In-house lawyers see insurance M&A surge
Consolidation in the insurance sector has created a wave of mergers and acquisitions work for in-house counsel, which flows on to the external firms.
Justin Coss, general counsel of the AUB Group, told Lawyers Weekly that consolidation in the insurance market represents the biggest opportunity for in-house counsel in this sector.
“The pace of consolidation continues to be strong,” he said. “There's plenty of activity on the M&A side.”
In part, he suggested, this is being driven by a “soft cycle” in the insurance sector, which is driving down prices.
“For everyone in the industry – and that's insurers and brokers alike – margins are under pressure. [At AUB Group] we've done a great job in sustaining our shareholder returns in the period, but it's not been without difficulty,” he said.
Mr Coss is the first in-house legal adviser in the AUB Group’s history, and is also president of ACC NSW.
The fast pace of change within the insurance sector “makes life interesting” for his one-person legal 'team', he said.
Solo legal counsel with an excess flow of work could, however, turn to external firms for a 'release valve', he added.
“Where you have a large legal team and the ability to delegate, that gives you the opportunity to smooth your own workflow,” he said.
“If you don't have a team, the only method of managing that overflow is working with your external counsel.
“We're very flexible when it comes to seeking external advice. If we need to get something done, whether it be operationally or an acquisition, there is no hesitation in bringing in those external resources,” he said.
“I don't ever feel constrained by the fact that I'm just one person because I know there is a good wealth of external lawyers out there who can help.”