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Willis wins airline clients from Marsh amid intense competition in aviation

Willis Towers Watson logo airplane aerospace.jpg

Willis Towers Watson has won three new airline clients from Marsh, Insurance Insider can reveal, marking a string of victories for the broker’s global aerospace unit after a period of uncertainty.

The broker recently ousted Marsh in securing the accounts for aviation coverage for Malaysia Airlines, Air Arabia and the Tunisair group. The Tunisia-based airlines Willis will provide services for include Tunisair, Tunisair Express and Nouvelair, as well as the freight carrier Express Air Cargo and helicopter operator Tunisavia.

At the same time, Willis has won back the Iraqi Airways account from Lockton – just six weeks after Lockton took it – while seeing off competitors to retain the accounts of Etihad Airways, the Panamanian business Copa Airlines and Colombia’s Aero Republica.

This publication also understands, however, that Lockton recently secured the account for the Brazilian airline Gol from Willis, amid intense competition between brokers.

The airline space is currently seeing elevated churn of accounts reflecting the distressed client base, the raft of brokers that have started in the space and the resumption of business travel.

The new contracts and retentions follow an unsettled spell for Willis’s aerospace unit, in which the broker lost clients to close rivals in the lead-up to the aborted Aon merger.

Earlier this year, in a bid to allay the European Commission’s initial concerns about competition and secure approval for the Willis merger, Aon had offered to divest several businesses within Willis to AJ Gallagher, which included the brokerage business for space and aerospace manufacturing.

In the spring, before the merger was shelved, AJ Gallagher won the coveted AerCap account from Willis, while Piiq Risk Partners edged out to win the largest manufacturers' liability account, Airbus.

Willis lost another manufacturers' liability account, for the Italian aerospace firm Leonardo, to Piiq during the summer.

Both the Airbus and Leonardo accounts had been earmarked to be sold to AJ Gallagher as part of the divestments to secure the European Commission’s approval.

In this period, Willis also lost its position as a co-broker on airline giant Lufthansa to AJ Gallagher, which became its sole broker.

But having won back other clients after this period of upheaval, John Rooley, CEO of global aerospace at Willis, said in a statement: “The Aon combination is behind us and we have a very strong global aerospace team that is intact, with a value proposition which has always resonated well with clients and prospects.”

Rooley added that it was “pleasing to bring multiple lines of business capability” to clients.

“At Willis, we like to say that if you hire one of us, you get all of us, and we find that clients increasingly like one broker across all lines of business,” he said.

Marsh and Lockton declined to comment.

Malaysia Airlines, Air Arabia, Tunisair, Iraqi Airways, Copa Airlines, Aero Republica, and Gol could not be reached for comment. Etihad said it was unable to confirm the information, as Insurance Insider went to press.

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