Group managing director outlines how the broker plans to double its GWP over the next four years

Private equity-backed commercial insurance broker JM Glendinning is reinventing itself as the consolidator of choice, to support its ambitious five-year target of doubling gross written premium (GWP) from £50m to £100m.

This strategy, which launched in January 2021, currently encompasses the nine insurance brokers under the JM Glendinning umbrella, which are spearheaded by group managing director Jake Fox.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Fox explains that JM Glendinning’s “acquisitive journey” focuses around completing “mini management buyouts” on behalf of broker leadership. This showcases “a slightly different story than the majority of other consolidators”, he says.

“We’re focused on acquiring businesses where there’s a management team in place who feel like they want to continue growing the business, who feel like they want to retain the identity of their business, but feel like they haven’t got access to capital or opportunity. We can help to effectively sponsor that,” he explains.

“The management team retain responsibility, they retain that brand identity, they build on the history that they’ve got as businesses, but they use our capital and expertise, everything we’ve achieved over the last few years to effectively push on with their own growth ambitions.

“And they retain an interest in the business, so there’s something in it for them as we continue to grow the business.”

With a “reasonable number” of potential acquisitions in due diligence at the moment, Fox emphasises that JM Glendinning plans to “buy a significant number of new businesses over the course of the next 12 months” to help it achieve that £100m GWP target. The business does not have a set number of acquisitions in mind.

In terms of the firms JM Glendinning is targeting, Fox says the broker is “really open minded” and will “talk to pretty much any business owner, any insurance broker that is thinking ‘what does the next stage look like?’”

For example, particular sector specialisms or geography is “not a barrier”. Fox emphasises: “We’d like to acquire pretty much everything and anything”.

For him, JM Glendinning’s acquisition strategy is incredibly people-centric and based on finding management teams that the broker wants to invest in - if “there’s a synergy between our approach and their approach from a management perspective” and “if we feel like we could align our cultures”.

Boosting talent

Alongside completing “strategic acquisitions”, JM Glendinning will also be seeking to bolster its organic growth to help the broker obtain its financial ambitions. This will be based on retaining current staff, as well as recruiting new talent.

Fox says: “We tend to recruit people who are classically trained, who perhaps worked at the bigger national brokers but who have that entrepreneurial edge - perhaps they’ve become a bit of a small cog in a big machine but they’re looking for more.”

JM Glendinning’s organic growth has already enjoyed a healthy upwards trajectory, “averaging 15% to 20% over a number of years”. This is “something we’re really proud of,” Fox notes.

He continues: “We will continue to push that and we will continue to challenge our people in the right way to achieve that. But we will supplement that with [the] continued recruitment of great people, principally classically trained but a bit disenfranchised, [as well as] acquisitions.”

In November 2020, when JM Glendinning was subject to a management buyout backed by private equity firm Synova, the broker had 100 staff. The business now has 230 employees.

Being ‘my own man’

Following the management buyout, JM Glendinning is now part of JMG Group, which is led by group chief executive Nick Houghton, who previously led JM Glendinning.

Fox, meanwhile, has been with the broker for around six and a half years. Initially, he set up JM Glendinning Professional Risks in 2015, which he jointly owned with JM Glendinning, before filling Houghton’s shoes as group managing director in October 2021.

In line with JM Glendinning’s financial target, JMG Group is also looking to grow – it hopes to move from £100m GWP to between £200m and £250m GWP over its five-year strategy time frame. Hitting these financial benchmarks “would feel like success”, Fox adds.

To support this, the business has completed five acquisitions in the last 12 months, including Butterworth Spengler, Nowell and Richards, Bickley Insurance and Brunsdon Insurance.

Following his promotion, however, Fox is keen to emphasise that “what I don’t want to do is just be in Nick’s shadow”.

He continues: “I’m not here to create any form of revolution because we’ve got a really successful group of businesses that are performing brilliantly, so I don’t want to do anything that would have a detrimental impact on that.

“At the same time, I am my own man - I’ve got my own style, I’ve got my own approach to certain things. There have been and there will be things I want to do slightly differently.”