the secrets behind the first insurance broker

Christian Burrus, CEO of Diot-Siaci

We can’t stop Christian Burrus anymore. This discreet manager has become the largest shareholder of Diot-Siaci (728 million euros in revenue) and has shares in finance, insurance, office automation and even ski lifts.

Christian Burrus undoubtedly has something to hold on to. Born in Nancy from an old Alsatian family. As a young graduate from the Faculty of Law and from HEC Lausanne, with an MBA from Insead, he immediately turned to the world of banking, in Geneva, but also in Panama and New York.

The only thing missing is London, Europe’s leading financial center, where he goes to pursue his career. No chance in this perfect course. The young Christian grew up close to a father, Paul, who runs his own father’s business, Maurice, in the insurance sector. ESCA was actually born on 9 January 1923 in Strasbourg at the initiative of this member of the Burrus family. This family of entrepreneurs had created a manufacturing activity based on tobacco in the 19th century, but it was Maurice Burrus who launched himself in the insurance sector, he would also be the deputy and one of the patrons of Vaison-la.

His son Paul is also a multifaceted entrepreneur. He follows the tobacco and insurance sector businesses, but he also wants to create a chocolate branch, in particular by taking over the Schaal chocolate factory. This aviation enthusiast has two sons, one of whom, Jean-Paul, develops the agri-food business, the other, Christian, the brokerage/insurance business. In 1991, at the age of 32, Christian took over the reins of the family business ESCA.

Insurer and contractor

The company, which Christian Burrus is taking over, was already well established. It will make it an important player in the sector, in the tricolor leaders without denying its family characteristics. From 2001, the purchase of a first broker marked the ambition of the new manager. In 2004, AFI Europe joined the group that would become Afi-Esca. In 2008 he bought the 7th French broker, Diot.

Two years later it was LSN’s turn to join the group. This is only the beginning of a movement of takeovers of French and European brokerage firms. Christian Burrus is part of this tradition of long-term family leaders. The patient Christian Burrus, who is known for being discreet and taking his time to achieve his goals, shows great ambitions for his group. The two adjectives that characterize his type of management are sustainability and independence.

Christian Burrus has an entrepreneurial vision for the profession, which requires being one step ahead and covering various niches in the complex world of insurance, brokerage, inheritance without forgetting the technology industry, thus guaranteeing the group’s sustainability and growth. The creation of GIE Groupe Burrus Technologies in 2017, responsible for IT activities and development in the banking and insurance sectors, shows that stability in terms of management is not synonymous with immobility. The Burrus group brought together around fifty companies and 1,500 employees before a new group was created at the end of last year.

Creation of a European champion

Siaci is one of the largest players in the sector with clients such as Dassault, L’Oréal and Bolloré. Its president Pierre Donnersberg wanted to get closer to another group to gain a new dimension in the face of several capital concentration movements in Europe and the United States.

After finally rejecting the British options, he turned to Diot, an option all the more interesting since the Burrus group has a long-term vision that is necessarily different from a foreign investment fund. The newly created Diot-Siaci Group becomes the European leader in independent insurance brokerage, in the top 10 of the world ranking. The final round table round makes the Burrus group and the group’s management the main shareholder of the new champion, holding the majority of voting rights.

Minority shareholders are mainly a Canadian fund (OTPPP) with 30%, Bpifrance (10%) and Cathay Capital (5%). Its range of services dedicated to businesses allows it to position itself against global giants such as Marsh, Aon, Willis Towers Watson (WTW). The competition is clearly Anglo-Saxon, so it is important to have a European group of respectable size. Christian Burrus and Pierre Donnersberg will each take turns leading the group with a regular change of mandate.

Sovereignty

At a time when we talk about independence, sovereignty, relocation, the birth of a large European group is good news. Especially since the insurance sector has sensitive information from its customers, which are companies, large groups, ETIs, SMEs. In the French market, the new structure should become the leader in France ahead of Gras Savoye (which belongs to the Willis Towers Watson Group).

The Diot-Siaci marriage is a successful union, especially since the engagement between the British WTW and the American Aon has been broken. It is even very well received because the group remains independent. Diot-Siaci’s revenue increased by 9% in 2021, and the trend is good for the coming year. An IPO is still a possibility, but not for several years, according to Christian Burrus.

The business manager is a mountain enthusiast, the high peaks do not impress him. The man is the father of three children, who will be the one to (perhaps) continue the family saga? Maybe all three…

Adam Richard

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