Former Allianz man poised to lead new community of independents

Marsh has launched itself into the crowded network arena with the formation of ProBroker, which it calls a “nationwide community of independent mid-sized UK brokers”.

The global outfit is looking to sign up dozens of independent regional brokers with £3m-plus gross written premium (GWP) as a means of gaining a foothold in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) market. It has put itself in competition with Willis’s commercial network, Towergate’s Broker Network, Jelf’s Purple Partnership, Cobra, Unitas and many others.

Insurers are also scrambling to get close to small brokers – Norwich Union, for example, with its Club 110 and the Broker Independence Group.

ProBroker will be run by Bruce Fertnig, former Allianz regional manager for the South East. Fertnig will report to Julie Page, head of Marsh’s commercial practice.

Marsh is looking for brokers that are willing to quickly commit a significant proportion of their book to its network. It has not named its panel of insurers, but says it has brought new capacity into the market and will not compete with existing options. It will offer brokers a range of products and services.

Page insisted that the network would bring benefits to end clients rather than simply being a means of driving up commissions. She also said Marsh would help its members retain clients and client spend through the recession.

“We didn’t want to compete with the high-touch, high-quality service local brokers give. So the answer was: let’s take the value that Marsh can bring as a global organisation, package it up and give it to those brokers,” she said.

In return, Marsh will take a slice of the commission on business placed through its network. Page said the commission would depend on how much business was placed.

“If a member commits a significant proportion of their book, we will distribute the earnings to reflect that,” said Page. “If they generate more GWP and generate it faster, they’ll generate more share for themselves.”

Asked if Marsh would consider buying stakes in brokers that signed up to the network or buying them outright, Page said: “We are an organisation in growth mode … The answer is possibly – but there’s no immediate strategy on the horizon.”

Page insisted there was no conflict between Marsh’s existing business and the SME space.

Fertnig said the network provided an alternative path for independent brokers as consolidation stalls.

“There are still people out there with cash, but the impetus has slowed dramatically. The exit strategy generated by the voracious appetite in the consolidators has come to an end,” he said.