He’s a former captain of the Wallabies, a Fox Sports rugby commentator and a recent recipient of the Member of the Order of Australia. Phil Kearns talks to Insurance Business about the brokerage he’s led for the past two years
IB: Can you talk about the history of InterRISK?
Dennis Guy founded the business 14 years ago. He’d spent a lot of time in JLT in Australia and Asia, and he started his own business and he had very good initial shareholders in Soul Pattinson Group, Babcock & Brown and GPG, which is now known as Ariadne … [The business] grew from there, and we’re very proud to say that those three initial shareholders are still clients of ours today – and very good clients of ours. There’s a lot of loyalty built up across the business.
We grew into Melbourne and Brisbane and, about three years ago, we bought a business in Mackay.
IB: What distinguishes InterRISK from its competitors?
The first thing is loyalty and service. We’re a very service-oriented business. We pride ourselves on attention to detail and on having our clients’ backs. Through that, we’ve built great loyalty with the clients. They’re loyal to us and we’re loyal to them. I think the second thing is embracing technology. We’ve implemented a number of things here which are aimed at making insurance easy for our clients, and we’ll continue to aim to do that just to value-add the service proposition that we’ve got. We’re continually reviewing our service offering to see how we can improve it and make that better for our clients.
IB: How does InterRISK go about attracting and retaining top talent?
Most of the young talent that we’ve got into the business has been through word-ofmouth. Someone may have joined us and been here for a little while, and they enjoy the environment and enjoy the culture, [and] enjoy the fact that we have a bit of fun here. And that’s one of the values of our business, is that we enjoy what we do. And I think our staff sell that story quite well. We’ve attracted through word-of-mouth mostly, and people know what a good place this is to work.
A good environment is the best way to retain your talent – a very open, honest working environment.
I think the second way is that we continue to try and offer other benefits, as well as education, to help our employees rise to the next level. Often, that next level may be with another company. When you’re a small company like we are – only about 70 people – you can’t provide every opportunity for every person that they may want. But part of our responsibility is to make sure that those people are well trained and can be successful, and if that level of success means that they need to leave us for a period of time, hopefully we’ve been able to skill them up for the future and maybe, down the track, we’ll get them back.
HOW PHIL KEARNS ARRIVED IN INSURANCE
IB: Can you talk about the recently developed InterRISK app?
Kearns tells Insurance Business that his first job out of university was selling life insurance.
“I had about two years of doing that, which was the best and worst job I’ve ever had,” he says.
Years later, Kearns was the CEO of Centric Wealth, a private equity business.
“We had two life insurance businesses and a small general insurance practice, as well as being a wealth management adviser network,” he explains.
Kearns was introduced by a board member to industry veteran Dennis Guy, who founded InterRISK.
“Dennis was turning 70 and wanted to slow down a little bit, and he knew the business needed some change and didn’t want to do that change. So, he got me involved.”
Kearns has been the managing director of InterRISK since April 2015.
We have a couple of different client bases here. One is corporate, and that’s the largest part of our business. The second is an SME client base. We look after about 1,200 electrical contractors around the country. So, if you’re an electrical contractor and you’re up a ladder and you get an email saying that your insurance renewal is due, you want to make that process as easy as possible. So, we’ve been able to put together an app where all that documentation can be stored within that app. It also can be used to manage claims, ask questions, get weather warnings, etc. And through another company, we’ve been able to utilise some technology that prepopulates their renewal form. All the electrician needs to do is to have a look at the document on their screen and press OK, and it’ll all be processed from there. We’re really trying to make it easy for our clients to do their renewals and to get a higher level of service.
IB: Do you think investment in new and emerging technologies will be important for brokers to remain competitive in the future?
It’s going to be vital for brokers to embrace technology as much as possible. There’s no point fighting it. Technology is here to stay, as we all know. But I think what is going to be more and more critical in the future is the relationship between the insurers and the brokers, and how they can work together to create new technologies to embrace their customers.
I think that three-way partnership will really strengthen those relationships with clients. In many cases, the brokers know a lot more than the insurers do about a particular client, so that relationship between the two should get stronger and stronger.
IB: Is there anything else you think will become increasingly important attributes of brokers in the future?
Scale is an interesting thing – how do you achieve greater scale as a broker but maintain your service offering? Many of the clients that we win, we win because clients are frustrated with the level of service from global brokers. As we grow as a business, we’ve got to maintain that service at the forefront of what we deliver. And you’ve got to keep re-evaluating that because clients change, industries change, technologies change and, as the world changes, your service proposition has to evolve as well. So, I think that evolution around scale is going to be important for brokers, moving forward.
PHIL KEARNS ON CAREERS IN INSURANCE
IB: Can you talk about your future goals as managing director of InterRISK?
“I think brokers and the industry should feel proud of the industry that they’re in, because it has an amazing history and people should speak up about what they do and how they do it. I know there are a few things in place or that people are trying to put in place to further legitimise the bona fides of the industry, but there are some really good people doing some good things, and the thing that surprised me most about coming into the insurance industry was the breadth of product that is available and what clients can use insurance for. So, while investment banking may be the sexy part of the financial services industry to be in, the insurance industry is something that the youth of today should be investigating as a future path.”
Without talking specifically about numbers, good numbers come when you have a great environment and you’ve got people who are living the values and the aspirations of the business. I know I try to be as open as I possibly can with information among our staff. They know exactly what’s going on across the business, and in a service business, your people are critical. So, a lot of my focus goes into getting that piece right – making sure that we do have good strong values, and that we’re living those values. So, many of the goals of the organisation come together through living those beliefs, and it sounds very airy-fairy, but it’s been proven time and time again in organisations, large and small, how critical those values are.
I’d certainly like to grow our Melbourne and Brisbane offices. If we’ve got 50 people in Sydney, which we do, we should have 20 in Melbourne and Brisbane, at least. And certainly to assist our Mackay business.
[Due to] the coal resurgence and a lot of emphasis [being] put from the Queensland and federal governments into North Queensland, we need to think of ways to embrace that change that’s coming to those areas and help to facilitate the growth of those businesses. So, a lot of my attention over the next little while will be focused on our Melbourne, Brisbane and Mackay businesses.