Blackford doubles headcount as clients switch to fresh broking approach
Scottish insurance broker Blackford has doubled its team since the start of the pandemic.
After sustaining 70% growth across its commercial and newly formed private client practices, with more than 150 new clients appointing the consultancy since March 2020.
Setting up the business just one year before COVID-19 struck has presented both challenges and opportunities for the start-up business risk specialist, which now counts global tech firms, eminent fund managers, and renewables heavyweights amongst its client bank.
“Our model is to employ and develop top technical talent, and then grow the business by referral and reputation. We’ll leave the cold (nuisance) calling to others”, said founder and managing director, Tom Aldridge. “We also match a service team to a client by considering the character of the brokers and their sector experience, as opposed to simply location. If the past 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that we can assemble a squad of experts, regardless of geography.”
Blackford’s undeterred focus on quality and breadth of policy coverage has resulted in the Aberdeen team generating half its new appointments since taking up residence in the city’s Marischal Square office development a year ago. The local team – all formerly Marsh (Central Insurance) employees – has recently been bolstered by the arrival of two commercial brokers, Kira Hendry and Anne Catto.
The group, with other bases in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, increased its staff numbers to 18 this month (October) and is looking to take on more recruits later this year, in line with its ambitions to employ 25 by 2023.
Blackford has also opened a new private client division led by Michael Gregson (formerly Oak Underwriting and TL Dallas & Co), offering a tailored insurance service for individuals and families.
“To deliver sustained high growth over the past 18 months has been undoubtedly tough but our ‘reputation and referral’ approach has certainly helped us, as well as focusing on some of the more resilient sectors such as technology, professional and financial services, construction, and natural resources.”
Nick Smith has been appointed as a client manager, based at the group’s head office at The Garment Factory, Glasgow, with a focus on renewables, engineering and construction. His background includes technical underwriting at insurers RSA and Aviva, as well as working within the renewables team for seven years at Bruce Stevenson.
Blackford finds itself amidst an ever-decreasing pool of independent brokers in Scotland with many clients and staff possibly disengaged with the result of yet more consolidation and change in the marketplace.
“There are a number of factors at play right now. We have the hard market (premium rating increases whilst insurer capacity and underwriting appetite tightens), coupled with people working from home (in some cases able to commit more time and interest to their insurance renewals), and consolidation at an all-time high across the industry, which has prompted many businesses and families to scrutinise their existing broker offering and seek a fresh alternative.
“The success achieved during the last year has been exceptional. I am very grateful to our hard-working team for their dedication and very excited by the high calibre of people and clients we continue to attract to the business.”