Locked into change

BIA09 Commercial Lines Broker of the Year Lockton International

Andrew Tjaardstra discovers why London-based Lockton International, which employs more than 1200 people in 17 offices across the UK, won this year's coveted British Insurance Awards Commercial Broker of the Year 2009 award.

This year's winner may still be known to many as Alexander Forbes. However, since its takeover by privately owned US-based Lockton in August 2006, it has undergone an impressive transformation.

A major strategic review has resulted in many changes for the purchased broker that have encompassed personnel, targeting niches and focusing on customer service. The broker also saw the sale of its non-core Southampton, Jersey and Guernsey offices" which focused on small-to-medium sized enterprise business" to Cullum Capital Ventures last year.

Lockton has worked rapidly through legacy issues, managing changes in personnel, selling or re-sizing non-core areas, bringing in a high-power management team and recruiting top-quality individuals.

Improving across the board

Growth across a host of lines has been impressive, among them retail and construction, property, and accident and health.

By focusing on customer service, the broker has won some significant clients, including a top-five UK supermarket, a major high-street retailer, a consumer products company with leading brands and, further still, a major supplier to supermarkets. Its retention rates are also improving, with 99% in real estate and construction as well as 90% for its professions team, up from 82% in 2007.

In an interview with Post earlier this year, chief executive officer Julian James said:"Risk managers are very encouraging about what are doing - when we go through out philosophy, detail where we are trying to take the business, and the fact we are privately owned. We're more concerned about delivering excellent client service than satisfying the short term needs of shareholders.

"Not every risk manager is going to appoint us, nor could we handle it if they did - but when you outline the proposition they realise it is genuinely different."

The wider market has recognised this with an Association of Insurance and Risk Managers' survey of 150 risk members rating Lockton first for service delivery, praising its strong personal relationships, superior service, knowledge, flexibility, reliability, pro-activity and attention to detail. The survey found that 76% of Lockton clients rated the firm as either 'excellent' or 'good'.

Identifying niches

The broker has tapped into new revenue streams through the launch of several innovative products, such as one for cyber- liability. Also new is a warranties and indemnity insurance wrap, which was arranged by Lockton's directors' and officers' team" in collaboration with Sunderland-based social housing provider Gentoo. This was for a multi-million pound acquisition by a publicly traded firm that offers income protection for those on low incomes.

The brokers' affinity team has also been working hard, developing schemes based on its US model, for sectors such as osteopaths and dentists, taxis, food and drink associations and accountancy firms.

Lockton is also benefiting from investing in new offices in Manchester and Edinburgh, as well as setting up in Leeds for the first time. In London, Lockton's landmark headquarters is due to be completed next year.

International ambition

The broker has also been impressive outside the UK thanks to an expansionist policy for trading in Asia" including Vietnam and China. In the latter instance, Lockton was only the second foreign enterprise to be granted a wholly owned foreign enterprise license. Next stop: Dubai.

Lockton has made some tough decisions in a challenging market yet has delivered growth and a cultural change that made it a leader among its peers over the last year. As the insurance industry continues to navigate choppy economic times, the future is bright for this large, privately owned broker, both in the UK and abroad.

Today, Lockton International is a professional, dynamic organisation that is committed to raising the bar on broker service standards and a worthy winner of this category.

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