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Arthur J Gallagher (NYSE:AJG)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Jul 29, 2021, 5:15 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good afternoon, and welcome to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.'s Second Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Today's call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. Some of the comments made during this conference call, including answers given in response to questions, may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the securities laws. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. Please refer to the cautionary statements and risk factors contained in the company's 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K filings for more detail on its forward-looking statements. In addition, for reconciliations of the non-GAAP measures discussed on this call as well as other information regarding these measures, please refer to the earnings release and other materials in the Investor Relations section of the company's website. It is now my pleasure to introduce J. Patrick Gallagher, Chairman, President and CEO of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Mr. Gallagher, you may begin.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Laura. Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us for our second quarter 2021 earnings call. On the call with me today is Doug Howell, our Chief Financial Officer, as well as the heads of our operating divisions. We had an excellent second quarter. The team delivered on all four of our long-term operating priorities to drive shareholder value. We grew organically. We grew through acquisitions, improved our productivity, all while raising our quality and maintaining our unique Gallagher culture. For our combined Brokerage and Risk Management segments, we posted 17% growth in revenue, 8.6% organic growth, but it's over 10% when adjusted for timing, which Doug will spend some time on in a few minutes. Net earnings margin expansion of 107 basis points, adjusted EBITDAC margin expansion of 30 basis points, and we completed eight new mergers in the quarter with more than $70 million of estimated annualized revenue. Most importantly, our Gallagher culture continues to thrive. Just a fantastic quarter on all measures. Now before I discuss how each of our businesses performed in more detail, let me comment briefly about the termination of our agreement to purchase certain Willis Towers Watson brokerage operations. We were excited about the opportunity. I would have loved to complete the transaction.

There are a lot of great people at Willis, and they would have been a great addition to our team. But here's the key point. With or without this, we remain very well positioned to support our clients, compete for new ones and ultimately drive value for all of our stakeholders. We're in the greatest business on earth, our culture is stronger than ever, and I'm excited about our future. Okay. Back to our quarterly results, starting with our Brokerage segment. Reported revenue growth was strong at 16%. Of that, 6.8% was organic revenue growth, a little better than our June IR Day expectation and closer to 9% adjusted for timing. Our net earnings margin moved higher by 53 basis points, and our adjusted EBITDAC margin expanded by 23 basis points, highlighting our continued expense discipline. Another excellent quarter from the Brokerage team. Let me walk you around the world and break down our organization by geography, starting with our PC operations. First, our domestic retail operations were very strong with more than 8% organic. New business was excellent, nicely above second quarter 2020 levels. Risk Placement Services, our domestic wholesale operations, grew 12%. This includes nearly 25% organic in open Brokerage and 6% organic in our MGA programs and binding businesses.

New business and retention were both better than 2020 levels. Outside the U.S., our U.K. operations posted more than 9% organic. Specialty was 10% and retail was excellent at 9%, bolstered by new business production. Canada was up an outstanding 16%, fueled by rate and exposure growth on top of solid new business and retention. And finally, Australia and New Zealand combined grew nearly 4%, benefiting from good new business and stable retention. Moving to our employee benefit brokerage and consulting business. Second quarter organic was up about 4%, which is also ahead of our June IR Day commentary and another sequential step-up over first quarter 2021 and the second half of 2020. As business activity improves, we're seeing more favorable growth in our core health and welfare, fee-for-service and retirement consulting businesses, which is encouraging -- it's an encouraging sign for the second half of the year. So when I combine PC at 9-plus percent and benefits around 4%, total Brokerage segment organic was pushing 9% but with timing reported 6.8%. Either way, another really strong performance.

Next, I'd like to make a few comments on the PC market. Global PC rates remain firm overall, and at the same time, we are seeing increased economic activity across our client base. Customers are adding coverages and exposures to their existing policies, and monthly positive policy endorsements are trending higher than pre-pandemic levels. And overall, second quarter renewal premium increases were similar with the first quarter. Moving around the world. U.S. retail was up about 8%, including double-digit increases in professional liability. Canada was up 9%, driven by increases in professional liability and package. New Zealand was flat and Australia up 6%. Moving to the U.K., retail was up about 8%, with most classes of specialty business over 10%. And finally, within RPS, wholesale open brokerage was up 12%, while our binding operations were up 4%. So clearly, premiums are still increasing across nearly all geographies. Looking forward, it feels that the current renewal environment will persist for some time.

Carriers that cut back capacity in some of the less profitable lines of business like property, professional liability, umbrella and cyber have yet to budge on terms or conditions or haven't reverted back to offering more limits or lower attachment points. And elevated natural catastrophes, continued impacts of the pandemic, social inflation and low investment returns are all continuing to pressure rates. And on top of this, the potential for increased claim frequency as economies recover and carriers are making a strong case, the rate increases are likely to persist for some time. We, too, see the global PC environment remaining difficult for our clients, and that is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. Moving to our benefits business. Our customer base is returning toward pre-pandemic levels a little more slowly than headline-grabbing sectors like retail, leisure and hospitality. So we are expecting even better organic in the second half. Further, our HR consulting units are very well positioned to deliver solutions as clients and prospects pivot away from controlling costs to growing their businesses and attracting, motivating and retaining their workforce in 2021 and beyond.

So as I sit here today, I think second half Brokerage organic will be better than the first half and could take full year 2020 organic toward 8%. That would be a terrific step-up from the 3.2% organic we reported in 2020. Moving on to mergers and acquisitions. We completed seven Brokerage and one Risk Management merger during the second quarter, representing over $70 million of estimated annualized revenues. I'd like to thank all of our new partners for joining us, and I extend a very warm welcome to our growing Gallagher family of professionals. As I look at our tuck-in merger and acquisition pipeline, we have more than 40 term sheets signed or being prepared, representing around $300 million of annualized revenues. Our platform continues to attract entrepreneurial owners looking to leverage our data, expertise, tools and market relationships to grow their businesses. And we expect that our U.S. pipeline will grow in the second half of the year given the potential changes in capital gains taxes. So 2021 is setting up to be another successful year for our merger strategy. Next, I'd like to move to our Risk Management segment, Gallagher Bassett.

Second quarter organic growth was pushing 20%, better than our June IR Day expectations of mid-teens, and our adjusted EBITDAC margin exceeded 19%. We benefited from a revenue lift related to our 2020 new business wins, increased new arising claims within core workers' compensation and an easier pandemic-era comparison. Looking forward, the rebound in employment, economic activity and our solid new business should lead to third and fourth quarter organic nicely in double digits. For the year, we expect organic to be just over 10% and our EBITDAC margin to remain above 19%. So what an exciting time to be part of Gallagher. And that's because of our 35,000-plus employees and our unique Gallagher culture. It's our culture that keeps us together during the depths of the pandemic. And as we open offices around the globe yet preserving the flexibility we mastered over the last 16 months, I'm hearing the excitement about being back together. Ultimately, it's our employees that wake up every day and decide to do things the right way, the Gallagher way. That's what makes us different. It makes us special as a franchise. It attracts the very best people and merger partners and ultimately clients. I believe our culture has never been stronger. So with two quarters in the books, 2021 is shaping up to be an excellent year. Okay. I'll stop now and turn it over to Doug. Doug?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Pat, and hello, everyone. As Pat said, an excellent quarter and first half of the year. Today, I'll spend a little extra time on organic and then give you our current thinking on expenses and margins. Then I'll walk you through some of the items on our CFO commentary document, and I'll finish up with some comments on cash, liquidity and capital management. Okay. Let's move to Page four of the earnings release and the Brokerage segment organic table. Headline all-in organic of 6.8%, excellent on its own, but as Pat said, really running closer to 9%. There's two reasons for that. First, recall that we had some favorable timing in our first quarter related to contingent commissions that caused a little unfavorable timing here in the second quarter. Call that 70 basis points. Second, also recall that we took our 606 revenue accounting adjustment in the first quarter of 2020. We then adjusted that in the second quarter of 2020. So that creates a more difficult compare this year second quarter. Call that about 150 basis points. These two items combined for about 220 basis points of a headwind here in the second quarter. We don't expect similar headwinds in the second half. Okay.

Let's go to Page six to the Brokerage adjusted EBITDAC table. You'll see that we expanded our EBITDAC margin by 23 basis points here in the second quarter. Considering last year's second quarter was in the depth of the pandemic and our Brokerage segment saved $60 million in that quarter, to post any expansion at all this quarter is terrific work by the team. It shows we are indeed holding a lot of our savings. So the natural question is, when you levelize for the $60 million of pandemic savings last year's second quarter and about $15 million of costs that came back this second quarter, what was the underlying margin expansion? Answer to that is about 125 basis points, which on 6.8% organic feels about right. That $15 million mostly relates to higher utilization of our self-insurance medical plans, a modest tick-up in T&E expenses and incentive comp. So we held $45 million of cost savings this quarter, and that's really terrific. Looking forward, we continue to think we can hold a lot of our pandemic period savings, perhaps more than half. But naturally, some of those costs will come back. As of now, we think about $20 million of cost returned in the third quarter and $30 million return in the fourth quarter. Both of those numbers are relative to last year's same quarters. So again, the natural question might be, what organic do you need to post third and fourth quarter to overcome those expenses and still have margin expansion? Math would say about 7%, which is really the real story.

Recall at the beginning of the year, after expanding margins 420 basis points in 2020, we were looking at just holding margins flat. Now we're looking at a full year margin expansion story. So even with the return of the expenses and again, let's say, assuming for illustration a full year organic of 7%, math would show another full point of margin expansion in 2021. That would mean our cumulative 2-year margin expansion would be well over 500 basis points. That really highlights the improvements in productivity that are now ingrained in how we do business and how we operate. What a great story. Let's move on to the Risk Management segment EBITDAC table on Page 7. Adjusted EBITDAC margin of 19.7% in the quarter is fantastic. And we continue to expect the team to deliver margins above 19% for the full year, showing that our Risk Management segment can also hold some of the pandemic-induced cost savings, meaning that the 2020 step-up in margin can be sustained in 2021. Let's move now to Page four of the CFO commentary document that we posted on our website. Comparing second quarter results in the blue section to our June IR Day estimate in the gray section, interest and banking is in line.

Clean energy came in better than our estimate, thanks to a hot late June, less wind energy production in certain areas of the country and higher natural gas prices. Accordingly, we are increasing our full year net earnings range to $75 million to $85 million on the back of the second quarter upside. You'll also notice two non-GAAP adjustments. One related to the costs associated with the terminated Willis Towers Watson acquisition, and the other is a onetime deferred tax revaluation charge related to the statutory increase in the U.K.'s 2023 corporate tax rate. When you control for those two items, it shows that adjusted M&A and corporate lines were both pretty close to our June 17th estimates. Looking ahead to the third quarter, and that's in the pinkish section, you'll see non-GAAP after-tax adjustment for $12 million to $14 million. This charge is mostly related to redeeming $650 million of debt. That's the 10-year senior notes we issued in mid-May. You'll read that also on Page three of the earnings release. This should also lead to lower third and fourth quarter adjusted interest and banking expense, savings maybe of $2 million to $3 million after tax each quarter. If you turn now to Page five of the CFO commentary, go to the peach-colored section. Just another reminder of what we've been discussing in these calls and during our IR Days for the last couple of years. 2021 is the last year our clean energy investments will show GAAP P&L earnings.

Rather, beginning in 2022, we will show substantial cash flows through our cash flow statement, call it $125 million to $150 million a year for, say, six to seven years. I know I've highlighted this a lot, but I just want to make sure you consider this as you build your 2022 models and beyond. So next, let's go to the balance sheet on Page 14, the top line cash. At June 30, cash on hand was $3.2 billion, and we have no outstanding borrowings on our credit facility. We'll use that first to redeem the $650 million of debt I just discussed. And also today, we announced a $1.5 billion share repurchase program. That would leave us with about $1 billion of cash. Then add to that about $650 million of net cash generation in the second half. That's after dividends, capex, interest, taxes, et cetera. And we would also have another $600 million to $700 million of borrowing capacity. Means we have upwards of $2.5 billion for M&A. When I look at the pipeline and if a capital gains tax rate change gets momentum, I think we'll have plenty of opportunities to put that capital to work at really fair multiples. Okay. Those are my comments, an excellent quarter, an excellent first half, a bright outlook for the second half and a really terrific cash position. Back to you, Pat.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Doug. Laura, I think we can take some questions now.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Elyse Greenspan with Wells Fargo. You may proceed with your question.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks. Good evening.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Good evening.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

My first question is on, Pat, your organic growth comments. I think you mentioned that you guys would get the full year to 8%. So if my math is right, if you were sitting at 6.4% for the first half of the year, that would imply that you guys are expecting the back half to come close to 10%. Is there something wrong with that thinking? Or are you thinking given the timing impact in the second quarter that we get close to double digits in the second half of the year within Brokerage?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Elyse, I think you might be a little strong on that based on the math. So just take a look at it again. I think our math produced it more like toward 9%. Just like that.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay. So 9%. Okay. Close. And then my second question, you guys announced a $1.5 billion share repurchase program, right, to effectively buy back the stock issued for the Willis deal. So I just wanted to get a sense of timing on the buyback. Is that something you expect to complete this year? And then is the expectation that you will buy back all those shares? Or is that also a little bit dependent upon some of the tuck-in deals, if some of them come together pretty quickly?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

No, I think as we said right now, our intent is to repurchase the $1.5 billion. We think we can get that done in short order also and certainly by the end of the year. The point here is that we're -- we won't let excess capital sit idle by any means.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful and then on the margin side, Doug, you were -- you gave us some helpful information. And you were giving an example, right, that if you guys get to full year organic of 7% that you could show 100 basis points of margin improvement. So is that with the saves coming back? Or is that kind of after adjusting for the impact of saves or the expectation that we'll see about 100 points of margin within Brokerage this year?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I think what I'd do is using the illustration of saying if we pose 7% for the full year, you'd see about 100 basis points of margin expansion even with those costs coming back into our structure. And clearly, if we better 7%, we should be able to better that, too.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay. Thats helpful. Thanks for the color.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Thanks.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Elyse.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of David Motemaden with Evercore ISI. You may proceed with your question.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hi, good evening. I had a question just on the expense side. If I just look in Brokerage at the operating expenses, noncomp, non-D&A, just the OpEx line, if I take out the $15 million of incremental costs, it looks like expenses were roughly flat year-over-year. Doug, I think you spoke about this a little bit in your comments. But I guess I'm just wondering, is that sort of right that the underlying expenses in the business were sort of flat year-over-year? And would you expect that to continue for the rest of this year?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

So did you take the entire $15 million out of OpEx? Or did you spread some of that into comp? And then also did you factor in M&A? But you're not far off of that being pretty close to flat when you factor in M&A.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Yes. I was just looking purely at OpEx. So it was roughly flat. But that's something that you think can continue for the rest of the year just given some of the changes you guys made over the course of last year?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I think that we -- like I said, I think the $20 million will come back in the third quarter of expenses, and I think $30 million will come back in the fourth quarter. That will be split some between OpEx and some between compensation. But by and large, our underlying costs other than maybe in the IT areas, we're starting to see savings in real estate. We're starting to see savings in professional fees. We are seeing increases in travel and entertainment expenses because some of our clients are expecting us to be there and we're happy to be there for it. But you are seeing some good learnings from the pandemic. We have pretty well taken care of all of our incoming and outgoing mail that's saving some costs there. So we can centralize that. So we can deploy mail anywhere around the world with a touch of a button. So there are some good projects that have been going on to -- that we're continuing to harvest out of the operating expense line.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it. Yes. That continues to come in a bit better than I would have thought. I guess any sort of update on the thinking in terms of the sustainable expense saves that you're getting from COVID of -- I think it was 150 to 175. Is that still a good sort of level to think about? Or yes, any sort of changes to that?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Let's level set. We're saving, let's say, let's call it, $65 million a quarter during the pandemic, and we think that we can hold $30 million of that, $35 million of that. So again, back to -- I don't know where your $150 million came from unless it was $60 million times 4.5 and then divided by 2. But where did you get the $150 million from?

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

I was using more of a range that you guys have given. But no, that makes sense. That makes sense. I guess also maybe just on the growth side. I guess could you just break down if we sort of look at the organic, the 9% in Brokerage on sort of a clean basis? Could you just talk about some of the different components of that, whether that is rate versus exposure versus new business and share gains and how you expect each of those to trend over the course of this year?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Okay. So new business is stronger than where we were same second quarter or, let's say, for the year, new business remains stronger. Retention is about the same. We're getting lift from rate and exposure that when we combine that together, right now, I think it's about 50-50 rate and 50% exposure.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Mark Hughes with Truist. You may proceed with your question.

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

Yes. Thank you very much. Good afternoon

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

[Hi, Mark]

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

Some of your end markets have been a little slower getting ramped up maybe compared to other more cyclical end markets. Could you expand on that just a little bit?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

What do you mean end markets?

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

Well, I think you were talking about your customers, if I heard you properly. Tell me if I didn't -- like your customers...

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

I think what you're talking about is our employee benefit business. You see a lot of headline recovery in employment staff that generally are citing retail, hospitality, travel-related industries. Our customer base is not concentrated in those industries. It's more diverse than that. And it's just the return to work in our customer base isn't quite at those headline returning to work numbers that you see there. Is that what you're asking about, Mark? Nothing -- it's just a mix of business down in our benefits business.

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

Right. Yes. Got you. Yes. No, that was my question. And Pat, on pricing, I might not have heard all of your commentary, but it seems like looking at some of your specific numbers compared to last time, they were as good or better in Q1. It seems like there's some broader discussion of potential deceleration. Why do you think you may be seeing it a little more optimistically than others perhaps?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Just from where I sit, Mark, when I'm talking to people in the field and when I'm talking to our underwriting partners, there just doesn't seem to be any appetite for cutting. Now rate of increase is down. But I'm not seeing people say, "Oh, gosh, we get this thing right. Let's open the floodgates."

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

We're seeing a little bit of -- I think there's a little bit -- I think the larger account market, our larger-sized market, we saw increases in premiums there that were a little higher than, let's say, the mid-market or the smaller market throughout the end of 2020 and here in the first half of '21. So we're just not seeing if the large account market is not growing rates quite as fast as they were in the past. We're not really seeing that as much in the mid-market. We're seeing it more consistent with first quarter and fourth quarter.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Did we lose you there, Mark?

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

No, here, I'm back. I'm sorry. Just curious if -- in a public forum, any thoughts you'd care to share around the potential for adding some staff in light of the Willis Towers Watson, Aon breakup. Are you seeing anything out in the market, any people moving that is noteworthy?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Well, no, we don't. But as you know, Mark, you've followed us a long time. Organic hiring is a big part of our strategy. And there's no doubt that we're going to continue to hire production talent across all lines of business that we've got. And our doors have -- even in the depths of a soft market, you've followed us. You know the door is open for production talent.

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

Very good. Thank you.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Thanks Mark.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Mark.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Meyer Shields with KBW. You proceed with your question.

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Thanks. I wanted to touch a little bit on capital management. I guess the $850 million of the raised debt that you're keeping, is it fair to interpret, Doug, your comments about M&A potential as being able to utilize that $850 million?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yes, absolutely. That's cash in the bank right now. We think that we might have to borrow a little bit more toward the end of the year or first part of next year, depending on how the M&A pipeline looks at. But the $650 million, there's a special mandatory redemption feature in there. So we'll pay that back. And then we're happy with the $850 million that we raised along with that and that we'll get back to work here in the second half of the year.

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Okay. I might be trying too hard with this one. But if you're expecting an increase in potential sellers because of capital gains tax rate, is that likely to depress pricing on these assets at all?

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

You might have a little bit and -- but I think it will put -- truthfully, I think that might put -- pricing might stay the same, and I actually might pull forward a little bit less on an earn-out and more upfront. So you put it here in this year. You might be feel that -- is it a full turn on the multiple? Maybe to accelerate it, not have as much on the earn-, but I wouldn't say it's going to cause a big decrease in pricing.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

No. There's a lot of competition for deals out there.

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Yeah. Fair enough. Okay. Thank you so much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from the line of Alex Bolton with Raymond James. You may proceed with your question.

Alex Bolton -- Raymond James -- Analyst

I'm calling in on behalf of Greg Peters. Maybe kind of sticking with M&A and the cap gains conversation, when you're talking, I guess, to potential -- cap gains coming up within the conversation as of now? Or is that still a thought?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

No. It's coming up every time.

Alex Bolton -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. And then when looking at, I guess, M&A, I guess what -- the size of acquisitions that you're considering, has that changed at all?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

No, we're good at tuck-ins. By the way, let's also -- Greg knows this very well actually. If, in fact, there's 39,000 agents and brokers in America, let's remember that Business Insurance just brought out its July edition this month. #100 was $25 million in revenue. So the playing field is full of really, really good tuck-in players.

Alex Bolton -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. That makes sense. And then when thinking about margin expansion and the effect T&E has, maybe you can touch on your thoughts around deployment of T&E and how that might be changed compared to 2019.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

All right. Let me see if I can understand that again. I thought you asked a question about India in there? Or did I hear your word wrong? Right. Great. Well, first of all, we have no hold on -- if somebody wants to travel to see their clients, they're more than welcome to go do it. We have no restrictions on that, and people are self-governing on that. We will meet our clients wherever they would like us to meet them in order to conduct business with them. So we are there on how they want to do it. How much is that? We probably have maybe $5 million a quarter of step-up from where we were in the past. So maybe there's an extra $5 million in our first quarter, another five -- maybe we're at $10 million this quarter, $15 million next and $20 million next quarter relative to the depth of the pandemic. So we're doing -- the good thing about this, though, is that we are actually being able to bring our experts to the point of sale virtually much more now than we were before. So remember the advantage that we have, and that is we have experts in every single aspect of insurance around the world. We can now drop that person into our customers' office or even if they want to do it from home virtually. International folks, there's a lot -- there's considerably less international travel. But now we can bring our experts from London right into our terrific client or prospect in Des Moines, Iowa with a click of a button. So that's really the competitive advantage that we have. And 90% of the time, we compete with somebody smaller than us, and they just don't have the expert. So when we can drop our expert in and bring those capabilities to bear, it's going to lead to more wins in the future. In the past, to travel somebody in for a 0.5-hour meeting, that might be a 2- or 3-day affair. So think about even though expenses might return to a certain extent, it's the ability to get our experts at the point of sale or the point of -- to the prospect virtually that really is the terrific outcome from the pandemic.

Alex Bolton -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. That makes sense. I appreciate your answers.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Alex.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Thanks Alex.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Alex.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Ryan Tunis with Autonomous Research. You may proceed with your quesion.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

I think there's a sequential step-up continuing in employee benefits like we've seen. As people come back, we're really starting to -- just even in the last few weeks, our HR consulting units are starting to get more calls. We're starting to get -- as covered lives increase, the number of participants in medical plans and dental plans is stepping up. So if that 4% went to 6% and then went to 8% over the next couple of quarters, then it wouldn't surprise me in our employee benefit.

Ryan Tunis -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Got it. And then on for Pat. Could you just remind us why -- I mean you see guys do like 40 deals a year, but very few of them seem to be wholesale related. When you think about wholesale M&A, why don't we see more of those?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

We're very active there, Ryan. I think it's just opportunistic. We've built RPS over the last 20-plus years in large part with acquisitions. And we've done some nice acquisitions over the last 12 months in RPS. One of the areas we've built out, of course, we're the country's largest MGA. We also have a program business that's really strong. But open market brokerage, we've built the typical Gallagher way. We recruited our own and built our own young people out of our internship, and we've done some very nice acquisitions there. So no, there's no hold back there. And actually, there's no real shortage of opportunities, a lot of competition, one of which had a very successful IPO this month.

Ryan Tunis -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Got it. Okay cool. Thanks guys.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Ryan.

Operator

Our last question comes from the line of Phil Stefano with Deutsche Bank.

Phil Stefano -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Yeah, thanks. Good evening. Congrats on the quarter. So Pat, I guess I'm not sure how to put this, but I hope it's not offensive. But I know there's a complaint I'm going to get tonight and into tomorrow, is the organic growth seems to be lagging peers. And I understand the timing issue in the -- with the contingent and the 606. But even at 9%, it feels like people are going to -- I suspect people are going to -- how do you want me to respond to this as I'm looking at conversations over the next day?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think it's -- I'll let Doug give you the technical side, Phil, because he's good at that, but let's put it this way. If you chuck me in the room, here's what I'd say. I'm really proud of our team. We had a great quarter. And so did our competitors. God bless them. And if you take a look at our results over the past number of years versus anyone else you want to put up into that, our team gets up every morning and aggressively sells a lot of insurance. And so I take no second stance to the fact that this quarter was anything but outstanding. And one quarter comparables doesn't get my dander up. Doug could give you a more technical answer, but I think our people did a great job of selling insurance and holding on to our clients. And I'm really happy with the quarter. On a comparable basis, there's others that look stronger. I'm OK with that.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I think, Phil, one of the things you might want to do is take last year's second quarter and this year's second quarter for all of us, add them up, and I think you might find that the delta isn't all that much different. And like Pat said, so over two years, we're up about 10% organically in aggregate in our Brokerage segment. And again, I think that if you do the math on those that have reported or wherever your other insights are coming from, their second quarter and their second -- last year and this quarter might add up to about the same number. I think that running toward 9% is the best quarter since we posted since fourth quarter 2003. And like Pat said, this level of organic growth isn't an aberration just to one of us or two of us or whatever. The entire industry is showing excellent organic growth. Industry is growing at a much higher clip than GDP. And I guess what I would say is our outlook for the second half of the year is pretty bullish. So that's how I would answer it. But mathematically, take the two quarters together, and we won't be all that far apart when you have like-for-like business.

Phil Stefano -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

I guess part of this comes back to -- if I think about the 2-year stack that you're suggesting, it comes back to the idea that your clients were more persistent, and so we don't get the ebb and the flow that we've seen in the recovery last year. I guess is that a fair way to tie that commentary into the numbers?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

The other way I might put it, Phil, is we're doing a better job than our competition in mitigating the impact of rates for our clients.

Phil Stefano -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Yes. Yes. Yes. Okay. Fair. So Pat, when I think about the -- you said that the door is always open for talent that wants to come. As part of the agreement for the Willis potential businesses that were going to be acquired, was there any noncompete or no shop for talent provisions within that, that would keep you on the sidelines from certain talent that might be wanting -- looking around?

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we have some limitations. We've agreed, of course, that we intend to honor those, and they're not extensive. But generally speaking, we're not limited in our ability to hire general production talent. But of course, in that discussion, in that transaction, there are some limitations, which we intend to honor.

Phil Stefano -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Yes. Okay. Perfect. Congrats. And look, I think the margin expansion story over the past few years has been probably second to none. So hopefully, that's the takeaway that you get for me in my comments tonight.

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Appreciate it.

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Phil. Let me just make a few comments here. We delivered, obviously, an excellent second quarter. I'm extremely proud of our team. I believe that we are in the best business in the world, and we're delivering significant value for our clients around the globe day in and day out. Thank you all for being with us this evening, and we'll talk to you next quarter. Thanks very much. Thank you, Laura.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 43 minutes

Call participants:

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr. -- Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Douglas K. Howell -- Corporate Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Mark Hughes -- Truist -- Analyst

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Alex Bolton -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Ryan Tunis -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Phil Stefano -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

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