ABL Group CEO Maurice Boyd has been interviewed by Insurance Business magazine following ABL’s acquisition of Willis Towers Watson’s Northern Ireland business.
Maurice noted that three decades of broking in Northern Ireland has granted him a keen insight into the key players in that marketplace and WTW certainly is one of those players, as a business with the well-earned reputation for a strong client book, high-quality and professional staff, and great retention.
“The two businesses mirror each other closely which meant the opportunity to bring them both together was a very exciting one. We do share similar values and the ultimate beneficiary of that will be our clients“
The deal is very much a good news story as it is a growth sale, not a cost-cutting venture and the jobs of all staff on both sides of the transaction are secure.
Neither ABL’s nor WTW’s existing Northern Ireland premises would be ideal for this significant staffing pool, so there is an opportunity to source new premises for the combined operation.
“With six years of acquisitions behind us [as part of GRP], we are good at onboarding,” he said. “We know how to do it well and how to look after our people. We know why it’s so important to make sure that onboarding happens as smoothly as possible because, in any such deal, you want to make sure there’s no detriment and only upsides for your clients as a result of the transaction and that’s what we focus on.”
The deal has pushed ABL’s total GWP through the £100 million GWP barrier and given it a leading market position in the Northern Ireland broking space, something Boyd and his team are determined to capitalise on. The ambition is there, he said, and it’s shared across the ABL team and the incoming WTW team, and it will continue to centre on a combination of both organic and acquisitive growth.
Organic growth underpins the development of the business, he said, and remains the key measure of how successful ABL is in creating and retaining strong customer relationships and providing excellent client outcomes. Meanwhile, acquisitions are done on a strategic basis for a variety of reasons and while the WTW deal is one of significant scale, it’s not the end of the line for ABL’s deal-making ambitions and the firm remains open to any new opportunities that spring up.
ABL’s growth objectives have been supported all the way by GRP, Boyd noted, whom the firm first linked up with in 2015. When that acquisition occurred, he said, GRP’s executive team clearly outlined how they saw the GRP model working in terms of assisting ABL as a business. This went beyond day-to-day assistance in terms of strategic plans, human resources and insurance products to include support from an acquisition perspective. That vision, which was first outlined to his team six years ago, has absolutely been delivered, he said, and the partnership between GRP and ABL has been a true success story – with both sides supporting and strengthening the other.
“And now with this latest deal, we’re just absolutely thrilled with it,” he said. “It’s a real deal of scale for our business locally and we’re delighted to get it concluded and out there, so we can get moving on joining the two businesses up in the near future. We’re really excited about it.”
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