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An interview with William Irwin, Managing Director at Aiken Insurances Limited

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November 12, 2021

Following on from our recent acquisition of Aiken Insurances Limited (AIL) in Ireland, Irish Broker Magazine caught up with William to discuss how the acquisition came about and what the future holds for NFP in Ireland.

Firstly can you give us a little background on the business of Aiken Insurances Limited (AIL) and your heritage?

Absolutely. Aiken Insurances Limited has a proud heritage going back over 30 years when it was founded by the late Patrick Aiken in 1989. The business has steadily grown over the years and has built up a strong reputation as one of Ireland’s leading and most respected insurance broking firms, operating in both the retail and wholesale commercial insurance broking sectors. Based out of our offices in Charlotte Quay, Dublin 2, we are managing a portfolio of over €22.5m in gross written premiums.

Today Aiken is one of only a handful of commercial risks experts operating in Ireland, providing specialist cover around complex commercial liability and property risks, including unoccupied property, as well as providing professional indemnity/directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. We also actively operate in the leisure, entertainment and construction sectors, acting as a broker to almost 220 other brokers in the insurance sector, maintaining exclusive facilities as a Wholesale Broker and a Lloyds of London cover holder.

How did the deal with NFP come about and were you actively looking to be acquired?

Aiken had not been actively seeking to be acquired. However, we are ambitious to continue growing and evolving the business and recognised we must continue to adapt to the changing dynamics of the market. An opportunity arose to engage with some exploratory discussions with NFP and we were excited and impressed by what was being presented. The decision to be ultimately acquired by the international NFP group was hugely influenced by their culture and their philosophy of continuing business as usual and better. The opportunity to grow our business and offer additional services with the help of NFP was also critically important.

Why is this deal good for Aiken?

We are already seeing the benefits of being an NFP Company, by being able to leverage their experience, expertise and offerings available across their international network of offices in the US, Canada, Ireland and the UK. NFP’s growth strategy will allow for greater investment in talent, technology and additional business lines. The local Irish market and international markets are now starting to provide significant growth opportunities for us. The additional investment and overall support being provided by NFP is of huge benefit to the existing broking team in Aiken and will be key to our plans to grow our business further and to attract new broking talent. All of this is very positive news for our customers, introducing brokers and our insurers. Being part of NFP means as a firm we can benefit from having centralised and expert dedicated resources around HR, IT, Training, Compliance & Legal which frees up significant amounts of management and executive time to focus on our core revenue-generating activities. The opportunity to work with NFP to continue to do what we do already, but on a more efficient and greater scale, with the right investment and within a culture that is very closely aligned to our own, was very compelling.

What additional lines of business can we expect to see by being part of the NFP family in Ireland?

We are working closely with the NFP Ireland management team to develop a stronger proposition for the local market. NFP aims to be a leader in providing corporate and individual solutions to support employee engagement, physical and financial wellbeing and insurance to safeguard organisations. The addition of Aiken to NFP in Ireland in particular represents the business’ first commercial insurance acquisition in Ireland. This rounds out the NFP Ireland offering of employee benefits and consultancy, individual wealth management and commercial insurance, in line with the rest of NFP. We can expect to see some innovative offerings coming to market that allow for this more expanded portfolio of services under the one team. As a Company that collectively can now offer a full service on both General and Non-General Insurance Services it means we can provide a one stop shop which many customers prefer.

What are your plans for the future?

We are very excited for the future of the business, building on our growth plans, integrating more closely into the NFP group and attracting and retaining the best people. We are really committed to creating the right environment and culture for our people to thrive and succeed. Being part of the international NFP network is also now providing our people with new career, personal and professional development opportunities. We see this becoming even more critical in the years to come and will be an important differentiator for why people will want to work for us.

As part of the local NFP team in Ireland, are you looking to acquire other broker businesses in Ireland and if so, what type of business are you looking to invest in?

NFP plans to continue with our Ireland expansion through targeted acquisitions by acquiring the right businesses at the right time. Culture and people are very important to NFP and there are some great businesses out there that have significant opportunities for growth, but it must represent value. We see some excellent opportunities to acquire specialist or niche firms that will bolt on to NFP Ireland’s existing suite of solutions for our corporate and individual clients. I will be working closely with others on the NFP Ireland team to identify brokers that may be interested in doing what we have just done. The aim with any future acquisitions would be to help those brokers continue doing what they are doing, only better.

How important is scale in a brokerage in the current climate?

It is evident that the environment for Irish Insurance Intermediaries is changing rapidly meaning the profile of the firms operating in this industry in future years will look very different from the norms of the past. Scale, investment and market influence will be key to most firm’s success and that will accelerate in this environment as more and more deals conclude.

As Ireland is now the only English-speaking country in the EU, will the new platform now afford you a new international dimension?

Ireland remains ideally placed to handle EU business that needs English speaking expertise. We are already seeing the benefit of being part of NFP in this regard and we expect our role to become more and more important as business that was previously managed in the UK comes back to be managed in the EU with Ireland playing a leading role in that regard.

In your view, has the small proprietorial broker still got a role to play?

As a General Broker seeking to offer a full suite of services to your customers, remaining small in scale will be challenging. In my opinion Insurers will seek to rationalise their Broker relationship in future years with more and more focus on scale and professional & administrative standards. Some small brokers will have opportunities in certain niche areas where they can deliver expert services, but they too are likely to encounter challenges as Insurers review how and where they employ capacity.

Find out more about Aiken Insurance and how they can help protect your business, your reputation and your people

Aiken Insurances Ltd is one of Ireland’s leading and most respected Insurance Broking firms operating in both the retail and wholesale commercial insurance broking sectors.

Visit the Aiken website > https://aikenco.ie/

About NFP

NFP's business in Europe is a leading international and domestic insurance brokerage and consulting firm, which, through a dedicated team of over 500 professionals, provides a wide range of solutions to satisfy clients’ business risk and human capital needs. These solutions span specialised commercial business insurance, employee benefits, private/personal financial planning, health & safety and HR/people consultancy. NFP’s subject matter experts, underpinned by leading technology solutions, partner productively to deliver sustainable and tailored solutions to meet clients' unique needs and enable their success.

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