BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.

To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.

To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.

Login Register Subscribe

Big brokers gain competitor


ATLANTA-One year after leaving broker Hilb, Rogal & Hobbs Co., Thomas A. Golub is spearheading the formation of a new company to compete with the world's largest insurance brokers, including his former firm.

The launch of the large-account brokerage comes only two years after Mr. Golub negotiated the sale of Hobbs Group L.L.C., of which he was president and chief executive officer, to Hilb, Rogal & Hamilton Co. He stepped down as executive vp and a board member of HRH last August to pursue other interests, after certain financial performance goals set by the merger agreement were met.

Soon thereafter, Mr. Golub was presented with an opportunity to build another brokerage that, like Hobbs, would target large accounts.

The 46-year-old Georgia native invested an undisclosed sum in Becher + Carlson Risk Management Inc., the Princeton, N.J.-based captive management and brokerage firm, which parent American Re Corp. was looking to sell.

Together with the buy-in from Mr. Golub and other investors, including management and key employees, Becher + Carlson officially bought itself out from American Re last November for an undisclosed amount.

Since that time, Mr. Golub, who was named president and CEO of the holding company of the firm, has changed the spelling of the firm's name to a more phonetic Beecher Carlson Holdings Inc., relocated its corporate headquarters to Atlanta, and last month secured nearly $90 million in private equity funding.

That capital infusion, led by Austin Ventures of Austin, Texas, will now be used to finance an ambitious growth-by-acquisition strategy to expand Beecher Carlson into the U.S.-based large-account retail brokerage arena on a national scale, while growing its existing captive management operations.

"If you look back in 1990, there were probably 10 firms that made the claim to being a very strong large-account broker in the U.S.," Mr. Golub said.

Today, "there are very good regional brokers, but they tend to operate in a fairly limited geographic footprint. So when we think about a national footprint, I think it would be hard for more than four to five brokers to make that claim today," he said. "And we consistently hear from customers, `I just want more alternatives,"' Mr. Golub said.

To compete in this market, Beecher Carlson will acquire brokerages specializing in large-account and upper-middle-market business, Mr. Golub said. He defined those accounts as having an annual cost of risk of more than $1 million.

"Our initial focus is on property/casualty, although we are open to and expect to have an employee benefits platform as well," he added.

Currently, about half of Beecher Carlson's roughly $11 million in revenues is derived from specialized commercial insurance brokerage services for large accounts, including an emphasis in the hospitality and manufacturing industries. The other half comes from captive management services.

In 2004, Hamilton, Bermuda-based Beecher Carlson Management Ltd. ranked as the world's 10th largest captive manager with 52 captives under management (BI, March 15).

Mr. Golub said he plans on maintaining a specialized strategy with Beecher Carlson rather than a generalist strategy. He also plans on leveraging the firm's existing technical capabilities, including its actuarial and captive management services, to offer services to large clients.

If all goes according to plan, Beecher Carlson will generate between $80 million and $100 million in revenues by the fourth quarter of 2005, he estimates.

But it's not only acquisitions that Mr. Golub is looking to for growth.

Beecher Carlson will hire entry-level people both from college campuses and from other industries and bring them through a "very intensive" training program, he said. "We think that will be key to our long-term growth."

At the same time, Beecher Carlson also will recruit veterans from within the insurance industry, Mr. Golub said.

Toward that end, Steve Denton, former managing director of Aon Corp.'s Atlanta office, was recently named senior vp at Beecher Carlson Inc., the retail brokerage unit. Mr. Denton will be responsible for developing the sales capability of the company as well as the integration of acquisitions.

Greg Myers, Becher + Carlson's president remains president of Beecher Carlson Inc., and Doug MacGinittie, a former Hobbs executive who left HRH shortly after Mr. Golub, is chief operating officer of Beecher Carlson Holdings.

As an alternative in the large account market, Beecher Carlson will be competing against the world's largest brokerages, including his former company.

"We wish Tom well with his new start-up and look forward to competing in the marketplace," said Martin L. Vaughan, chairman and CEO of HRH in Glen Allen, Va.

Other observers note that building a new large-account broker through acquisitions will be a daunting task.

"My reaction is that's going to be a tough one to pull off. Of course (Mr. Golub) did it with Hobbs, so I don't know if I'd bet against him," said Kevin Stipe, a senior vp with Reagan Consulting Inc. in Atlanta.

Large accounts typically reside in the larger brokerages-those with at least $10 million in revenues, Mr. Stipe explained. While there are some 40,000 independent agencies and brokerages in the market today, only about 250 of those firms generate more than $10 million in revenues, he estimates.

And "most folks that want to do big-time acquisitions would love to get their hands on those very firms," he said.

"It's an interesting and great idea in theory, but it may be a difficult strategy to implement as the inventory of potential acquisition targets fitting that (larger account) criterion is very limited," agreed Timothy J. Cunningham, a partner with OPTIS Partners L.L.C. in Chicago.

Mr. Golub is not too worried, though.

"We have a pretty robust pipeline (of acquisitions) already," he said.