09/08/2019 - 13:28

Marsh settles in as Willis pivots

09/08/2019 - 13:28

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Perth’s largest insurance broker is preparing to consolidate its staff across two offices following a merger earlier this year, as one of its main competitors readies for a major transition.

Marsh settles in as Willis pivots
Mitchell Griffiths (left) and Alex Lumby have been reunited by the merger of Marsh and JLT. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Mergers old and new are continuing to shape the insurance broking sector.

Perth’s largest insurance broker is preparing to consolidate its staff across two offices following a merger earlier this year, as one of its main competitors readies for a major transition.

Marsh has grown to have 280 staff and 160 brokers in the Western Australian market after its parent company acquired global competitor Jardine Lloyd Thompson.

WA's top five insurance brokers.


JLT had previously been the largest broking firm in the WA market, according to the BNiQ database.

The merged firm’s major competitors include Willis Towers Watson, which greatly expanded its WA presence four years ago when it acquired local firm CKA Risk Solutions.

The gradual exit of former CKA shareholders has been a talking point in the local market, with John Carrigg due to finish up at the end of this month.

He will follow Stuart McLean, Richard Scragg and Eddy Pope, who have all left Willis over the past year.

Contrary to market speculation, however, Naser Kerimi is still with Willis and continues to have a client relationship role, despite dealing with health issues.

Mr Carrigg said the exit of former CKA shareholders had been planned and agreed with all stakeholders, and the financial performance of the business had never been stronger.

“In terms of winning tenders and retaining business, I’d say we are the leading broker in Perth,” Mr Carrigg told Business News.

“We’ve got record revenue in the WA business.”

Mr Carrigg said Willis had won several ASX 100 companies as clients since the CKA acquisition, and in the past two months had retained two major ASX-listed gold miners and a private construction company in defensive tenders.

“I don’t think there is a full appreciation in the market of the depth of talent here,” he said.

Employee retention has been about 90 per cent over the past four years, Mr Carrigg said, and high-quality brokers continued to join the firm.

One position yet to be filled is a new state general manager, a position for which Mr Carrigg said a number of high-quality candidates were competing.

“We have a strong local leadership team continuing to manage the business in the interim,” he said.

A recent departure was manager John Muir, who handles ‘financial lines’ such as professional indemnity insurance for company directors.

Mr Muir has been recruited by Gallagher, which spent a long time bedding down its 2016 acquisition of local firm Strathearn.

Area director Simon High said Gallagher’s ability to recruit top talent was a good sign for the firm.

“It’s a good indication we’ve come through that transition and are seen as a stable company.”

Meanwhile, the local leadership team at Marsh believes they have already made good progress with their integration process.

The fact the two senior executives in WA have a 20-year work history helped embed this combination.

Alex Lumby, formerly with JLT, is now Marsh’s state executive, head of WA, while Mitchell Griffiths continues with Marsh as risk management leader WA.

“We both knew our roles prior to the acquisition closing,” Mr Lumby said.

He added that senior staff from the two companies were working together from the outset.

Mr Lumby said a major step would be the relocation next month of about 50 staff from the former JLT office in West Leederville to Marsh’s city office.

That would bring together the general insurance and workers compensation teams.

The public sector team, which had been one of the old JLT practice’s strengths, along with the Recovre ‘people risk’ business, valuations and support, will stay at the West Leederville office.

Mr Lumby said the merged group ensured there was no change in client service teams.

The main difference was that client service teams now had access to more specialist services.

For instance, Marsh had the Mercer consulting business and brought capabilities in data analytics and quantitative analysis while JLT had a valuations business.

“It’s dovetailed,” Mr Griffiths said.

“There was a bit of overlap, but not a lot.”

Mr Lumby said the group’s larger scale gave it capacity to do things differently; for instance it will shortly take on four graduates

“For the first time ever we will have a graduate training program in Perth,” he said.

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