Sphere – Nine months on


Newcastle-based insurance broker and risk management firm The Sphere Group joined the JMG Group in April 2022. We spoke to MD Alan Oliver to find out how he and his team have found the first nine months.


Tell us how Sphere became part of the JMG Group

It felt like we’d outgrown the appointed representative model that we’d traded with since 2009 and we began to look for the next chapter of our business and the different options we had to grow it. Throughout this process, we knew one option might be acquisition and it turned out to be the right time.

At the end of 2021, with an imminent recession and lingering uncertainty from Brexit and the pandemic, it became clear that a trying economic time was on the cards. The prospect of having a sort of ‘big brother’ company was very appealing and seemed like the best way to safeguard our staff while still delivering the right service to our clients.


What was it about JMG that appealed to you and the business?

Once we made the acquisition decision, JMG Group fairly quickly became the most appealing prospect. I’d previously enjoyed working alongside Neil Forrest and Nick Houghton and was fully aware of their style and approach to running an insurance broker group.  They are great at getting the job done really well but also having fun, and that’s definitely the culture in our business that also operates best. They were patient enough to give us the time we needed to make the decision, and in the end, it was a really easy decision to make.


What was the acquisition process like?

The whole process took around four months and wasn’t as scary as we thought it could be! In fact, it felt very straightforward; like lots of lovely people putting their arms around us, welcoming us into the group and being very patient!

All the new insurers are great, and it’s meant we’ve been able to widen our product selection to clients. From a personal point, it’s been great to be able to pass the reins of HR, accounts, payroll and pension etc, which has freed up at least 20% of my time to allow me to do more with my own clients or develop members of the team.


Nine months in: how’s everything going?

It’s going really good so far. More ups than downs! We’ve found the management team at JMG Group incredibly easy to work with, which is a real positive, and the day-to-day staff might be even better! They’ve been an absolute delight; incredibly welcoming as we’ve navigated our way through learning Acturis inside and out, which is a system we’d used before but not to its full potential.

We’ve been introduced to new insurance providers we didn’t have access to before and are now trading with on a weekly basis, which is what we’d hoped would happen. We’ve always wanted to partner with a company with comprehensive access to a wide range of the market. Most importantly, our client retention is still in the high 90s, which is exactly where we want it to be.


What’s next for Sphere?

Currently, the benefit of access to the wider market and enhanced commission rates has us at 17-18% ahead of the year to date, which is a great place to be. We’ve been able to increase our headcount by 15% and have another new starter joining us in January to support the sales team. Having the JMG Group pedigree behind us has really made it easier to attract new members of staff.

We hope to continue to organically grow the business and develop new relationships with introducer partners and ultimately bring in more enquiries. The next 18-24 months are looking really exciting for our business.