DUAL Signs Transformational Deal to Acquire Align Financial Holdings

Acquisition creates international MGA group redefining underwriting with over $2bn GWP, 1,000 employees operating in 16 countries, more than 80 capacity providers, and 7,000 broker partners.

DUAL, the underwriting arm of Howden Group Holdings (‘Howden Group’), announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire Align Financial Holdings (‘Align’). Align is one of the leading specialist general agency and underwriting management groups in the US, underwriting over $630m GWP on an annualised basis through its commercial casualty, commercial property catastrophe, personal property, and surety businesses.

Kieran Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Align, will lead the combined US businesses, supported by Jim O’Connor, CEO of DUAL North America, and John Johnson, President of Align. Sweeney will also become Executive Chairman of DUAL Group globally and a member of the Howden Group Executive Committee. Current DUAL Group Non-Executive Chairman, David Ibeson will become a Non-Executive Director.

David Howden, Founder and CEO of Howden Group, said: “Since we founded DUAL in 1998, it has expanded from a small financial lines operation in Spain to having the broadest geographic and specialist product distribution platform of any MGA, with operations across the US, Europe and Asia Pacific.

“Kieran shares a strategic vision with us to create an international MGA of real scale, using data and advanced technologies to redefine the underwriting business of the future. Both our businesses have been built with entrepreneurial talent and strong capacity relationships, and now the scale of the combined businesses will open more doors to attracting new talent, new capacity, and enhancing data and analytical capabilities, as we pursue our ambition to become the next-generation underwriting business that breaks the mould.”

Richard Clapham, CEO of DUAL Group, commented: “Kieran and his team have built one of the standout specialist program managers in the US market, and this deal represents the unison of two highly complementary businesses which are keenly focused on delivering underwriting excellence as their primary directive.

“The complementary product and program mix, the broadened distribution, cross-sell opportunities, deepened pool of capacity providers, and expanded broker partnerships, present a very special opportunity not only in the US, where the business will be one of the largest general agencies in the biggest marketplace in the world, but globally.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome the Align team to the Group. Align is founder-led with significant employee ownership and, like us, has a relentless focus on quality underwriting and service, as well as a commitment to put its people first. Our ambition is to build a standout underwriting business of real scale globally that allows capital to back talent cost effectively, combining specialist products with great distribution through our broker partners, whilst keeping our culture. This ambition is accelerated sharply by the acquisition of Align, and I very much look forward to working with the team.”

Kieran Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Align, said: “This is a momentous next step for Align, and one I am delighted to take with DUAL and Howden Group. What stood out to me from the start of our conversations with David, Richard and the senior team was that the platform we will become a part of is entirely designed to be one in which great people thrive. The opportunity to grow a next-generation underwriting management business that charts new territories for ourselves and our partners is very real and compelling. It was immediately clear to our Board and Align’s major investor, Bregal Sagemount, that DUAL Group has an exciting future, and that the talented team that has joined us at Align over the past eighteen years will be presented with incredible opportunities in the newly combined business.”

Evercore Group LLC served as financial advisor, and Dentons Durham Jones Pinegar P.C. served as legal counsel to Align. Howden Group was supported by Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, Locke Lord LLP, and EY.

The acquisition remains subject to completion and regulatory approval.