Hamilton Bond was 'catalyst' for Jelf's Clark Thomson acquisition

Phil Barton Jelf

Worcester-based claims consultant Hamilton Bond Group was the ‘catalyst’ for Jelf’s acquisition of Clark Thomson, according to CEO Phil Barton.

Jelf announced today it is set to acquire Clark Thomson, Scotland’s largest independent insurance broker. On completion, Jelf will combine its existing Scottish operations and Clark Thomson into a single business unit.

“Clark Thomson are an absolutely fabulous business with a great reputation and a great history,” Barton pictured told Post. “We’re very proud to bring them into our business and it enables us to further our ambition in Scotland.

“Ben Bailey and I have known each other for many years. In fact, we both shared the same claims proposition for a number of years. Hamilton Bond, who we now own, have provided loss adjusting and claims consultancy services to both Clark Thomson and Jelf for a decade. That was the catalyst for us getting together.”

Jelf purchased the claims consultancy service in March 2015.

“When Ben and I spoke and started talking about our respective business, it was evidence that we had incredibly similar cultures,” said Barton. “Through those discussions it became the most obvious thing to do to bring the two businesses together.”

Geographic footprint 

“We both believe that claims are at the core of what a broker offers its clients. If this was a business school acquisition we’d be ticking every box.

“If you think about Scotland as a distinct country then our footprint there beautifully dovetails with theirs. We have big offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and they primarily focus on the next tiers of towns such as Perth, Dundee and Inverness, as well as some of the smaller locations such as Kirkwall. It gives us full representation across the country.

“In advance of the Bluefin acquisition we had no presence in Scotland, and in the space of a little over 12 months we’ve gone from no representation in a key market to being the leading insurance broker in that marketplace.”

Leadership 

The combined business will be led by Ben Bailey, managing director of Clark Thomson, and a management team drawn from across Clark Thomson, Central Insurance Services and Jelf.

Barton said the combined leadership team is expected to be in place from day one.

“We can do that instantly, then move forward as a single business,” he said. “Acting quickly on a single leadership team gives a great deal of reassurance to our team and to our clients. It’s an important void to fill very quickly.”

Acquisitions 

While Barton did not rule out further acquisitions in the future, he stressed that Jelf is not looking to acquire businesses for scale.

“I wouldn’t describe it as an acquisition warpath, we’re very selective as to the businesses we bring into the group,” he said. “We have no need to acquire for scale and no ambitions to buy businesses in order to make a turn on them and sell them on. Our only driver is to grow our capability.

“Clark Thomson clearly fits that bill. That’s a unique proposition in the acquisition marketplace. We’re saying, ‘come to Jelf, be a part of wanting to build the leading trusted advisor in the SME market, and that is your final destination’. It’s a long term commitment.

“We have a similar claims proposition, we are both chartered, and both businesses operate on Acturis. The more you lift the bonnet on these two businesses the more you see there are far more similarities than differences.”

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

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