Blackstone, is that they’d be able to help give us the capital that we needed to fulfill our growth journey and strategy, and so that we can remain a family-controlled company,” Lyons says.
Founded in the 1980s by Jeff Wubs in Ladner, British Columbia, Westland now accounts for over 190 locations in seven provinces coast-to-coast.
Westland’s made its most recent acquisitions in early January 2022, when they acquired Bunnell Hitchon Insurance Brokers in Ontario and Rigby Insurance in Alberta.
“In the last 12 months, we’ve done 30 transactions. We’ve acquired around 400 employees,” Lyons adds. This figure brings their employee count to nearly 2,100.
Blackstone’s total investment in Westland to over $1.2 billion since its initial investment in January 2021. Not all of that is geared to M&A. On top of nationally expanding their M&A growth, Westland tells Canadian Underwriter other key business initiatives they plan to develop using their recent investment from Blackstone.
“We’ve got a few key strategic pillars with our organization: client experience, employee experience, communities, partnerships and acquisitions.” Lyons says. “We’ll continue to invest in all those areas. That’s where the capital will be deployed.”