Roger Lark & Sons was established as a Lloyd’s broker in 1948. Starting out as a small, family business, it has grown over the decades into one of the UK’s most respected brokers. Lark’s rich history is regaled here by present-day Chairman Graham Lark – Grandson of founder, Roger.
“When my Grandfather initially founded the company, the majority of the business came from sub-agents across the UK who needed a Lloyd’s broker to act as their placing broker” says Graham.
“The first office was in Marland House, Mark Lane, London, which was chosen for its proximity to Lloyd’s. After 12 years the company moved to Ibex House, Minories – the business was growing and they simply needed more space.”
“Then, after 16 years at the helm, in 1964, my Grandfather retired as an active partner.”
The minutes of that historic meeting remain in the Lark files today:
"It was stated by Mr Roger Lark that he intended to retire on the 31 March 1964. Mr John Lark and Mr Robert Lark agreed that special mention should be recorded in the minutes of the great service Mr Roger Lark, the founder member of the firm, had given to the business since its foundation in 1948. He had seen immense expansion in the business whilst at its head and this growth was in no small way due to his personal efforts. He will continue to attend the office in the capacity of Consultant, and his two sons, the continuing partners, will be very happy to have him at their sides.”
Leaving the City
Recognising the benefits of leaving the City, in 1967, Roger Lark & Sons became one of the first Lloyd’s brokers outside of London. Barking, Essex, was chosen as the new location.
“It was an ideal location” explains Graham. “Not only did it have direct access to the City, which was only 15 minutes away by train, but it was also an emerging business area. Lower rental costs allowed the company more floor space, enabling continued growth.”
The following year, Roger Lark retired fully, and the company embarked on a highly successful association with Sedgwick. The agreement was that Roger Lark & Sons would take on Sedgwick’s small personal business -which was seen as a stepping stone to a growing relationship.
In the years that followed, Roger Lark & Sons, in association with Sedgwick, saw several mergers and acquisitions and the company continued to thrive. So much so, that in 1986 the company had to move premises again – this time just across the road to Wigham House, where the firm can still be found today.
In 1990, the 23 year association with Sedgwick was officially recognised - as the company changed its name to Roger Lark & Sedgwick.
A new chapter
The following years saw the company boost its revenue following acquisitions of Griffiths & Drew and Davies & Thompson Ltd, based in Maidstone, Kent. It was decided to keep an office in the area to benefit the growing number of clients based there.
In 1998, Sedgwick announced its plans to merge with Marsh, and so in 1999 the company changed its name once again - to Lark Insurance Broking Group – and became a Limited company.
“The company’s aim was to increase its presence in the South East” explains Graham, who became Chairman soon after the turn of the Millennium.
“The first phase of this was acquiring the insurance broking business of Investec Bank. By keeping their staff and offices, Lark once again had a base in the City of London. Following a restructure of the Barking based Corporate Client division, the team moved to the City office, taking on new premises and returning to Ibex House after a gap of 40 years.”
In 2005/06, Lark acquired four businesses - Tolson Messenger, Argent Insurance Brokers, Ascot Insurance Brokers Ltd and Somerville Insurance Services. By retaining the staff from each business, and the premises, Lark again expanded its presence in the South East.
“Although the company maintains its plans for growth, this is still very much a family business” says Graham of the continued expansion. “We still have two members of the Lark family on the Board of Directors, and a strong belief in staff loyalty.”
“We are proud that over 135 of our 333 employees have worked at Lark for over 10 years.”
In 2012, Lark (Group) Limited rebranded to better convey the idea of quality, further enhance the brand’s heritage and reinforce the individual service we offer to our customers.
Today, the Group comprises Lark (Group) Limited, which deals with general insurance for both private and corporate clients, and Lark Life & Pensions Limited, which handles the financial services side of the business.
Between 2007 and 2012, the company also received investment from French based Insurance Company Groupama, who became majority shareholder in Lark Group. However, having suffered from the Southern European Government Debt crisis, they announced their plans to withdraw from all of their UK based businesses. The Lark management team completed a buy-out of the Groupama shareholding in August 2012.
Even during that period, Lark continued to grow – acquiring Griffiths Good & Company Limited and Grosvenor Court Insurance Services (both 2008) and Cadogan Hanover Park (2011). Cadogan Hanover Park has specialist areas of insurance including Performance Film & Media, SAIFInsure, Truckinsure and Plastech Insurance – further boosting the Lark Group’s areas of expertise.
“With several acquisitions and mergers, we’ve come a long way since my Grandfather started things off in 1948” reflects Graham. “But we’ve never lost sight of what’s important to our customers – and we never will.”