Canadian Underwriter

The role of digital transformation in Westland’s acquisition strategy

January 14, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Expanded opportunities for digital transformation are one of the key reasons behind Westland Insurance Group Ltd.’s recent acquisition of Storm Insurance Group, Westland told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

British Columbia-based Westland closed its acquisition of Storm Jan. 7. Storm operates under several brands, including retail brokerages A.P. Reid, Sheppard and Axxium; group brokerage MyGroup; MGA Agile Underwriting Solutions; and digital insurance platform With this acquisition, Westland now has a coast-to-coast presence.

Jamie Lyons, president and chief operating officer of Westland, said in an interview Tuesday that Storm was an attractive acquisition for a few reasons, including Storm’s “really interesting” digital insurance platform.

“I think something like ZipSure is potentially very exciting for Westland, as we think about opportunities to continue to invest in our own digital strategy and our own omnichannel strategy,” Lyons said. “ZipSure could be a really important part of that.

“Just as importantly, I think it really speaks to the quality of leadership over at Storm that they’ve made investments in things like ZipSure….We’re excited to bring on the people who were involved in building that out within Storm and obviously thinking about the opportunities that might create for Westland as we move down our own technology transformation and digital journey.”

According to its website, ZipSure launched its first product ZipTenant in 2012. It now offers auto, home, condo, pet and travel insurance policies that can be purchased completely online using a computer, tablet, or mobile device. “You can communicate easily with our licensed brokers via email and receive your tenant documents through our self-serve portal, or your auto, home or condo documents through our easy-to-use client access centre,” the website said.

Storm is a “very entrepreneurial, innovative and digitally-advanced organization,” Lyons said. And its geographic footprint complements Westland’s national expansion strategy. Both companies have offices in Alberta and Ontario, but the acquisition brings offices in Quebec and Nova Scotia to Westland for the first time. “One of the exciting things for Westland is it connects us into a couple of new provinces that we weren’t otherwise represented in, and connects us all the way out to Atlantic Canada.”

So, what’s next for Westland now that it is coast-to-coast? “Our growth strategy would be to continue to grow nationally, grow in our core markets, [and] grow in communities where we are not yet represented or perhaps under-represented,” Lyons said. “We think of opportunities particularly east of the Rockies.”

Related: Brokerage M&A off to a strong start in 2021

Westland only entered into Saskatchewan in 2019. More recently, it has moved into Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. “Now that we’ve got operations in new provinces, we can really look at future acquisition opportunities or conversations with brokers who are thinking about selling their businesses with some boots on the ground in those markets,” Lyons said.

Westland also closed a partnership with Blackstone Credit last week. Westland has refinanced its existing debt with a new, long-term debt financing led by Blackstone, which includes a committed and undrawn debt facility for acquisitions.

“When we looked at all the options out there for potential capital, this one was very attractive to us and Blackstone also has a lot of expertise in the insurance industry, so it’s great to be able to tap into that,” Lyons said.

He added that the strategy is to remain a Canadian, family-owned independent company.


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