Gallagher MD on growing the brokerage's Southern footprint

"M&A is a big focus for us"

Gallagher MD on growing the brokerage's Southern footprint

Insurance News

By Mia Wallace

Reflecting on the 35 years he has spent serving the insurance market, Gary Fletcher (pictured) revealed that his nine-year tenure as MD of the South for Gallagher’s UK retail division has made up the “best years of [his] career”. It’s a high bar, he said, as he has enjoyed every step in his insurance journey to date – a bar set by the variety inherent to his role, the colleagues he works alongside and the entrepreneurs he supports as they convert ideas into viable business models.

Serving the Southern market as MD

Fletcher came to Gallagher when the broker acquired Oval Insurance Broking in 2014. Since then, the business has grown rapidly, he said, and with that growth has come an expansion in the remit of his responsibilities. Broadly speaking, his role can now be divided into three key swathes – with his day-to-day job seeing him manage some 800 people across about 20 businesses as MD for the South.

“The ‘South’ is very much a geography title, which breaks into two things,” he said. “It’s the branch offices in the South but also a number of the niches or specialisms that sit within Gallagher’s retail division. Our office structure really goes from coast to coast – we’re in Exeter through to Ipswich, then we go as high as Gloucester and everything in between right down to the South coast, including London.”

Gallagher’s UK specialist businesses

Touching on the specialisms within his remit – which include public sector, education, housing, marine, real estate, life science and public transport – Fletcher noted that Gallagher is now the dominant broker in the UK across many of these niche markets. This has been bolstered by targeted M&A activity looking to patch up any missing links in the broker’s coverage, including its recent acquisition of FE Protect.

Michael Rea’s executive team for UK retail

While his role as MD sees him lead the Southern business, support its growth, build out his leadership team and focus on M&A, Fletcher also serves as part of Michael Rea’s executive team for UK retail. This allows him to take a more enterprise-level view of UK retail, he said, and help evolve the business’s strategic direction.

Fletcher’s role as chair of Gallagher’s UK retail D&I committee

Last but certainly not least, he was also recently appointed as chair of Gallagher’s UK retail D&I committee. It has been amazing to see how the more you understand, the more you can influence, he said, and he’s relishing being part of Gallagher’s drive to further embed diversity and inclusion on the agenda across the wider business.

What underpins Gallagher’s commitment to regional growth?

Four key pillars underpin Gallagher’s commitment to regional growth – the first being M&A activity.

“So, our commitment to growth now, taking it from an M&A perspective, is on continuing to invest in the right businesses, or in the right specialisms,” he said. “More geography might come from that but it’s not our primary focus as we have such a strong regional footprint already. We’re looking at increasing our scale and the number of people we employ because, in insurance broking, it’s all about client service. The more people you have, the more customers you can support. Because if service fails then retention fails and you don’t attract new business.”

On M&A, Gallagher remains quite selective despite the competitiveness of the market, Fletcher said, and cultural fit remains a critical metric as the brokerage rates its culture as instrumental to its ongoing success. In addition, it’s looking for firms that want to find their “forever home”, as the security Gallagher can provide as a broker built to last is inherent to its value proposition.

“We love investing in specialisms, of course,” he said, “but most of all we’re looking for good, regional businesses that we can bring into the family. M&A is a big focus for us and we’re of the scale where we can do the smaller deals but also the larger deals as they come along. We’ll always keep an open mind to both.”

Also high on the agenda of increasing Gallagher’s regional footprint is further investment in organic growth, and this includes new products and services, and enhanced expertise in the areas where the broker can add value to existing customers and attract new customers. Discovering what customers want to buy that wouldn’t necessarily have always bought from an insurance broker has been a strength of the wider Gallagher team, Fletcher said, and one it will continue to leverage going forward.

And our people are always key,” he said. “We’re investing to grow our footprint in new hires, of course, but also in our existing people. And we’re trying to get the message out there that this is a great place to work. In Gallagher, you can expect recognition, you can expect support, you can expect your career to be developed, you can expect to work as a team, and you can expect trust. We find there are so many people out there who just can’t tick all those boxes every day. But in Gallagher that will happen and we’ll build a plan around you.”

Fletcher noted that the fourth pillar is the ongoing reshaping of Gallagher’s organisational framework. The business is investing heavily in the right systems and processes that will make it frictionless for customers to deal with Gallagher, he said, but which will also reduce the menial or laborious administrative tasks that eat up the time its teams could be spending with their clients.

Gallagher remains a face-to-face client-centric business, despite its impressive scale, he said, and, as such, it places a significant premium on having its people talking to or actively working with their clients. Further investments are still to come in this area but the journey is now well underway.

“So, that’s my focus for 2023,” he said. “To look after our people, bring in new people, grow our business organically and undertake some M&A. But it’s all with our customers at heart because our strategy is to be the go-to broker in the communities in which we operate. When I say communities, that could be geographic or it could be one of our sectors, because we talk about the community as our customer base. We just want to keep doing the same things every day and get a little bit better every day, so we can be that go-to broker.”

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