Canadian Underwriter

How brokers like BFL are recruiting talent to serve large international accounts

August 13, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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Uncertainty over mega-brokerage mergers provide an opportunity for other brokerages to acquire quality talent, a senior manager with Montreal-based BFL Canada suggests.

“Recently, firms like BFL have reinforced their large account talent pool with various leaders, claims, captive experts, surety and client executives from Willis Towers Watson (including me) and Aon to ensure they are poised for the future in the large international account space,” Brian Parsons, president of BFL Canada’s risk management division, told Canadian Underwriter Friday.

Parsons was Willis Towers Watson PLC’s CEO for the Canadian region from 2014 through 2021.

Aon PLC and Willis announced July 26 they are terminating their US$30-billion combination agreement. The proposed agreement was originally announced in March of 2020.

“The loss of talent resulting from the proposed Aon acquisition of Willis Towers Watson has seen other brokers take advantage and bolster their capabilities to ensure that clients of all sizes have choice just as the industry did in the late 1990s and 2000s,” Parsons said Friday. This, he suggested, was also the case a few years ago when New York City-based Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. acquired Jardine Lloyd Thompson.

The 2019 acquisition of JLT allowed Marsh to overtake Aon as the world’s biggest commercial brokerage.

At Montreal-based BFL, Parsons will lead the risk management segment from its Toronto office, BFL announced April 27. Parsons will work with BFL managing partner Brian Kelly to continue building BFL’s national practice. Parsons will also become vice-chair of BFL’s benefits and pension business.

Aon PLC and Willis Towers Watson are the world’s second and third biggest commercial property and casualty brokerage respectively.

BFL Canada, which was founded in 1987 by current president Barry F. Lorenzetti, is one of the largest employee-owned commercial brokerages in Canada.

The U.S. federal justice department announced June 16 it was asking an American court to block the Aon-Willis combination. The court had yet to issue a ruling when Aon and Willis announced July 26 they agreed to voluntarily terminate the deal.

“Despite regulatory momentum around the world, including the recent approval of our combination by the European Commission, we reached an impasse with the U.S. Department of Justice,” Aon CEO Greg Case said July 26 in the release announcing the deal to acquire Willis is now off.

Four days earlier, the subject of uncertainty over the Aon-Willis deal came up during Marsh & McLennan’s Q2 earnings call.

Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. increased its staff level by nearly 2,000 during the first half of 2021, CEO Dan Glaser said during that teleconference with investment banking analysts.

“We are hiring. The first six months of the year, [our] head count has grown nearly 2,000. Most of that is coming within [commercial retail brokerage] Marsh as they are capitalizing on the opportunity they see with their two biggest competitors [Aon and Willis] having some element of distraction and uncertainty,” Glaser said at the time.

“Much has been talked about regarding the broker landscape and consolidation over the last couple of years, but one thing is for certain: there are and always will be lots of broker choices for clients of all segments and industries, including large and international clients,” BFL’s Parsons said Friday.

Feature image via Productions


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