Holmes Murphy CEO shares "secret sauce" to 87-years of independence

Firm bucks trends in the era of mass consolidation

Holmes Murphy CEO shares "secret sauce" to 87-years of independence

Insurance News

By Bethan Moorcraft

In the era of mass insurance brokerage and agency consolidation, what’s the secret sauce to remaining independent? For Holmes Murphy, an 87-year-old independent insurance brokerage which serve business and industry leaders nationwide, it’s all about culture.

The Waukee, Iowa-based firm describes itself as being “fiercely independent” and therefore free to “focus on client needs, solving problems and accelerating … collective success”. Its philosophy is to sell cumulative knowledge and experience that make insurance and businesses work better, not just to hand clients a piece of paper that says: ‘You’re covered for X, Y and Z’.

Off the back of a “strong” 2020 in which Holmes Murphy and its clients “weathered the [COVID-19] storm well,” according to chairman and CEO Dan Keough (pictured), the brokerage has just completed its latest strategic plan. This is something Holmes Murphy undertakes every five years in order to re-set “who we are, where we are, and where we’re going,” Keough explained.

“In an industry that’s consolidating, Holmes Murphy is a bit of a unicorn,” he told Insurance Business. “We’re growing and thriving independently, and we believe that our focus on top talent and employee ownership are key to our independence. Because we’re employee-owned, we’re able to control our own destiny and take more of a long-term strategic view with a ‘do what’s right for the client’ mentality. If we stick to that, we believe we have an opportunity to become one of the largest privately held insurance brokerage firms in the United States.

“What’s our secret sauce? I think it’s embedded in our culture, which is one of providing opportunities to others, and helping our employees and our clients develop into their best selves. We’re always thinking about long-term strategies and initiatives that we believe will be good for our employees, our customers and the communities that we’re in. Our employee value proposition is really important in attracting and retaining the top talent that serves our clients.”

One thing that’s quite unique about Holmes Murphy is its strategic perpetuation and succession planning. The brokerage, which offers a range of property & casualty insurance, employee benefits, captive insurance, risk management and loss control solutions, keeps its weighted average shareholder age intentionally young. This contrasts with the common industry trend of agency ownership growing old and then passing their businesses on to a family member or selling up.

“Our culture is one where our former leaders have intentionally stepped aside and made opportunities for the next generation to take charge and grow in leadership roles - and we want to continue that legacy going forward,” said Keough. “That endears employees and drives them to develop their expertise and to work hard for our customers. Holmes Murphy really feels like a family even though we’re not a family-owned firm. We have a very special culture in that regard.”

Holmes Murphy is not only dedicated to the clients it serves; the brokerage is also “proud of being a good industry citizen” and looks to collaborate with industry peers to bring about meaningful change for all. Last year, Holmes Murphy founded a company called BrokerTech Ventures, a broker-led investor group and accelerator program, designed to build the next generation of technology solutions for insurance agencies and brokers.

“We want to be part of where the industry is going and influencing what that looks like,” said Keough. “In our strategic plan, we feel like we can play a major role in influencing the direction of the industry.”  

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