Who are the biggest regional independent brokers? In the first of a series covering all of the UK regions, Insurance Times and its research partner Grant Thornton have calculated who the biggest independent regional brokers are. The series kicks off with a look at Scotland

The Insurance Times Top 50 broker listing is loved and respected in the UK general insurance community. But independent regional brokers are increasingly unable to gain a foothold in the Top 50 as consolidators such as Folgate, Oval and OutRight climb the rankings.

And the landscape of regional broking is changing. As the nationals rethink their strategies and the pressure of regulation forces some brokers to sell up, independent regional brokers are developing.

Insurance Times wanted to chart this fast moving scene and with its research partner Grant Thornton is set to compile Top 20 listings for independent brokers across the UK regions.

The first region to come under the spotlight is Scotland. Excluded from the survey are those brokers who are not independent, so honourable mentions go to Kwik Fit Insurance Services, which would have been the biggest broker in Scotland, but is not independent. Also firms like Marshall Ewart Graham would have made the list. But the broker is owned by Thompson Heath Bond. Others who would have made the list in terms of size, but not independence, included Age Concern and Arnold Clark.

Grant Thornton looked at the latest financial results for each company and sent out over 400 questionnaires. Many brokers responded with their latest accounts. Where this information was not forthcoming, Grant Thornton assessed publicly available information from sources such as Companies House. Grant Thornton also assessed the firms' attitudes to FSA regulation and other issues (see What Scottish brokers think of the FSA).

The information was used to assess

  • The largest broking firm in the region by turnover in the past 12 months
  • The fastest growing broking firm in the region in the last financial year
  • The most efficient broking firm in the region in the last financial year
  • The statistics used to determine the rankings within the categories above have been based on the most up-to date information provided by the firms in question.

    While the listing of Top 20 brokers has been produced based on published turnover figures, only those firms responding to the survey have been entered into the criteria for fastest growing and most efficient. In conducting the survey the firms have been placed in their respective regions according to the location of their head office.

    What do Scottish brokers think of the FSA

    Q Have firms experienced any benefits from new regulation?

    A 86% of respondents stated that, as yet there were no significant benefits from FSA regulation, albeit that FSA regulation has only been effective for four months.

    Bernard Dunn of MacDonald Reid Scott commented: "In the longer term, the new FSA regime will be good for our business in terms of efficiency, it will improve our service to clients, and should reduce the cost of our own PI insurance cover".

    Q Have you experienced any adverse effects due to new regulation?

    A 71% said yes. Clearly it is felt that the initial impact of FSA regulation has been to cause some adverse effects. While this in itself may be of concern, it is useful to quantify the nature of these effects:

    Q What kind of adverse effect have you noticed?

    A Derek Barnes of Clark Thomson said: "My thoughts on regulation are somewhat mixed but, in the main, remain positive. A more formalised, structured focus is now in place for financials, management, supervision, training and competence, which can only be beneficial to the industry and its clients going forward. However, it is clear the end customer is now deluged with paper information to an unnecessary and self-defeating degree."

    Q Have customers' understanding of products increased following the implementation of FSA regulation?

    A 14% said yes, 29% said no and the remainder said it was too early to judge.

    Q Was the authorisation application process straightforward?

    A 89% said yes.

    Q Did you receive good authorisation support from insurers?

    A The vast majority of firms felt that authorisation was a straightforward process and that almost all had received a degree of support from insurers, rated as either good or average.

    The winner
    The largest provincial broking firm in Scotland is Giles Insurance Brokers

    Chief executive Chris Giles, when told of the award, said "I am delighted that Giles has received this accolade, since Scotland is a country with many professional and well-run brokers, all of which have embraced the new regulatory regime with gusto and many of whom have legitimate aspirations to usurp our position in the future.

    "Long may the entrepreneurial spirit which infects Scottish insurance intermediaries be prevalent north of the border."

  • The fastest growing provincial broking firm in Scotland over the last financial year is Clark Thomson Insurance Brokers
  • The most efficient provincial broking firm in Scotland over the last financial year is Carrick Neil & Co.
  • Scotland's broking scen
    Q What does the Scotland broking scene look like?

    A Of those surveyed, 57% were limited companies, 29% sole traders and 14% were partnerships. And more than 75% operate from just one office.

    Q Has your company been involved in merger and acquisition activity?

    A Of those surveyed, 57% said yes and 43% said no.

    Wales' top 20 broker
    Who are the top 20 regional independent brokers in Wales? Come and find out at our unveiling ceremony at Bar Ha-Ha in Cardiff on 21 June.

    If you want to make sure that Grant Thornton has your details for consideration contact andy.mills@gtuk.co.uk . Places at the reception are free but space is limited, so if you would like to reserve a place please call Claire McShane on 0207 618 3456 or email: Claire.mcshane@instimes.co.uk . Reservations will be treated on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Future regions to be covered include: East and West Midlands, North East and North West, East Anglia and Essex, South East, South West and Ulster.

    If you want to make sure your latest figures are considered please contact Grant Thornton. For sponsorhip opportunities, please contact Philippa Robbins on 0207 618 3414 or email philippa@instimes.co.uk .