Brendan McManus discusses private equity and acquisitions on Broker Expo panels

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At the Insurance Age Broker Expo on 1st November, PIB Group CEO Brendan McManus joined two panels of industry leaders. The first – a ‘fireside chat’ – sought to highlight the opportunities for the insurance broking industry on offer from private equity. The second panel discussed acquisitions and how brokers could prepare their businesses for sale.

Brendan was alongside Michael Savage from Carlyle Group, an investor in PIB Group, Andy Fairchild of Broker Network and Ashwin Mistry, OBE, of Brokerbility. The panel was chaired by Insurance Age’s Jonathan Swift and conversation was wide ranging, though PIB dominated the agenda and won compliments across the board for “doing things the right way”.

Brendan explained the benefit of working with private equity whilst Michael Savage offered the inside line on how the PE industry looks at insurance broking. Brendan commented that Carlyle provides financial firepower and working with the large, well-known organisation opens doors for PIB. Michael explained that the private equity firms should prove their value to any businesses they are considering buying; insurance is very much a people business and the relationships are key.

When quizzed about running a business which is involved with private equity, Brendan said “[its] not a problem… we are a management-controlled business; we’re independent”. Michael later commented that, “[in the insurance industry] the assets go up and down in the lift and the management team set the agenda”.

The second panel was chaired by Insurance Age’s Siân Barton and Olly Laughton-Scott of IMAS Corporate Finance, Neil Walton of Centor Insurance and Risk Management and Brendan were quizzed on how businesses could plan and prepare for a potential sale.

When asked how to prepare a business – how to make it attractive – for a sale, the key points from the panel were to make it exciting, ensure you’re solving a problem for a buyer – not offering problems that require solving – and prepare years in advance. Use a possible future sale as an opportunity to take an honest look at your business and work out what’s not working. A key message about preparation was to not allow a life event to drive a sale; plan it.

When asked how businesses should do their due diligence on prospective buyers, Brendan revealed that PIB direct businesses to previous acquisitions, so they can ask questions and understand how the process works. He had previously explained, “every business owner has stayed with us and most have invested back into PIB Group”.

Finally, in response to a question from the audience, Brendan commented on the culture at PIB Group: “I have one opportunity in my life to build a business with the culture I want; this is it. [It’s] collaborative, flat structure, meritocracy”.