Management: We suspect chief executive Dominic Burke may pop a champagne cork or two after elbowing his way into the top three from fourth last year. This breaks the decade-long stranglehold of Marsh and Willis in second and third positions below the ever-dominant Aon.

It’s been a long road: Burke bought back his father’s former business, Burke Ford, aged just 23, then sold it to Jardine Lloyd Thompson in 2000, never having discussed a sale with anyone else. He then moved stealthily from being virtually unknown to head of the firm in 2005. Last year he said he wanted a “reshuffle in the pecking order of the top brokers”.

Strategy: Traditionally an outsider, and free of a US parent looking over its shoulder, JLT has quietly but determinedly pursued growth under Burke. And it’s working – the FTSE 250 company grew its profit after tax by almost one-third last year: £90.7m for the full year of 2010 compared with 2009’s £70.9m. Revenues grew by some 21% to £746.3m in 2010. Growth has been mostly organic, with a handful of strategic shareholdings being taken (see Expertise, below).

Burke plans to strengthen JLT further through a “business transformation programme”. This aims to cut the costs of doing business by streamlining back-office operations, delivering annualised savings of £16m across the group by 30 June 2012.

Expertise: JLT’s three main business units are risk and insurance, employee benefits and Thistle Insurance Services. This year the company has been dipping its toe into the

Latin American market and in June arranged to take a 50.1% stake in Alta SA, the holding company of Chilean broker Orbital Corredores de Seguros and reinsurance broker Alta Re. Last year it expanded across Europe, forming links with three top independent brokers and taking a 20% shareholding in Polish firm Greco Group for €17.6m (£15.4m) in July 2010.

Big story: Thistle announced a half-year loss in August of £246,000. Launched in January 2008 to attack the SME market, it has suffered from commercial rates remaining soft. Chief executive James Gerry left the business in May after a review uncovered “duplication of some important aspects of the roles of the senior management”. Thistle chairman Adrian Gerling was appointed to run the underwriting agency.

JLT Group Branches

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