Canadian Underwriter

U.S. wholesale broker expands into Canada with acquisition of SUM

August 11, 2020   by Jason Contant

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A United States-based national wholesale insurance broker has acquired Strategic Underwriting Managers, Inc. (SUM), a Canadian managing general agency for property, casualty and other specialty insurance products.

Boston-headquartered wholesale broker, program manager, and insurance aggregator One80 Intermediaries announced the acquisition Tuesday. The move expands One80’s footprint into the Canadian insurance market. With offices in Toronto and Montreal, SUM works with insurers and reinsurers to design, underwrite and deliver insurance products to brokers throughout Canada. (In British Columbia, SUM Insurance operates as SUM Insurance Managers.)

“One80 has rapidly expanded throughout the United States and we look forward to establishing an international footprint with Strategic Underwriting Managers,” Matthew F. Power, president of One80, said in a press release Tuesday. “SUM and One80 uphold a similar entrepreneurial culture and strategic long-term vision. With that we are confident that together, we will further support our brokers on both sides of the border.”

Power told Canadian Underwriter that “the opportunity to acquire the leading, innovative, independent MGA in Canada fits well with our overall strategy of developing new geographies and niche market capabilities. From our earliest discussions, clear synergies between our two organizations became apparent and it was clear that our management teams were well-aligned.”

Post-merger, SUM will continue to operate as it always has, and brokers should continue to expect the same high levels of service and account focus they have come to expect from the managing general agency, SUM president Jeff Somerville said in an emailed statement to Canadian Underwriter.

“Over the next year, we will move toward brand conversion,” Somerville said. “We’ll work to introduce complimentary and innovative products that add value to our brokers and their clients, consistent with the tradition of both firms.”

Power said Somerville will join the senior leadership team at One80 and “play a pivotal role in developing our future growth plans throughout Canada. The SUM team is aligned and ready to push forward.”

Canadian Underwriter asked if there are any plans for future acquisitions of MGAs in Canada. “Our primary focus will be on supporting SUM and ensuring a continuing strong organic growth trajectory,” Power responded. “If new acquisition opportunities in Canada are presented to us, we will certainly consider them to the extent that they are complimentary to what Jeff and his team have built at SUM.”

Canadian Underwriter also asked if the global pandemic made the merger more difficult to execute than it might have been before the spread of the novel coronavirus in Canada and the United States.

“Surprisingly, the pandemic caused very little disruption in terms of our ability to execute on this transaction,” Power said. “We were able to manage the process quite well utilizing technology and talking – Zooming – regularly with everyone involved.”

Added Somerville: “Our strong cultural alignment, really a common mindset on client service, overcame any practical disruptions.”

Privately-held One80 offers placement services and binding authority for P&C, financial lines, personal lines and medical stop loss risks. With offices in more than 20 U.S. locations, it serves commercial companies, non-profits, public entities and individuals, and has access to all major insurance markets in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

For its part, SUM has broad, in-house binding authority with insurance carriers. The Canadian MGA is licensed in every province and territory in Canada and does not require broker contracts or volume commitments.

“In joining One80, we look forward to developing additional capacity, and introducing new products and innovations into Canada,” Somerville said in the release.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Dowling Hales served as an advisor to SUM.

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