From concerns about talent pipelines, to capacity crunches, to regulatory upheavals, an MGA’s task of navigating the headwinds and tailwinds faced by intermediaries operating in the insurance market is never done. And despite the variable nature of MGAs, there’s a common theme linking those that have done so successfully – their ability to rapidly adapt and evolve in accordance with the expectations of their key stakeholders and the broader market alike.
This same adaptability is at the core of the operational restructuring Burns & Wilcox is undergoing in the UK, according to UK managing director Stuart Kilpatrick (pictured). In conversation with Insurance Business, he outlined how the overhaul – which will see the MGA move from a product-line focus to an industry segment focus – was crystallized during 2023’s BIBA conference and discussions with the regional broking market community.
“In our very genesis, we were much more London market centric than we are now, so our product line focus made sense because the London market tends to structure itself in that way,” he said. “But over the last few years – particularly since we joined the H.W. Kaufman Group in 2020 – that hasn’t played out the same way given our presence in the regional market space. We’ve got offices in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol and our London business is still writing regional business.”
Conversations at BIBA cemented that regional market brokers don’t tend to align themselves with just one product line, he said, and it made sense that Burns & Wilcox would move to reflect that and to realign its internal resources around broader industry sectors instead. The rollout of the revamped proposition will be done seamlessly, with processes underway and early 2024 seeing it diversify into several key tranches – hospitality, sport and leisure, retail, property/real estate and care, with eyes fixed on expanding further across construction and logistics.
The realignment is bringing real cohesion in terms of how Burns & Wilcox’s revenue, income and premium are now being distributed much more evenly, Kilpatrick said, which in turn will allow the MGA to utilise its resources much more efficiently and effectively. It felt more natural to bring everyone together to work as part of a broader offering, and he can already see the greater flexibility enabled by being able to move the expertise within its team around, without sacrificing the high levels of service so valued by its regional broker partners.
“Taking an industry sector approach means we’ve got people on the ground around the UK who are up to speed to talk to our broker partners about the newer and more specialist elements of our proposition, including care,” he said. “We feel that will allow us to scale the business a lot quicker than it would if it all falls on one individual who can only do so many things in a day.
“That’s the kind of logic [our restructure] is being built around. Fundamentally, we want to grow the business and we feel by doing this, we’ll have a greater ability to do that quicker than we would if we were structured the way we were before. And, having spoken to our broker partners, we feel it will be clearer for them to understand the sectors and sub-sectors we’re involved in and how we can support them and their clients.”
The move also represents a great opportunity for the internal team at Burns & Wilcox in the UK, he said, as it will allow them to broaden their own areas of expertise, and will lend greater support to those specialists who had previously been largely and solely responsible for driving growth in their niche product lines. Having access to more training and upskilling opportunities will be a key benefit, and it also opens up the chance for team members to move geographically and explore the full extent of what a career at Burns & Wilcox has to offer them.
The team will be taking an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to the restructure, to ensure that all key stakeholders – internal and external alike – are brought along on the journey. But for Kilpatrick, the transition goes back to the heart of what the MGA model is all about.
“As MGAs, we purport to be a lot more agile, more flexible, to be able to move quicker and adjust to the opportunity we see,” he said. “And definitely, in this market, which is changing all the time, there are new opportunities always coming along – whether they’re from a technological point of view, such as AI and machine learning, or environmental factors such as the move to green energy. All of these changes offer real opportunities, and we’ve got to show we’re able to react and adapt to meet them.”
Aligned with the MGA’s new sectoral focus, Burns & Wilcox is zeroing in on where it can lend real weight to new specialist, niche offerings – the kind which make the MGA model so unique. The firm currently has a PI offering, he said, and it’s keen to develop other areas where it can develop and grow, and the team is currently open to discussions about what this growth will look like.
Looking to the future, Kilpatrick noted that it’s all change for the MGA which has also recently invested in developing an online portal enabling it to do more volume business, which in turn will open up new opportunities to look at sectors it couldn’t have in the past, as structurally it wasn’t designed for that. Stretching the boundaries of this new capability to deliver these solutions quickly and efficiently will expand its playing field, he said, and he’s looking forward to seeing where that leads next.
For now, however, Kilpatrick is keen to take the temperature of the broker market and see how it responds to this refreshed proposition which looks to make it easier than ever before for brokers to find their way to working with the firm. And as it continues to grow, he said, it will start to look at other opportunities, other sectors and other avenues to expanding its proposition as they come along.
“I think all the work we’ve been doing should make it a lot easier for our broker partners to understand what we’re doing, and the direction we’re going, but equally, what we can offer their clients or prospects in new areas that they want to get involved with,” he said. “So, if there are areas within the ‘headline sectors’, we’re not involved with at the moment but where there’s an opportunity for us to get involved, or a need from our partners for us to develop a solution, we’re really keen to open up discussions around that.”