When Finch announced the expansion of its regional footprint through the purchase of Headley Group, the deal was the broker’s first of 2021 and the very first ever made by MD Paul Goodman (pictured). Goodman, who joined Finch in May 2020, has had a whirlwind introduction to leading the business, onboarding during a global pandemic in time to drive its latest deal across the finish line.
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Discussions between the businesses started under the previous MD Vince Gardner, he said, and he took ownership of the deal when Gardner went on to a new role. From his first meeting with the vendors, it was clear to Goodman that the team at Headley shared the core value that he believes brokers must embrace.
“And that is ‘customer first’,” he said. “They meet a lot of their customers and have a walk around their premises and learn about the business face to face. So, they actually have that client care piece as opposed to just doing everything by computer and online where it’s faceless. They’re very involved with their community, in respect of the work they do, and a lot of their clients are very local to them.”
Goodman noted that, when conversation turned to what the acquisition would mean, the parallels between the two businesses became even clearer. Like Finch, Headley specialises in property owners, professional indemnity and the motor trade, and he was drawn to the long-standing relationships they have fostered with a variety of sizeable commercial accounts and the specialist Morgan car scheme the business offers its private clients.
Acquisition-led growth has long been a part of Finch and this will continue to be the case, Goodman said, with a further acquisition already lined up to hopefully be completed before June 2021. Any future deals will be considered with a view to how they will complement Finch’s focus on developing its specialisms. The business currently has a good array of these but it is looking to evolve and potentially expand its key areas of focus going forward.
He believes that to truly grow a business that customers want to be talking to, brokers need to be specialists within their sector. There is still room for generalists, he said, but more people are now welcoming the value of expertise and of being able to communicate with insurance providers using the niche terminology of their profession.
“I think it’s just the way the world is going,” he said, “that, at the end of the day, if you are a professional advisor to a business, you should know a vast amount about the sector before you’re even talking to them. Otherwise, really, that client is educating you not only about their own business but also about the sector. When you get down to the basis of what we do, we are in the protection game, and we need to make sure that we are giving clients the right advice, as opposed to portraying what we know about their business, but actually not being 100% accurate.”
In addition to this focus on specialisms, he noted that a key element of Finch’s acquisition strategy is to bring on board brokers that are looking to be part of an ethical consolidation model. Too many people believe that an acquisition is simply about money and forget that these are companies which have developed a unique identity over many years. Prior to joining Finch, he said, Headley had spoken to a substantial number of other organisations and the team’s decision came down to the matter of the best fit and of having the freedom to remain involved with the business.
“I honestly do think that’s a key element of the difference between Ethos and some of our competitors out there,” he said. “Some of them will come in and on day one it’s change, change, change. They bring in their own way of doing things and don’t want to take new ideas on board. Whereas we will say ‘work with us, tell us why you do things this way’ and when it’s a good idea we’ll use it and copy it across the whole Finch business.”
Looking to 2021 and beyond, Goodman said that as well as further acquisitions and growing the specialisms of the business, one of his main areas of focus is on developing the culture of Finch. The brokerage has made a vast number of acquisitions and the integrations have been successful but now that he is MD he recognises that the culture of the business will inevitably need to continue to evolve. He will look to grow this across all its 11 branches and to re-instil a community focus within all the teams across the business.
“Other areas will be looking after staff and [empowering] them to offer personal customer care,” he said. “Because, no matter what I say, it’s going to be down to my colleagues to give that care to all our clients. But we have significant hunger to grow and fundamentally that’s what we’re good at - that organic growth has always been what Finch is good at.”