COMPANY PROFILE: MILLER
Five years to double in size: Miller’s lofty ambitions
It’s 120 years old but ready for a new lease of life: specialist re/insurance broker Miller has completed its exit from Willis Towers Watson. CEO Greg Collins discusses a hard market, the Aon-WTW merger, and the deep pockets of its owners.
Miller Insurance Services was founded in 1902 and today employs more than 640 people in London, Brussels, Geneva, Ipswich (UK), Paris, and Singapore. It already places $3 billion premium annually, but those numbers could see a sharp increase under new ownership, according to chief executive officer Greg Collins. The company is looking to double in size in the next five years.
Collins sat down with Wyn Jenkins for the latest session of Intelligent Insurer’s Re/insurance Lounge, the online, on-demand platform for weekly interviews and panel discussions with leading players in the market. Together they discussed the company’s plans to recover old strengths, establish new lines and pursue strong organic and inorganic growth.
Funding a future
With Willis Towers Watson (WTW) announcing its merger plans with Aon and starting to look at selling its 85 percent stake in the broker, Miller’s search for new owners began before the COVID-19 pandemic—“what feels like a lifetime ago”, remarked Collins. It stalled as the virus took hold, and as a result, the deal with Cinven and GIC was completed only in March this year. It was worth the wait, however, said the company’s CEO, to find the right partners.
“We didn’t want to find ourselves looking for new capital again in a relatively short space of time. That doesn’t suit us, it doesn’t suit our clients, and it doesn’t suit out people,” Collins explained. GIC, formerly the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, is the country’s sovereign wealth fund; private equity firm Cinven operates its Strategic Financials Fund, which also has a long-term investment horizon.
They have significant resources: GIC alone had $488 billion of assets under management at the start of 2021. “They give us the capability of growing the business more rapidly. They have very deep pockets, pools of capital that they’re ready to deploy to give us some exciting opportunities to grow Miller in a way that would have been much more difficult had we remained within the WTW environment,” said Collins.
That growth is going to come in several ways and across various business lines. Some of those will be new. The company has long served sports and entertainment businesses, for instance, with specialist risk management and insurance services, but is now building a personal lines business serving some of the high-net-worth individuals involved. It also plans to look carefully at building a managing general agency (MGA) business or investing in third-party MGAs.
“We’re not trying to be a global broker with boots on the ground in multiple countries.”
Greg Collins, Miller
Back to the future
Principal among its growth plans, however, will be building up the reinsurance business it lost with the sale to what was then Willis Group Holding back in 2015.
“Prior to the Willis days, we had a well-established reinsurance business. One of our first priorities coming out of WTW having sold that business to them at the time of the transaction will be to re-establish ourselves in the marketplace,” said Collins.
Miller has already started that process by reopening its office in Bermuda, headed by Charlie Simpson, previously with Aon, and it expects to see growth in London, too. Robert Alexander, former managing director of Alston Gayler, which Miller acquired in 2018, is likely to be central to those efforts.
“We’d like to build out that platform, and we’ve begun to look quite aggressively at how we do that,” said Collins. On one hand, the business will remain focused on its core strengths. “We recognise we are never going to be all things to all people, so we’re not trying to be a global broker with boots on the ground in multiple countries,” he said. “We want to stick to our knitting.”
On the other hand, it’s looking for rapid growth across geographies, including not just London and Bermuda, but Europe, North America and—given GIC’s substantial network—Asia, too. “We are doing quite a lot of homework at the moment,” he explained.
Miller looks sure to pursue this through acquisitions of business and outside teams, as well as organic growth. “We’re very open to opportunities to acquire smaller broking firms that bolt on to Miller to provide us with a deeper pool of expertise, either in a specialty area we are already in or in areas we potentially underserve,” Collins explained.
The Aon-WTW merger means less choice in the market and creates room for a player such as Miller to develop its specialist reinsurance business in Bermuda, London, and elsewhere. It also illustrates the importance of scale. The latter is essential, Collins believes, to service clients properly. The new investment by Cinven and GIC allows it to pursue this without altering its essential character.
“One of the frustrations of being a partnership in the past was that we didn’t have the currency to attract some of the key teams we needed to bring into the business,” explained Collins.
“Now, with our new owners, we have the firepower to do that, and we’re ready to look for all the talents and skills we need to build out our platform in an exciting way.”
To view the full Re/insurance Lounge session click here
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Romolo Tavani