Vice president discusses the growth strategy of his brokerage

Why insurance acquisitions are possibilities for greater commitment

Vice president discusses the growth strategy of his brokerage

Mergers & Acquisitions

By Lyle Adriano

According to a new report from WTW, the global M&A market remained resilient in 2022 despite uncertainties. These uncertainties included geopolitical turmoil, spiking inflation, surging interest rates and concerns about a global recession.

Brokers like BrokerLink are proof of how resilient the M&A market has been.

In a company release published earlier this year, BrokerLink announced that with the addition of Universal Risk Solutions, it closed an impressive 24 acquisitions in 2022. Most of the acquisitions were centred in Ontario, but the brokerage also snapped up broker operations in the Atlantic and Alberta.

To learn more about this milestone and BrokerLink’s future M&A plans, Insurance Business spoke with Michael Stack (pictured), VP of acquisitions.

Can you tell us about your role at BrokerLink and your key responsibilities?

As vice president, Acquisitions, I’m on the road a lot, meeting with brokerage owners to discuss the opportunity for them to consider BrokerLink as a viable option for the future of their brokerage, and to help educate them on what our organization is aiming to accomplish, along with answering questions about the market and being a resource brokers can turn to.

I am in the unique position of having personal experience in this very situation, as I helped facilitate the sale of my family’s brokerage (Archway Insurance) to BrokerLink in 2021. Being able to empathize and discuss the feelings that come with selling your brokerage has been very valuable, and I’ve been able to help other brokers navigate this very significant decision and assist in guiding them through all aspects of the process, which includes ensuring that we take extra special care of their staff and customers.

One very important factor I try to identify when meeting with prospective brokerages is whether they share our values. Our values define how we treat each other and the way in which we operate in the marketplace. Alignment of these values has proven to be key to a successful partnership with any brokerage and ultimately for the integration of the brokerage into our organization and culture.  

Finally, I strive to understand the positive qualities (effective work processes, technology, etc.) that exist within each brokerage, so we can bring them in-house and continue to build and enhance our customer and employee experience. It’s absolutely critical that this transfer of the best of each new partner takes place, to ensure growth for the brokerage, employee engagement and in turn an improved customer experience for all BrokerLink customers.

What is your company's strategy when it comes to acquisitions?

At BrokerLink, we believe that insurance is about people, not things, and our purpose is simple: we’re here to help people. Our purpose defines why we exist, it drives everything we do, and it gives meaning to our work.

So with this in mind, we continue to focus on growth both organically and through acquisitions, which in turn allows us to increase our investments in technology, in the communities we do business and most importantly in our employees. 

We are always looking to expand and enhance our existing lines of business, including specialized offerings like benefits and life, commercial specialty, registry business and unique technology offerings.

Customer demand ultimately drives our strategy, and our business model addresses three fundamental challenges to brokerage distribution:

  • Scale: which we build through both organic growth and acquisitions.
  • Technology: which we use to deliver choice to customers when it comes to how they want to interact with us: in person at a local branch, on the phone or online.
  • Brand: which we promote through best-in-class customer service and a commitment to building local communities throughout Canada.

Finally, each acquisition has unique needs and we have a team dedicated to ensuring that all aspects of integration are considered from start to finish. After the deal closes, we begin integrating operations and the team helps with every step of the transition process, from the moment we announce it to employees, to communicating with customers. Regional BrokerLink team members are also on hand to provide additional support and mentorship throughout the integration process.

What is BrokerLink looking for in an acquisition?

There are several key factors that we look for when it comes to an acquisition:

People: A brokerage’s employees are an integral part of all our acquisitions and we are proud to say that we retain over 90% of the employees who join us through the process! This is a key area that differentiates our model, and we believe that acquiring employees with diverse insurance experience is a key benefit.

The competition for talent is rising in our industry and we strive to provide the best working environment; a superior benefits package, and career paths within our organization to attract and retain the industry’s most talented.

Joining BrokerLink also means gaining access to expertise across the organization, and best practices are shared throughout all lines of business and operations, from Atlantic to Alberta.

Commitment to local service and community: Our employees live and work in the communities they serve, which makes them insurance experts when it comes to understanding local customer needs. The brokerages we acquire are active in their local communities, which aligns with BrokerLink’s guiding principal of being local, being part of the community and giving back to our communities.

BrokerLink is committed to being a strong investor and contributor to the communities in which we operate, and we are focused on providing customers with exceptional service first and foremost, so each acquired brokerage’s values and dedication to exceptional customer service are key factors in these transactions.

Technology: Brokerages with a unique technology offering are of interest to us, as ongoing technology improvements are a priority. Providing superior service to customers is increasingly complex, requiring large investments in technology and new roles and resources. In many cases, access to new technology is an advantage we offer prospective brokerages, as it is expensive to invest continuously in the technology that’s needed to compete in today’s marketplace. 

Business mix: We are always looking for ways to grow and expand our personal and commercial lines portfolios with specialized or unique programs. We also strive to enhance our existing offerings by adding segment experts in industries like farming, manufacturing or trucking, for example.

Location: we look for opportunities in new and existing communities within the provinces in which we operate.

What are some of the company's key growth plans for this year?

In 2023, we’re focused on growth in both personal and commercial lines; providing excellent customer service; enhancing our employee experience and continuing our strong track record for acquisition growth. 

We plan to continue investing in technology platforms that help us provide the best customer experience by serving our customers the way they choose – in person, on the phone or online.

We believe that insurance is about people, not things, and we’re focused on building a great team by being an employer of choice. We will continue to invest in our people, actively recruit to attract top talent in the industry, and expand the career growth and development programs we offer to all new and existing employees across the organization.

What would you say to a principal considering BrokerLink for the future of their brokerage?

When I have the chance to make the pitch, I focus on the two things that mattered most to me when my brokerage joined BrokerLink: employees and customers. 

BrokerLink is an organization that thinks about people first. We look after our people. We offer them progressive careers and ongoing development. We provide a hybrid work environment, and we provide a great benefits package.

When it comes to customers, we support the local communities, we keep the offices local and we offer the personalized service that individuals are looking for – whether they visit us, call us or use one of our online services.

Our door is open and we are always willing to speak with broker principals who are considering future options for their brokerage.

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