’Networks across the market have a part to play in making sure that the general quality of brokers in the UK is as robust as it can be,’ says broker network chief executive

After almost a year and a half in post as chief executive at Brown and Brown Europe-owned Hedron Network, Chris Haggart says there is “a real clarity of purpose” around what it is the broker network is doing to support its partner brokers. 

Haggart was appointed to his position in December 2022 and moved over from his previous role as commercial director at Global Risk Partners, which became Brown and Brown Europe following a rebrand in September 2023.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Haggart says that he is excited about the “momentum” Hedron Network has built up in terms of its partnership proposition for brokers. 

“Creating a brand that resonated for people internally and externally was one of the real priorities because we wanted the right foundation to grow from and support our partner community,” he says. 

”The last 12-15 months has been as much about making sure that we’ve built a profile externally as it has been around fixing the plumbing and making sure we’re fit for purpose.” 

Hedron Network has a membership of around 200 partner brokers that it works alongside to support via a consultative approach. Its services include risk and compliance, system support and business development strategy, among others.

Haggart explains: ”Where we play our best game is where we are more woven into our partner brokers with a deeper understanding of what the business looks like today and our partners want it to look like in two, three or five years time.

“The way I think about is that we are that independent, non-executive supporter and challenger of the independent broker to support growth – because if our partner brokers and insurers grow, then Hedron grows alongside that.” 

Support in partnership

Broker networks inhabit a position in the market that sees them bolster the capabilities of generally smaller and medium sized independent brokers by leveraging the advantages of scale that these businesses would otherwise not have access to. 

Haggart sees this role as vital, because many of those brokers operating at the smaller end of the market “spend a lot of time working in their business, but not an awful lot of time working on the business”. 

He explains: ”Networks across the market have a part to play in making sure that the general quality of brokers in the UK is as robust as it can be. 

”We’ve got a really broad range of capability that allows to be an integrated partner – it starts with a consultation, but the whole proposition is designed to make sure that we can unlock routes to growth for our partners in a way that’s really operationally effective and efficient.” 

Being owned by Brown and Brown Europe might tempt some to believe that Hedron Network functions solely as a pathway to support the larger broker’s M&A ambitions, but Haggart emphasises that the network proposition has been “very deliberately kept distinct”. 

He says: “First and foremost, as a network, it is our job to support and champion independent broker growth – and that’s the measure by which we’ll be judged.”

Indeed, Haggart says that broker networks across the market play a supportive role in the M&A ecosystem.

He explains: ”All networks sit in a position where they support and champion independent brokers to make them as operationally effective as they can be – good quality businesses run by good quality leadership teams with robust operational processes ultimately benefit any acquisitor, because they’re very attractive as potential acquisition targets. 

“At a point in time where a partner broker makes clear that they’re interested in looking at their options [to sell the business], then of course we can speak about having a conversation with Brown and Brown, but as part of any number of other suitors that would exist in the market.” 

Regulatory support

In terms of its supporting role, Haggart says that Hedron’s broker partners primarily ask for support with three main factors.

“The big things that come to the fore consistently from our partner brokers are insurer service, recruitment and talent in general and regulatory change,” he notes. 

The most prominent of these three challenges is regulation. He explains: “What we have seen over the last few months is an increase in the prevalence of requests for support navigating the regulatory landscape, with more inbound inquiries from brokers looking for help.

“By and large, our partner brokers tend to be smaller firms and, proportionally, the impact of regulatory change like Consumer Duty has been considerably greater for those firms.” 

Because of this growing trend, Haggart says that Hedron is continuing to invest in its regulatory support.

And while Hedron’s partner brokers select which elements of their business they would like support on, Haggart says that the network’s strength is in ensuring that its partners “don’t just effectively understand the regulation, but then put in place all the systems and processes to make sure it can be effectively implemented in a smaller firm that would typically rely on principles”. 

As a service partner to its broker members Hedron has a role to play in supporting regulatory compliance, but Haggart also believes that the network should function as a representative of its partners’ interests. 

For example, the network recently held talks with the FCA during which Haggart said the regulator demonstrated “an appreciation that brokers of all shapes and sizes” were important parts of the regulator puzzle. 

He finishes: ”There’s a lot of different opportunities for us to influence and work with the regulator to collaborate on what the future looks like to the benefit of independent brokers – and we try our very best to make sure that we take advantage of those.”