Last month, Australia-based international brokerage Honan Insurance Group announced its acquisition of Modern Risk Solutions, a Melbourne brokerage that specializes in the life sciences and biotech sectors.
“One thing that I think really sets Honan apart is that they move fast,” said Modern Risk’s CEO Geoff Stooke, explaining why he liked the deal. Stooke said Honan has a “challenger” ethos.
The “challenger” idea is now about 20 years old and probably started with a book called Eating the Big Fish by Adam Morgan about “challenger brands”. Andrew Fluitsma (pictured), Honan’s CEO, gave an updated definition when he discussed his business with IB.
“I can’t think of too many other businesses like us having the speed, dynamic thought process and nimbleness to get out there and provide these solutions to clients. It’s just up and over and above traditional insurance solutions,” he said.
Fluitsma joined Honan a dozen years ago, and three years ago took over as CEO. He used to work with the global firms Marsh and Aon. He said Honan is occupying their space, but in a qualitatively different way.
“So we look at Aon and Marsh and Willis – they are the obvious guys - and I genuinely believe that we play in their space,” he said. “We have quite a bit of ASX 100 and 200 business, we have some significantly large private companies as well as dealing quite heavily with private equity type business as well on the due diligence side.”
He said Honan has a very similar client portfolio and client demographic to these bigger, global firms.
“But we speak differently,” he said. “Our brand voice is very simple, it’s very clear, there’s not a lot of jargon, it’s very punchy. We’re constantly providing thought leadership and content updates through social channels which we hope are just very useful information for our business community.”
Honan, said Fluitsma, is progressive in other ways. More than half the staff are female, including at the executive level. The average age of all employees is only 29.
“I’m 40. I’m the old guy,” he said.
Fluitsma said his firm aims to do things quickly with a strong focus on data and analytics, both internally for decision making and for creating digital platforms for clients.
“So I think from our perspective, if we call it a ‘challenger’ - absolutely we are!” he said.
Some of the “challenger” inspiration came from their business partner in the United States who taught them a lot about the life sciences and tech markets.
“We have a business partner, ABD, they’re now actually called Newfront, probably the biggest tech and life sciences broker in California. We do a lot of reciprocal business together,” he said.
Fluitsma said they meet in the US with ABD/Newfront three or four times a year.
“It’s been a very successful partnership,” he said.
Fluitsma is particularly proud of a digital platform Honan created that’s used by retailers, industrial cleaning companies and childcare businesses. One major Australian retailer uses this deductible claims management system to monitor the slips, trips and falls in its stores.
“Their liability premiums are quite extraordinary as you can imagine,” he noted. “So what we do is, rather than transfer to insurance, we manage a lot of it under deductible, so under excess.”
He said the data and information gathered by this platform is very important for this company’s decision making.
“So, for example, we can identify that they had $750,000 of injury payouts for slips on grapes in a year. So, they could then use that data and information to package up grapes or to create a safer environment around the grapes,” he said.
The data is entered through this platform and managed with real-time dashboards. Decisions can be made according to information like the location of problem stores and the times of day incidents occur.
“They might have specials on Wednesday afternoons, and we’ll see an increase in trips and falls at that particular period of time. Or there might be a certain area that’s being targeted by a plaintiff lawyer, for example, or stores in the Western suburbs of Sydney might be having a significant increase in complaints and actions against them,” he said.
Stooke is clearly impressed by Honan’s abilities.
“I think as an insurance group they’re looking at specialization as a way forward as opposed to being all things to everyone. They would actually like to have big capabilities in distinct industry verticals which aligns with us and culturally they’re just a really good fit,” he said.