But 'we will not overpay' says South

Acquisitions will play a major part in broker Marsh’s UK growth strategy, according to chief executive Martin South.

The company’s appetite has returned, following its £135m acquisition of HSBC Insurance Brokers in 2009. “People know we are open-minded and there are people looking for an exit,” South told Insurance Times.

“We would like to be top in the minds of those people, so it is important for me to have a relationship with them.”

South believes a number of acquisition opportunities will come to the fore in light of current challenging market conditions. “Logic dictates there should be a lot of consolidation across our industry – not just broking, but underwriting as well,” he said. “We are as well placed as anyone to capitalise on those opportunities.” But he added: “We are not going to overpay.”

Market observers have suggested that Oval would be a good fit for Marsh, while fellow consolidator Giles has also been touted as an opportunity.

Marsh’s parent, Marsh & McLennan Companies, made a net profit of $855m (£530m) in 2010, up 277% on the $227m it made in 2009. Operating profit at its risk and insurance division, which includes broking, was $1.1bn in 2010, up from $985m in 2009.

Click here to read the Martin South interview.