After a less-than-spectacular year, Willis is looking to make up some ground against its ambitious peers, judging by its new database offering

Willis has come late to the party with today’s revelation of its plans for a GRIP-like database. Although the details are sketchy, it seems that the mega broker is planning an information bank along the lines of those owned by its rivals, as a value-add and potentially an extra income stream.

This is the first indication (albeit a fairly small one) that Willis has big plans for 2012. Though it rather begs the question: why has Willis been so slow to respond to developments at its peers? The broker certainly needs to do something, after a torrid few months.

A difficult year

Willis has fared less well than its aggressive rivals through the recession, being knocked off third place in Insurance Times’s Top 50 Brokers by JLT earlier this year. And there is talk of low staff morale following years of stringent controls on expenses and remuneration.

In July, there were red faces at the broker when it was hit by a record fine of a £6.9m fine for failing to have the proper anti-bribery and corruption controls in place. And then, in October, UK chief executive Brendan McManus made a shock exit that shook the market and left it asking – what did global boss Joe Plumeri have up his sleeve?

Willis is beginning to quietly answer that question in private discussions with insurers. Expect the broker to make some headlines next year, under its new UK chief executive Dan Wilkinson and president Grahame Millwater – a key player who has the ear of Plumeri. It has some considerable ground to make up.

Hastings hungry for more

Talking of positioning for next year, Hasting’ appointment of Liz Latter as head of insurer development speaks of the broker’s big ambitions.

It has outlined plans for a listing and, while this may still be some way off, further growth at the personal lines broker seems assured, with strong investment and commitment from its private owners.