Broker 'has historically not been as strong as it should be', say Alway

Broking group Jelf is intending to focus more on organic growth and build its personal lines capabilities in 2011, according to chief executive Alex Alway.

Speaking to Insurance Times following Monday's publication of Jelf's full-year results for the year ending September 2010, Alway said: “At the moment, we are not seeing any value in the market. During the course of 2011, you will more likely see us seek aggressive organic growth.”

But he added that Jelf is always on the lookout for suitable acquisitions.

Jelf is looking to recruit account executives in a number of areas. The company has appointed Antony Summers as managing director of personal lines to grow this part of the business. “That is somewhere Jelf has historically not been as strong as it should be, but we feel there is some good growth through connected personal lines,” Alway said.

Alway said the company would also be looking to develop niche offerings and striking more deals with affinity groups.

Unlike some of its peers, however, Jelf has no plans to expand into the underwriting business, for example by forming a managing general agency.

Alway said: “We are a broker, our relationships with our provider partners mean that we don’t see that as an area we need to develop.”

Jelf made a strong improvement in its 2010 financial year. Its profit after tax was £883,000, compared with a loss after tax of £9.8m in 2009. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation and exceptional items (EBITDAE) increased 21% to £9.8m from £8.1m.

The improvement came despite a worse performance at the broker’s insurance division. While the company’s employee benefits and financial planning units both reported growth in revenue and EBITDAE, the insurance division’s revenues fell to £42.9m in 2010 from £43.7m in 2009 and EBITDAE fell to £4.3m from £5.2m.

However, Alway played this down, indicating that new business sales in insurance were up 27%. He attributed the decline to the group's premium finance business.

“The underlying insurance trading stood up to the test,” he said. “If anything [the reduction] reflects that we have not been able to make as much money out of our premium finance as we had in previous years, but I think everybody’s in that situation.”

While acknowledging 2011 would be tough, Alway said Jelf’s main weapon against market conditions was cross-selling between its three business lines, such as offering insurance products to its employee benefits customers.