SCOTS insurance industry veteran Tom Aldridge has heralded the arrival of his new venture with a deal to acquire the customer book of TL Dallas in Edinburgh.

Mr Aldridge, 39, has set up Glasgow-based Blackford Group with a remit to offer a fresh alternative to the commercial risk market in Scotland, while taking advantage of the fall-out from the wave of consolidation seen across the industry in recent years.

And he has notched an early coup by acquiring a customer book from TL Dallas spanning around one hundred clients with a premium value of more than £3 million.

READ MORE: TL Dallas hires Aldridge under expansion plans

The deal will see four experienced brokers make the switch from TL Dallas to Blackford, which has opened a new office in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge to accommodate the new team. Stephen Randall, Monika Hubsch, Alan Grant and Laura Scougall join Blackford with a combined 95 years’ experience behind them.

Mr Aldridge hopes Blackford can benefit from recent consolidation in the insurance industry in Scotland, which he said has led to “limited competition” for clients and fewer opportunities for professionals who work in the industry.

Asked why he was able to strike a deal to prise the Edinburgh book from TL Dallas, Mr Aldridge said: “I suppose it goes back to insurance as very much [being] a people business. They recognise that people played a part with the accounts. A number of the team were looking to move on, and I saw the opportunity to possibility come… to a fair deal. I wouldn’t say they wanted the business to go… it was more of an opportunity for us and a situation for them where everyone has come out in a fair way. Most importantly the clients are unaffected.”

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Mr Aldridge was unable to say how the deal was worth. He said his firm would consider acquisitions as it looks to grow, but envisages expanding more by acquiring individuals or teams of people.

Noting the initial focus will be on organic growth, he said: “It is all about the quality of staff for us. Geographically we will be all over Scotland in the next few years because our plan is to allow people to work efficiently and digitally as much as possible.”

Mr Aldridge was “educated” in insurance during a 10-year spell with Aon, where he rose to become head of sales for Scotland in 2010.

He left Aon to set up an office for Central Insurance in Glasgow, with his four-year spell at Central coinciding with its acquisition of Edinburgh-based Castle Cairn. Central was then acquired by Marsh in 2014 and six months later Mr Aldridge, who was head of sales and marketing for Marsh in Scotland, moved to TL Dallas as associate director. He incorporated Blackford in December. Mr Aldridge said: “There were a number of stars aligning over the course of last year, and I just thought now would be a good opportunity to set up something new.

READ MORE: Marsh buys Central Insurance Services

“That is primarily driven as well by the opportunity that exists in the broker market in Scotland after quite a bit of consolidation in the last few years. That offered not only some frustrations for clients, but also a number of staff who were used to dealing with independent brokers that have now gone. There was room for one more.”

The firm, based in Glasgow’s Garment Factory, is an appointed representative of James Hallam, the privately-owned broker, which has backed Blackford alongside a number of private investors.

Mr Aldridge said the deal with Hallam, which has 250 staff and aims to turn over £20m this year, allows it to tap into “specialist niches” and benefit from support in areas such as compliance, human resources and IT, while retaining its independence. Hallam’s holding company, Seventeen Group, is a shareholder in Blackford, which Mr Aldridge said gives it a “vested interest in the success” of the Scottish concern.