The Tentacle

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Where have all the brokers gone?

Do you remember Peter, Paul and Mary, the 60s folk singing trio? Their greatest hit was entitled Where have all the flowers gone, although by the end of the song they were ultimately enquiring into the whereabouts of all the soldiers. “Gone to graveyards every one” was their final conclusion.

In 1991, when first I was elevated to the Sales Manager position at broker software house MCS, I purchased a database of 11,000 operating insurance brokers. 24 years later, roughly the span of a generation, the number of remaining brokers is 3,000. Where did they all go?

Somebody told me recently that Towergate has accounted for about 600 of them and I would guess therefore, if that is true, that all national consolidators may collectively be responsible for the disappearance of between 1,000 and 1,500. So, what about the other 6,500 - 7,000?

Not yet gone to graveyards most of them, although a few might have. Gone to Spain perhaps? Lots of those I suspect. But what happened to the businesses before their Principals departed for sunnier climes?

The only explanation can be that 2,500 very small brokers have merged over the years with 2,500 slightly bigger ones and then 1,250 of those merged at a later date with 1,250 others etc. So, we can’t entirely blame the consolidators, which is a bit of a shame.

The observation one can certainly make is that for a whole generation of insurance people now retired, succession as a concept was never high on their agenda. We can but hope that today’s broker Principals have a slightly more enlightened attitude, otherwise, in another 24 years from now the number of brokers will be down to barely 500.

Author: James Sharp

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