Howden is off to a good start in 2020.
The independent broker’s parent company, Hyperion, has settled its latest dispute with JLT (now owned by Marsh) and announced strong financial results, while here in Asia its sights are now firmly set on continuing the momentum built up from last year’s acquisitions.
“2019 was a transformational year in which we welcomed Malene in Malaysia and Maxi in Thailand, and focused on building our specialisms and increasing collaboration across our operations in Asia,” said Goh Chye Huat, Howden’s Asia chief executive. “We have no intention of slowing down any time soon.”
Malene, which Howden bought in February last year, is a Malaysian independent niche broker in the energy and power sector and a takaful specialist. At the same time, Howden also bought out CIMB’s 51% share of CIMB Howden and brought the two business together to create the second-biggest multinational broker in Malaysia.
“We’re well on our way to becoming the leading independent broker in all of the countries we are in across Asia,” Goh Cheye Huat, Howden
In Thailand, the acquisition of Maxi and merger with its existing Thai broking business doubled the size of Howden’s footprint in the country and created a top 10 Thai broker.
Continuing to build scale in Asia is a key strategic objective for Goh, particularly as intra-Asia trade creates growing demand for brokers that can provide cross-border knowledge and expertise.
DisputeOf course, such ambitious plans can sometimes ruffle feathers. The dispute with JLT stemmed from Hyperion’s mass poaching of 47 employees, who left after the acquisition by Marsh & McLennan was completed in April last year, prompting JLT to initiate a lawsuit. The two sides have now reached a confidential settlement.
It was not the first bust-up between the two companies. Indeed, Goh was himself at the centre of a similar legal battle in 2015 when he and 16 colleagues moved from JLT. Since then, he has overseen significant expansion.
“We’re well on our way to becoming the leading independent broker in all of the countries we are in across Asia,” says Goh (pictured).
The South-East Asia business has grown at a rate of 50% a year, he says, culminating last year with significant new additions to the group’s footprint in the region.
On the agenda for this year is the completion of the integration of RKH’s specialty business, which Hyperion bought in 2015. The two units will be combined under a single management by October this year, with Goh leading the merged business in Asia.
ResultsThe combined international broking business booked organic growth of 11% during 2019, according to Hyperion’s financial results, while the overall group saw earnings up 16%.
In revenue terms, Asia is now a bigger earner than the UK, accounting for 19% of the pie compared to 18% for the home market — and that narrow gap is set to widen considerably if Goh maintains the pace of growth in Asia.
Howden is positioning itself as the leading partner for US brokers looking to work with an international network that doesn’t compete with them at home — as well as offering career opportunities for brokers who don’t want to be part of a sprawling group, such as the dozens of former JLT staff who have already made the switch.
Hyperion employees no longer own a majority of the company, but at just under 50% they are still the biggest single bloc, alongside major shareholders General Atlantic and CDPQ.
Howden’s Asia footprint also includes offices in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan. With ambitions to build scale across the network and maintain the pace of growth, Goh will undoubtedly be looking at acquisitions in some of these markets in 2020.

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