Profile: Mersey broker thrives in a tough market

While many companies may have struggled during COVID-19 Liverpool insurance broker Griffiths & Armour has emerged thriving with annual sales of £300m. Tony McDonough reports

Martin Hawken
Martin Hawken, client services director of Griffiths & Armour

 

Liverpool insurance broker Griffiths & Armour says it has thrived in the tough market during the pandemic with annual sales now topping £300m.

Founded in Liverpool in 1934, the firm has established a reputation as one of the best known independent insurance brokerages in the UK. From its headquarters at Princes Dock in Liverpool, Griffiths & Armour also operates bases in London, Manchester and Dublin, employing approximately 180 people, with around 150 in Liverpool.

The firm has continued to grow over the past couple of years, despite the challenges of the pandemic, and now sells around £300m of commercial insurance premiums into the market each year. It is a local business with a genuine national profile.

Griffiths & Armour is split into two divisions. They are Griffiths & Armour Insurance Brokers, which offers insurance brokerage to companies across multiple business sectors, and Griffiths & Armour Professional Risks which services ‘white collar’ clients such as architects, accountancy and law firms and consulting engineers.

It will broker insurance products for both large commercial and SME businesses across many sectors including manufacturing, retail, leisure, construction, charity and not-for-profit. The firm also has a private client team that will look to provide personal insurance products for individuals within its client base.

“The private client team is becoming a growth area for the business and we are looking to develop that further,” said Martin Hawken, client services director of Griffiths & Armour who has worked at the firm since 1986. He explained how it was performing strongly in a world that has changed rapidly since 2020.

“We got through this pandemic due to a strong culture and the great people we have within the business,” he added. “We invested in technology and we quickly pivoted to enable people to work from home. That, in turn, enabled us to look after our clients and find new clients as well.

“No one was furloughed during the pandemic and we made sure everyone continued to be paid in full. The claims team, in particular, have done a magnificent job and we have actually grown our workforce by 10% over the past couple of years. It has been a real success story.”

For many years Griffiths & Armour’s Liverpool headquarters was located in Drury House in Water Street, in what was until recently the heart of the city’s commercial district. However, in 2017 the firm relocated its office to No 12 Princes Dock on the Liverpool waterfront, taking 18,000 sq ft on a 10-year lease.

Working from home and flexible working is now much more the norm for many organisations. Griffiths & Armour has implemented a hybrid approach with people splitting their time 50:50 between home and office. It has been claimed hybrid working leads to lower productivity but Martin says the opposite is true for the firm.

Emerging from the pandemic in a strong trading position, the business has found itself in what he describes as a “hard market”. He explained: “A hard market is when there is a reduction in capacity in the insurance market and premiums can become more expensive.

“Even before the pandemic the market was hardening and COVID has provided the icing on the cake. This is the first hard market for 17 years and it has ushered in a tougher trading environment.

“However, rather than struggling in this market we have thrived. It suits us because it allows us to shine and really show clients what we can do. We have been able to secure deals that other brokers couldn’t. And, again, that is testament to how good a team we have here.”

Griffiths & Armour also now has an international reach. It is the UK representative of the Assurex Global partnership network which links 600 independent agents and brokers around the world, selling $30bn of policies annually. Such is the firm’s standing in the network that it has brought Assurex’s annual global conference to Liverpool.

One of the biggest growth areas for the business is cyber security. Martin said: “Cyber attacks on businesses have become a growing global problem. It is scary enough for large organisations but for SMEs it is of particular concern.

“There is a growing realisation that all businesses are now at risk from the activities of cyber criminals. We have a member of our team here who is now a specialist in cyber crime and can help support our clients in this area.

 

Martin Hawken
Martin Hawken says Griffiths & Armour thrived during the pandemic
No 12 Princes Dock at Liverpool Waters, home to Griffiths & Armour

 

“Added to that we offer our clients access to an online risk management platform called RMworks. Available at no extra cost it offers extensive levels of risk management advice and guidance that can prove invaluable for any business. It provides claims intelligence, data analysis and centralised reporting.

“What this demonstrates is that Griffiths & Armour isn’t just about selling people insurance policies. We offer ongoing comprehensive support packages for all of our clients that adds significant value to their business and we are always ready to educate them about the market.”

Martin adds Griffiths & Armour is an active member of the Liverpool city region business community. It is involved with organisations such as Professional Liverpool and Liverpool BID Company. And it also supports charities and good causes including Kids In Need and Distress (KIND) and the NSPCC.

“Griffiths & Armour plays a leading role in the Liverpool city region in so many ways. We employ people in skilled, well-paid jobs. And we have brought people into the business and offered excellent career paths. We are also founder members of the Liverpool Insurance Institute.

“At the moment we are in the midst of a five-year plan to grow the business and we intend to do so not through acquisition, but through organic growth. We have a fantastic reputation as a business across the UK and we are looking to build on that.

“Key to our success is the quality of the people we have here in the business. I have been here for almost 36 years and we have others who have also been here a long time. This business is like a family and the dynamism and skill our people possess gives us great optimism for the future.”

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