Hailed as a “landmark moment” for the business, the management buyout (MBO) of OneAdvent saw managing director Tim Quayle (pictured) step into a new role as CEO with the stated ambition of bolstering the specialist MGA and broker services platform’s UK and European presence and product offering.
Discussing how the MBO came about, Quayle noted that it was a natural next step for the business which, having built solid momentum over the last couple of years, found itself with a proposition rapidly gaining traction, backed by a strong and diverse team. The question was, “Why shouldn’t we do this now?’, he said, and from a personal perspective, as an entrepreneurially minded individual used to having ownership in the businesses he oversees, it felt like the right time to take that step.
It has been great to see the excitement and the enthusiasm from the team for where OneAdvent goes next, he said, to see their shared belief in that plan of action. The MBO also brought great affirmation of that plan through the external validation provided by new investors throwing their weight behind the business and its ambition to be a partner to the market “that goes above and beyond”.
“That energy on the ground is really being added to by the new investors that have come in, because this is a new project for them, so they’re full of enthusiasm,” he said. “They want to get involved, they want to meet the team, they want to understand what we’re doing and how they can help. And that energy just builds internally which has been amazing to see.
“For our clients and partners, we’ve always prided ourselves on giving excellent service, that’s always been at the centre of everything we do. So, what this MBO means for them is that we can grow and scale the business, while continuing to deliver that level of excellent service. I think that’s really key because we’ve got a really strong client base at the moment who are giving us very positive feedback. But if we’re going to grow and capitalise on the opportunities we have, we need to maintain those levels of service because this is still a people industry, and our business is still all referral-based.”
It’s an exciting time to be serving the MGA sector, Quayle said, because it’s facing quite an inflexion point as the bar is being raised for MGAs. There’s now a lot more scrutiny around operation resilience, and there’s a greater expectation for MGAs to have some of the same infrastructure and controls that would be expected of insurance companies. These businesses are being held to a higher standard, but OneAdvent is still seeing a lot of opportunities for those businesses able to meet that benchmark.
“The difference is we’re seeing better plans now,” he said. “These are better plans backed by experienced funders who know what they’re talking about. We see that only as a positive shift. In addition, I think some of the smaller MGAs are going to be swallowed up because they’re going to find it difficult to manage their capacity relationships going forward. Overall, I think the MGA market will continue to be a huge area of growth. And with the bar being raised for MGAs, I see more opportunity for us, because they’re going to want to work with an experienced partner who knows how to execute on their plans.”
Identifying how OneAdvent has equipped itself to best support the MGA sector, Quayle noted that the team is always being asked how it can help clients and prospects get to revenue quickly. Speed to market is key to them at this time, he said, and that messaging is irrespective of whether they’re an incredibly well-funded MGA opportunity or bootstrapping it.
Clients want support in getting to market quickly, he said, which is where OneAdvent excels because it understands the ins-and-outs of early-stage businesses. Having a highly flexible approach is what allows the platform to adapt and react quickly, because it understands that even the best-laid business plans often go out the window once the growth journey really begins and challenges begin to present themselves. Having speed and agility in helping partners navigate those challenges is a real value-add, which he’s pleased to see reflected in the feedback of clients.
“Another key area for us is execution risk,” he said. “A lot of the people we’re talking to at the moment have launched businesses overseas, got traction overseas and looking to the UK and European market as a next step. What they want is a trusted partner who can roll their sleeves up and help them get set up in these territories. And that’s where we’re really proving to be a hands-on, flexible partner.”
Examining what’s top of the team’s growth agenda, Quayle noted that there are three key areas of focus keeping them busy at the moment. Firstly, he said, OneAdvent is looking to expand its service proposition. It aims to position itself as a platform that can take MGA businesses through their entire lifecycle, and so a lot of work is going into where that service proposition still needs to be expanded.
“The second area of focus is on getting closer to capacity,” he said. “If we are really going to position ourselves as the go-to London market MGA platform, we need the MGA businesses that come and talk to us to believe that by working with us, they stand a better chance of putting quality capacity behind their proposition. So getting close to capacity has to be a key part of that.
“And the final piece is about having the ability to access funds to go after growth opportunities, as and when we see them. We don’t have anything particular identified at the moment as a bolt-on to what we’ve got. But it’s about having the ability to go out and talk to people and explore new opportunities to develop our proposition and to have the capacity to go after these growth opportunities.”