Generalist brokers must specialise to effectively advise clients, recommends broker managing director

Back in September 2019, Warwickshire-based real estate specialist broker Morrison Insurance Solutions (MIS) sold up to larger intermediary Clear Group in a move centred around “protecting the long-term future of the business, our staff and our clients’ interests”, according to Ian Millard, managing director of MIS.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Millard explains that the deal with Clear Group – which took 12 months to complete – has yielded a number of advantages for the broker, including “access to central and well funded resources, such as IT and finance”.

In turn, this helps give “teams more time to support the needs of their clients”, he adds.

“Another real benefit has been our ability to work closely with teams across the group with real sector expertise, to source and win new business and maximise existing business opportunities in areas such as construction, legal indemnities and employee benefits, to name just a few,” Millard continues.

For Millard, who had known Clear Group’s executive chairman Howard Lickens for a number of years prior to MIS’ acquisition, these plus points help prove that Clear Group is “by far the best home for MIS”.

He says: “Like us, [Clear Group has] built a successful business while retaining [its] values and independence as a broker.

“[Its] expertise in property owners’ business and other niche areas was also a major boost as we sought to continue our success and expand our presence in these areas.”

In terms of integrating the two businesses, Millard emphasises that although the brokers both had similar cultures, it was still important “to ensure that our team did not become lost within a larger group” due to “being a smaller office” with “lower numbers”.

On the whole, however, Millard describes MIS’ combination with Clear Group as being “a pretty smooth process”, with the adoption of a new back office system enabling MIS staff “to work consistently to the same procedures as our Clear colleagues”.

“Importantly both our clients and staff have experienced minimal change since the purchase in 2019,” Millard adds. “There have been many discussions and actions to ensure our clients continue to receive the same level of support and service.”

Essential sector expertise

Now a few years into Clear Group ownership, Millard has a few key focus areas on his agenda for MIS in 2022. This includes creating “a sustainable hybrid working model that continues to drive strong growth and also creates a market-leading place to work”.

He continues: “It will be important to develop new ways of engaging with our clients and prospects to support the traditional style of networking and client education.

“This is most likely to be a hybrid model combining traditional methods of prospecting with social media activity.

“We also seek to develop some of the emerging areas of our business to the next level.”

Millard will also undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on the “challenging” real estate market, which has been impacted by index linking and cross-market rate increases.

“True expertise in markets is essential,” he says. “The generalist broker [that] knows a bit about everything needs to either specialise or have significant support from a group in order to advise their clients in areas such as emerging technologies, cyber and crime insurance [and] modern methods of construction.”

Homing in on MIS’ real estate specialism, Millard adds that “continued education of property owners and professionals to ensure the risks improve and clients understand what we refer to as ‘the real cost of insurance’,” is also important.

Network support exceeds expectations

Prior to being bought by Clear Group, MIS joined broker network Brokerbility in 2010 “following the exit of the original managing director and founder of the business”, Millard explains. Brokerbility was subsequently purchased by Clear Group in September 2020.

Millard speaks positively about being part of a network, noting that the experience has “exceeded all our expectations”.

He says: “Brokerbility gave us immediate access to a network of independent brokers where we could share ideas and challenges, which similar broking leaders faced.

“At the same time and against a background of consolidation, Brokerbility offered us improved terms and unique access to markets through A-rated insurers, which meant we could continue to offer our clients the best possible insurance solutions.

“Being a member of Brokerbility has certainly exceeded all our expectations. It has paid for itself financially while enhancing our market knowledge and capability by giving our teams access to sales, marketing, underwriting, claims and accounts support.”