Today's Viewpoint: A MarshBerry Publication

September 2023 UK Market Monthly Update M&A: Rising Deal Volumes in Insurance & Investment

September 2023 saw a 20% rise in UK insurance M&A and steady investment deals, driven by robust buyer competition and faster FCA approvals.

In the June edition of our M&A update, we commented that higher (nominal) interest rates were not impacting pricing or buyer appetite. Q3 2023 suggests this has indeed been the case, as deal volumes rose by 20% in Insurance and remained unchanged in the Investment sector, which accords with our own experience. Buyers have been trying to talk prices down but the keen competition for assets has not seen an actual tightening of the purse strings.

The peak of Insurance transaction volumes in Q1 2021 was driven by a concern that capital gains tax would increase significantly. It remains unclear why CGT fever did not infect the Investment sector, being perhaps more tax-savvy than the rest of us. With Labour’s lead in the polls, this concern may yet come to the fore, but we have seen no evidence of this.

We have recently completed a deal from heads of terms to completion in less than 13 weeks. In financial services this is breakneck speed and has only been possible with the FCA having recently significantly speeded up the granting of change in control permissions. Could it possibly be that robust deal volumes are a function of faster approval, rather than the underlying robustness of M&A as many deals are not announced until actual FCA approval has been received?

Looking back, 2022 will be seen as a quiet year in the Insurance space. Six more deals in Q4 2023 will see Insurance transactions in 2023 exceeding 2022. Activity in the Investment sector is the steady Eddy. But as we all know, investments can go up or down.


September saw a marked uptick in UK Insurance M&A following a relatively quiet summer. Both the volume and value of M&A were up and the month saw the announcement of the sector’s largest deal of the year so far, by some margin.

The M&A headlines in the month were grabbed by the widely-expected announcement that Markerstudy has agreed to merge with Atlanta, the personal lines arm of Ardonagh, in a cash and shares transaction that values Atlanta at £1.2bn and will see Ardonagh become a major shareholder in Pollen Street backed Markerstudy, with the enlarged group transacting more than £3 billion GWP annually.

There were two other personal lines transactions in the month, with news that Arthur Gallagher has agreed to acquire Lifesure Group, a broker based in Cambridgeshire best known for its expertise in holiday and leisure business, and Aquiline-backed Ripe Thinking had made its first acquisition with Craftinsure, a specialist boat insurer that brings more than 20,000 new policyholders to Ripe, who are already active in the personal marine segment.

There was the usual flow of activity in commercial lines broking, with seven new deals to report on. The largest transaction in the month was the sale of Robin Plaster’s Norfolk-based One Broker Group to PE-backed consolidator Jensten Group, with the other six being towards the smaller end of the scale. Durham-based Castle Insurance (part of Brown & Brown (Europe), as Global Risk Partners has recently been rebranded) acquired local competitor Square Circle Brokers, Partners& added Hall Insurance Services in London, Greenwood Moreland (part of  J.M. Glendinning Group) announced a deal for Calcluth & Sangster Insurance Brokers in Glasgow, and Clear Group announced no fewer than three new deals – Heath Crawford & Foster in Hertfordshire, Miles Archer in Kent, and Bluestone Insurance Services in Gloucestershire.

There was also continued M&A activity in the MGA segment, where 2023 will be a record year in terms of transaction volumes – indeed there have been more announced transactions in the first nine months of 2023 than there were in the whole of either 2021 or 2022. We will discuss the drivers behind this in our next annual review. There were three new deals to report on during September – iprism added SK Underwriting, Acrisure acquired Modus Underwriting, and Brown & Brown (Europe) announced a deal for Lloyd’s coverholder Occam Underwriting.

Finally, while this newsletter is generally dominated by M&A activity on the distribution side, as this is where the majority of deals are, we also focus on the carriers. In a major deal for the UK commercial insurance sector, it was announced during the month that Direct Line has agreed to divest its book of brokered commercial lines business, which includes the NIG, Churchill Expert and FarmWeb brands, to RSA Insurance, itself now part of Intact Financial Corporation, in a deal with an initial consideration of £520m.


Activity in the investment sector was frenetic in September, primarily driven by dealmaking in the wealth management sub-sector, including Caledonia Investments selling its majority stake in 7IM, the wealth manager and platform provider, to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for £255m. Wren Sterling announced it had increased its client assets by £400m via the acquisition of Bodmin-based Stockdale Group and Guildford-based Messer & Matthews. Mattioli Woods acquired Blackpool-based Opus Wealth Management, adding £53m in client assets, and Skerritts acquired Kent-based financial planning firm, Ambrose Fisher, adding £63m in AUM. Atomos purchased London-based IFA firm, Equanimity, while MWA Financial purchased London-based Sterling Financial Consultants and Cornwall-based The Financial Advice Centre. Perspective reached its 15th transaction for 2023, announcing the acquisition of Buckinghamshire-based Prosperity (GB), Northumberland-based AYP Financial Planning, and an undisclosed firm in the North. Söderberg & Partners also announced a trio of deals after acquiring Waverton’s majority stake in London-based Timothy James & Partners, providing the Nordic firm with access to £1.2bn of client assets, and minority stakes in Cambridge-based Dartington Wealth Management and London-based Atherton York. Foster Denovo acquired Newcastle-based Wade Financial, increasing client assets by £220m and One Four Nine purchased Lancashire-based 1st Chartered Financial Planning, which will be rebranded to One Four Nine Wealth. Edinburgh-based advice firm Chiene + Tait Financial Planning was also rebranded, becoming Seven Street Wealth after it was acquired by its management team. Dow Schofield Watts announced it had acquired Lancashire-based HNW tax adviser, STS Europe, and BRI Wealth Management expanded its footprint across the Midlands with the acquisition of Worcestershire-based Singular Financial Planning, adding £30m of AUA.

Elsewhere in the sector Aviva announced that it would acquire AIG’s UK protection business in a deal worth £460m, while Cooper Parry became the UK’s 11th largest accountancy firm after it purchased Haines Watts London. Nucleus’ £242m acquisition of Curtis Banks Group was cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority and savings and retirements firm, Phoenix Group, took a 5% minority stake in venture capital firm Hambro Perks. Investment manager Dowgate Wealth announced it had acquired the fund management teams and Asia funds of asset manager BambuBlack, while MPS provider Timeline secured £10m in its latest funding round from a consortium led by Blackfin Capital Partners. It was also reported by its co-owner, AssetCo, that Parmenion, the platform and investment management provider, had been the subject to a number of approaches to buy the business.

*IMAS Corporate Finance LLP has been acquired by MarshBerry.

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