One thing 2020 has proven is that not even a global pandemic or multiple national lockdowns can stop the drumbeat of change within the insurance sector. As recently reported by Bloomberg, industry deals have hit almost US$93 billion (approx. £70.1 billion) so far this year with 2020 on course to be one of the biggest for deals since the last financial crisis.
Between the news of RSA Insurance Group’s takeover deal having been secured, of Howden Broking Group snapping up A-Plan and of Markerstudy purchasing Co-op’s underwriting business, the UK insurance market has seen its fair share of M&A activity over the last 12 months.
Discussing how the deal between Markerstudy Group and Co-op Insurance first came about in an interview with Insurance Business, Gary Humphreys (pictured), group underwriting director at Markerstudy, noted that the strategy of the business has focused on a combination of organic and acquisition led growth. Markerstudy is always open to new opportunities, he said, and Co-op was looking to dispose of its insurance underwriting arm around mid-2018, so the opportunity piqued interest on both sides.
“In addition to the sale, Co-op was seeking a committed partner for a long-term deal to sell motor and home insurance products under the Co-op brand,” he said. “This was an extremely attractive proposition for Markerstudy. As a collaboration, it is a good fit. Co-op has a household brand with 4.6 million active members, whereas we have invested heavily in technology, providing an excellent platform for customers to benefit from our underwriting expertise and sophisticated product development.”
Humphreys noted that finding the right partnerships and deals that will enable Markerstudy to grow and develop its customer base and its customer proposition is of great importance. In the example of Co-op, he said, this is the company’s biggest acquisition to date and provides the team with an unparalleled opportunity for growth.
“Our teams have a two-way partnership,” he said, “and will work together to expand our product offering and lines available in order to provide Co-op customers with the cover that best suits their needs. Co-op’s members will benefit from our ongoing investment and expertise, alongside R&D, such as test & learn workshops, to explore what customers want ‘now’ from their insurance provider.
“Our lives have all been impacted by COVID-19, and living and driving habits have altered significantly, and will continue to do so. This provides an opportunity to adapt and develop new products to satisfy these changing needs. Working with Co-op we will use the membership database to target products more relevant to members’ individual needs.”
Looking to how Markerstudy’s 1.8 million existing policyholders will be impacted by the agreement, Humphreys highlighted that the acquisition will enable these customers to benefit from the learning of Co-op members and that any subsequent product developments will be shared across all the group’s distribution channels.
There are so many aspects that go into pulling such a deal together and a key metric of success when it comes to acquisitions is how they impact the staff involved on both sides of the equation. The colleagues transitioning from Co-op Insurance to Markerstudy have been welcomed with new equipment and a full on-boarding policy, Humphreys said. This has included an ‘all-team conference call’ immediately following completion.
For any new arrival, there is a period of settling in, Humphreys said, but one of the benefits of the delay in completion has been the opportunity for weekly discussion forums with staff transferring, meeting the managers, and extensive Q&As. The group’s people team have been fully engaged in ensuring the process has been as smooth as possible for everyone concerned.
Such a milestone deserves a good celebration, he added, and Markerstudy do love a good party as it’s their way of thanking staff for their support, loyalty and hard work throughout the year.
“More than ever, after such a challenging nine months, we would very much like to celebrate in our famous style,” he said. “We also have our 20th anniversary to look forward to in May 2021, so we are keen to make a fuss. I think it’s too soon to start planning; for now, we are delighted to have got this deal over the line before Christmas, and to end 2020 in a strong and healthy position.”