Willis is set for an aggressive drive to grow its network in the New Year, according its UK and Ireland chief executive, Brendan McManus.

In his first interview since taking over the helm at the broking giant, McManus said Willis was looking to target disenchanted members of other networks as part of its bid to significantly grow the Willis Commercial Network.

Willis would also be launching initiatives to encourage smaller brokers to join, he said.

McManus said that Willis would take advantage of Towergate’s acquisition of Broker Network.

“We expect to pick up new members from Broker Network. Its membership has been sold on. The emotional contract has been broken.”

He also said that members of other networks would be concerned that their network could also be sold. This would provide opportunities for the Willis Commercial Network. “It gives us a huge advantage. We are not going to sell our network.”

The Willis Commercial Network currently has 74 members. McManus said he was looking to at least double its size. “I am looking for some multiple of this,” he said.

But Broker Network chief executive Grant Ellis has thrown down the gauntlet to rival networks, and questioned boasts that they will poach its members.

Ellis said he was “bemused” by McManus’ claim that Willis would look to prise away BNL members whose “emotional contracts” had been broken following the company’s acquisition by Towergate.

He said: “Willis Commercial Network is a wholly-owned division of an international broker. We are a wholly-owned division of the largest independent broker in the UK. I don’t see a major difference between the two.”

Ellis said that growth in the Willis network would force it to change its terms, angering existing members. At present, Willis mandates IT and provides its members with geographic exclusivity.

“I think our competitors are underestimating how considered and loyal our members are,” Ellis said.