Appointment is aimed at freeing up the existing leadership team’s time to focus on acquisitions amid a ‘feeding frenzy’ in the market

Clear Group has hired Mike Edgeley as its new chief executive, with incumbent boss and co-founder Howard Lickens taking on the role of executive chairman, the firm announced on Wednesday.

Edgeley is the former managing director of A-Plan. He previously spent eight years at BGL, as well as held other leadership stints.

Lickens explained the rationale behind the appointment to Insurance Times.

”We think we have a decent strategy. We weren’t looking for someone to come and tell us we’ve done it all wrong. We were looking for a team player who has experience. Mike [Edgeley] fitted the bill.”

He said bringing in Edgeley would allow himself and co-founder Gary O’Donnell to focus on acquisitions and ”making sure they land properly”.

Edgeley will be in charge of running the core business, which doubled in size last year via the Brokerbility acquisition and now employs 400 staff across several locations.

Trying to run the day-to-day business as well as keep the M&A momentum going was getting harder as the business got bigger, Lickens said. 

”Keeping all these plates spinning and growing at the pace we have been, we needed extra bandwidth,” he added.

Feeding frenzy

Clear Group does not want to miss out on the ”feeding frenzy” of acquisitions at the moment, and Lickens sees ”an awful lot of opportunities to grow and grow fast”.

Lickens anticipates more deals than last year, although Brokerbility was equivalent to several deals in one, he pointed out. Two or three deals are ”in ‘legal’ ” at the minute, he added. 

Despite snapping up Brokerbility, Lickens insists he still ”likes the small deals”, such as bolt-on acquisitions

Clear bought mid-sized brokers MPW and Morrisons last year, and Lickens said he’d ”love” to find more of those deals too, although the the M&A market is highly competitive at the moment, with a lot of potential buyers. 

As for Lickens, he is not ”disappearing into the sunset” and will work alongside co-founder O’Donnell, who becomes group M&A director.

“One thing I’ve learnt over my long career is that you have to have a focus on only a limited number of things at once. If you try to do everything, you’ll fall on your backside,” he said.

Clear has so far fared well enough during the year of Covid-19 turmoil, with the business set to hit its target of £50m in revenue. 

”Like most brokers, we survived Covid, but it has highlighted that we all need to invest more in technology and have better solutions. It works fine but it isn’t perfect,” he said.

The integration of Brokerbility is “a work in progress”, but “so far, so good”, Lickens added. ”We don’t steam in and change everything. We’re pretty gentle in these things.”

He admitted that due to the lockdown, he had not seen Brokerbility’s Ian Stutz or Ashwin Mistry since March, which has inevitably ”slowed down the process” of integration.

On Brexit, Lickens said he was “irritated” that the government ”doesn’t seem to have given insurance brokers a second thought”.

”By ignoring the intermediaries sector, it puts us at a disadvantage against the global brokers,” he said.

”We don’t have an overseas branch. Although we do have partners we work with in other jurisdictions, it’s a little bit less joined together after 1 January than it was before,” he added.

Mike Edgeley CV:

  • Previously managing director at A-Plan.
  • Various leadership roles, including eight years spent with BGL.
  • Prior to entering insurance, Edgeley spent 17 years in the military, including operational positions in the Parachute Regiment and a staff officer role in the Ministry of Defence (MoD).