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Howden ‘completes’ UK broking platform with Aston Lark acquisition after further European buys

Howden has continued its recent spending spree with the acquisition of UK specialist complex commercial and private client broker Aston Lark from Goldman Sachs and Bowmark Capital. It is the broker’s third move in Europe this week after buying Belgium firm Sarton & Associés and Norwegian outfit Aneco Forsikringsmegling.

Howden has been focused on expansion in Europe with several recent acquisitions.

This week it bought Sarton & Associés’ book of property, casualty and employee benefits insurance to boost its existing specialty lines accounts for large corporates, mid-sized firms and SMEs. Howden said the acquisition fits with its ambitions for growth in Belgium, and will give it “a more prominent presence across the country”.

This purchase was then followed with the acquisition of Oslo-based retail broker Aneco Forsikringsmegling. Aneco is an independent insurance broker focused on P&C and employee benefits. It is currently managing about €30m in premiums.

Then came the Aston Lark deal, Howden’s biggest to date amid recent expansion that has seen it buy CHB Insurance Brokers in Estonia and BCZ in Switzerland.

The broker explained that the Aston Lark deal, thought to be worth over £1bn, “completes” its UK broking business, with Aston Lark joining A-Plan Group and Howden UK to “create a standout, full-spectrum British broker”.

The new business will manage more than £6bn of gross written premiums for more than 1.7 million policyholders. This will include Aston Lark’s book of more than 200,000 clients.

Aston Lark’s CEO Peter Blanc will become executive chairman of Howden UK’s retail broking business, while Carl Shuker, CEO of A-Plan, which was bought by Howden last year, will become CEO of the new UK broking platform. Andy Bragoli, CEO of Howden UK, will lead Howden’s international specialty business.

David Howden, CEO of the Howden Group, said the Aston Lark transaction “is a deal a decade in the making”.

“Not only is Aston Lark the missing piece of our UK broking strategy but our new strengthened platform signals a new beginning for the group, accelerating our significant international ambitions by bringing a fresh and energetic dynamic to all our markets and even greater value to our clients,” Howden said.

He added that the new broking platform makes Howden “the credible alternative of scale for clients and a magnet for the very best talent in the industry”.

Blanc, who has built Aston Lark’s broking network through 50 acquisitions during the past six years to now place more than £1bn in premium, said: “Together we will be the major force in the UK broking market and I’m extremely excited about what we can achieve over the coming years. Our combined products, services and footprint will enable us to capture every customer in the market.”

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