The independent broker is focused on strong organic growth and gathering ‘superstar’ talent, says head of UK retail

Since joining Lockton UK as the independent broker’s head of property and casualty retail in November 2023, Clarissa Franks has set her sights on developing ”a key strategic growth area for Lockton” through its “North Star” of client focus. 

Lockton came in at seventh in Insurance Times’ most recent Top 50 Brokers report – an important position in the market given the dominance of the top six firms, which all boasted revenues in excess of £1bn.

Its latest annual financial results showed that it achieved UK revenues of £593m and reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) of £78m, a year-on-year increase of 31%.

The world’s largest privately-owned broker has no intentions of slowing down either. Speaking to Insurance Times about her focus in the new role, Franks explains: ”Growth is the mission, alongside creating a framework to give that growth some more structured direction.

”UK retail is a key strategic area of growth for Lockton in Europe and therefore globally, so it’s a really important part of our proposition to have a thriving UK retail business.

“Part of that is thinking really carefully about the way we show up in different parts of the market and doing it in a way that properly uses our network and is very client focused in terms of sales strategy between different industry verticals.”

Setting a direction

Franks joined Lockton last year after spending 15 years at Marsh, where she began her insurance career on the graduate programme. It was at Marsh that she discovered her love for placement and advocating for clients directly.

Having risen to the position of leading placement for the UK and Ireland at Marsh, she decided to take her new role at Lockton for “a seat at the table”. 

She says: ”I wanted to have influence around not just delivering for individual clients, but on how you run an insurance broking firm, how you build for growth and where the opportunities are to be able to do more and do it differently.” 

Franks emphasises that “the Lockton way” – a complete commitment to client service – is key to the growth of the business.

”At Lockton, I have the opportunity to be a business leader, while also still having the fun and rewarding bit of working with clients,” she explains. 

”Throughout the business, even to the most senior levels, everyone still has client portfolios that they are responsible for, which is quite unique. It’s a North Star for Lockton – if you have an important internal meeting and a client meeting, then everyone would acknowledge that the client meeting has to be a priority.”

This focus on client service is an important facet of Lockton’s philosophy, says Franks, but is buttressed by a focus on expertise and talent to better serve the markets it operates in. 

Talent focus

Franks explains that Lockton’s financial growth is ”primarily organic”, with expansion coming largely from winning clients and providing the right expertise to demonstrate value.

“We find the superstars wherever they are,” she explains.  

“Whether that’s in industry or within the insurance market, we make sure they fit the culture in terms of the real client priority and then bring them in.

“Sometimes business moves around with people so some of the growth is quasi-inorganic, in a way, but it’s really about individual hires and slotting them into the business – the business across the UK grew in that way.” 

The strategy to focus on talented hires and organic growth allows Lockton to demonstrate its value easily by saving clients time in the sectors it specialises in, Franks explains.

”We have people that may have worked in the industries we serve, so it’s a really strong proposition and a really compelling way of approaching business when a client doesn’t have to explain how the food and beverage industry works, for example, because we have that expertise.

”Then, the conversation can move quite quickly on to where are the challenges, what are the problems and where do we see room for improvement. It’s not this huge education challenge because we’re already there.” 

Solid foundations

The growth trajectory for Lockton UK is now entering “the next stage of the journey” as the broker aims to establish a “clear, understood national strategy around investing in a proactive way”, Franks explains. 

“We’re a new big company, so we’re having to think about the way we go to market and the different segments we operate in.” 

For example, Lockton UK operates across five key industry verticals – food and beverage, retail, healthcare and life sciences, transportation and logistics and hospitality – that spread across SME, mid-market and larger corporate business. 

“We have different propositions across those different segments obviously, but I’d like that to be through design and to give more thought to where we’re focusing growth,” Franks says.

“In the short term, we have been making a lot of investments in the major risk space, which is absolutely a target area for us. For retail, growth in that area has been really significant so we will keep momentum going there, but also think more strategically about what we’re doing in the SME space and try to get ahead of the market from a digital perspective.”

The organic growth model at Lockton creates a slightly altered strategic requirement for expansion across these verticals, as opposed to what a more acquisitive broker might look to do. 

Franks explains: ”[Those verticals] are where we have existing clients, so we have those credentials or people who have worked in those industries who now work at Lockton.

”We have a network of referrals in these areas and that’s where a lot of our growth comes from – our clients end up being our advocates within their peer group.”

Lucky position

Lockton UK is a subsidiary of Lockton, a US broker founded in Kansas City in 1966 by Jack Lockton. 

The family-owned business is the world’s largest independently-owned insurance broker – and this ownership places the broker in a “very lucky position”, according to Franks. 

”It’s a hugely volatile broker market at the moment in terms of acquisitions and refinancing, but our position means that we are able to get significant amounts of investment from the Lockton family should we find opportunities that we think fit in terms of strategic objectives and our culture.” 

The ownership model and organic growth strategy also extend advantages to the “North Star” of client focus, allowing more time to spent on frontline work among management. 

Franks explains: ”All the time you would spend dealing with external stakeholders if you were listed or highly acquisitive takes up a lot of energy – we don’t have that, so we have that time to be creative and think about what we can do better for clients, which is a real game-changer from a leadership perspective.”

Lockton also operates as a limited liability partnership (LLP), meaning that management have authentic buy-in to the business and form a “common interest”. 

That buy-in from staff is exceptionally important as Lockton continues on its growth journey. As Franks says, “change in any organisation can be difficult, so it needs to win hearts and minds”. 

“The difference at Lockton is that it’s not a command and control situation,” she finishes. 

“Everyone needs to want to get on the bus and there needs to be a compelling reason to go and do it.”