Insurance-Brokerage Giant Grows By Blending Fintech With Relationships

CEO Williams has built Acrisure into a $2.2-billion giant by acquiring agencies and then making them better.

Acrisure has been working from its base in the U.S. Midwest to reshape the world of insurance brokering, as it leverages artificial intelligence and a ravenous approach to acquiring local, independent agencies to construct one of the most successful and fast-growing fintech firms anywhere.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based outfit has burgeoned from $38 million in revenues to $2.2 billion in revenues in just eight years behind an approach that blends mastery of digital technology for efficiency gains and relationship-building with an acquisitive bend that now is seeing Acrisure buy about 100 insurance agencies, scattered around the world, each year.

“We talk about the best of humans and machines coming together in a formula that is a winning strategy here,” CEO Greg Williams told Chief Executive. “We’re tech-enabling sales and bringing machine learning and AI to help agents expand their audience and accelerate the pace of new business by identifying opportunities for growth.”

Acrisure’s approach is built on the idea of “a company bringing opportunities to entrepreneurs in the insurance-brokerage world where they can get the best of what a large company can bring them in resources and technology while still remaining very entrepreneurial and having a lot of local autonomy and control,” Williams said.

He proved the thesis first in Michigan and the Upper Midwest as Williams grew Acrisure, then expanded nationally, especially in California, and then around the world. Acrisure now has a presence in seven countries on two continents.

Acrisure partners with independent brokerages and “we align our interests” instead of acquiring them,  sidelining the principals and consolidating with other acquisitions, he said. “Local people continuing to serve the local community is the best way to provide high-level services,” Williams said.

Acrisure’s secret sauce is to “support those leaders with technology and other resources they wouldn’t otherwise have” as “the most technology-enabled broker in the world,” he said. To that end, “Nobody has invested in technology as much as we have.” For instance, last year Acrisure bought Tulco’s AI business in a $400-million deal that already has accelerated sales development and risk intelligence across Acrisure’s portfolio.

“We’re using and deploying AI and machine learning and robotic processing as aggressively as anyone in the world,” Williams said. “We’re deploying those tools and capabilities and yet remaining very relationship-oriented.” The traditional business model of a local insurance broker building relationships with potential clients through business groups and other in-person networking is evolving, he said.

“We can spot opportunities for them because we’ve mapped the entire country and understand what’s there. At the end of the day, technology is a big part of the future, but that personal relationship with a trusted advisor is so strong. That’s not going to be disintermediated by a machine or an app. So we’ve focused on putting the best of technology and human relationships together.”

Williams said Acrisure’s strategy isn’t a classic “roll-up” approach of a quarter-century ago in which a big shell company sucked up lots of small and fragmented players in a service vertical and made a national brand out of them. “I don’t like that analogy for this reason: It can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We do all of these acquisitions, but we don’t force the Acrisure brand and name on anyone.

“It does look like a roll-up maybe on the outside, but if you’re inside the company, every principal is an Acrisure shareholder. Everyone is truly aligned and wearing the Acrisure hat going forward.”