In his recent column for Insurance Business, Group CEO of Bravo Group Des O’Connor (pictured) outlined how 2019 represented a year of challenges and rewards both for the business and himself, and 2020 seems to have started off on a similar keel. The appointment of Jaime Swindle to the role of MD of networks and products is an indicator of the group’s drive to revitalise and refresh its network proposition, he said, an endeavour complemented by Bravo Group’s new branding strategy.
It was this strategy which led to the rebrand of Broker Network Partners to Ethos Broking and was part of a drive to bring Bravo Group out into the light as the parent company of Ethos Broking, Broker Network and Compass, he said.
Looking at the component parts of the group, O’Connor outlined, it was clear that, while Broker Network and Compass were well positioned and well-established within their community, Broker Network Partners was an outlier in terms of the group’s overall branding strategy.
“We felt that our retail broking business needed its own identity for the insurer marketplace and to forge a sense of community within the retail segment of our business,” he said. “We came up with Ethos because we felt it was a perfect illustration of how we look at acquisitions – always through a cultural lens.”
Ethos brokers have reacted very positively to the change, O’Connor said, and the brand has since become embedded in the language used by brokers and insurers alike. With 12 acquisitions throughout 2019, Ethos Broking was taken to the next level, he said, and the goal for 2020 is firmly set on meeting and likely exceeding that number.
“I think you’ll see our Ethos partners really go into a higher gear this year,” he said. “Now that our regional partner model is almost fully deployed, they have the remit to go out and speak to network members about acquisitions.”
Throughout 2020, he said, the group will continue to make satellite acquisitions and there are a few specialist or regional partner purchases which will be considered to fill any gaps. As implied by the Ethos Broking rebrand, a central consideration for Bravo Group when it comes to these acquisitions is cultural alignment and any considered partnerships will take this into consideration.
During acquisition discussions, O’Connor said, if the cultural box is not ticked the discussion does not tend to last long as the maintenance of the central values and ethos of Bravo Group is of the utmost importance. Among the central qualities required, he said, any potential businesses must have a strong brand reputation for honesty, professionalism and integrity.
“When we meet management for the first time,” O’Connor said, “we’re looking for an energy or a vision from them for how to take their business to the next level. And then the conversation quickly evolves to ‘how can we help them achieve that?’”
A lot of brokers the group has partnered with, he outlined, have the energy and drive to develop their business but have hit a glass ceiling in terms of how to actually achieve that growth. A healthy trading position and the ability of a business to grow organically is important, he said, but even more significant for O’Connor is that drive and focus on improving the business and taking it to new heights.
While acquisitions are very exciting and stimulating, and Bravo Group feels fortunate to have the funding and support from its shareholders to do that, he said, organic growth remains the number one key performance indicator for the group.
“There’s no point in us being busy in the marketplace and acquiring brokers if we lose the focus for organic growth,” he said. “And unless you keep investing in the business, the organic growth will slide.”
Continuous reinvention and the refreshing of its value proposition is a key focus for the group in 2020, O’Connor said, with an emphasis being placed across the board on how this can be refined and improved, whether that’s through its operational service centre or its product and placement strategy with insurers.
Between the Compass conference taking place in March and the Broker Network conference taking place in October, an incredible amount of planning will be involved within the group to welcome the 1,000+ attendees but O’Connor is looking forward to these key events, which represent an opportunity for the group to meet its members and thank them for all their hard work and support.
Bravo Group is still very young, he said, and it feels like from 2016 to 2019 was the end of chapter one where it was establishing itself within the marketplace. The last few years have flown by, with a lot of work going into building the business to the place where it stands now, he said, and 2020 is an opportunity to start enjoying the fruits of that labour.
Between conferences, acquisitions, rebranding programmes and strong organic growth there can be little doubt that as O’Connor said: “We’ve really only just begun.”