How insurance broker Honan is luring management consultants

07 September 2023 4 min. read
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Over the past year, Honan Insurance Group (Honan) has attracted a significant number of professionals from the consulting sector, including multiple senior leaders from the Big Four. We sat down with Chief Operations Officer and former consultant Laurence Basell to find out how the insurance group has managed to attract consulting talent seeking the switch into industry.

Can you talk about Honan’s growth over the past 12-18 months?

We’ve had a stellar past 18 months at Honan, seeing significant growth as we expand our capabilities and reach globally. Market factors like cyber security risks and natural disasters are driving up insurance premiums across sectors, meaning more businesses are in need of advice on how to manage their business risks.

We’ve differentiated our brand by providing more than the traditional industry standard. That’s more honest no-jargon advice, more transparency, more data and analytics and overall, just a more enjoyable customer service experience.

How insurance broker Honan is luring management consultants

Honan has also grown through acquisition, having acquired six businesses since July 2022, expanding our reach into New Zealand and into Asia. Over the last three years we’ve seen a compounded annual growth rate of 35%.

To meet this demand, we’ve increased our headcount by 24%, growing our total number of employees to 420 worldwide.

What has been interesting is that almost a third (around 30%) of our senior leadership team across Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand has come to us from the big consulting firms, Deloitte, KPMG, PwC and EY. This includes six from our core leadership team: our COO (me), CFO, Head of Global Broking, Head of Pharmacy Insurance, Head of NZ and our Financial Controller.

Why do you think it is that so many candidates from the Big Four have made the switch to Honan?

I think a lot of this has to do with the shifting perception of insurance broking more broadly. It used to be the case that people associated insurance broking with sales, but that’s not the reality. Honan is a professional services company, and it’s very well suited to people who already have a lot of skills and experience in this area.

In the US and the UK, insurance broking is viewed as a very attractive and valuable career path. In those markets, there’s a lot of recognition about the immense value of insurance and its crucial role in the economy. That hasn’t always been the case in Australia, but that perception is starting to shift; and off the back of that shifting perception, we’re starting to see a lot more interest among candidates who want to explore career opportunities in the insurance sector.

It’s important to remember too, that insurance is still a relatively immature market in Australia and this provides an unprecedented opportunity for highly talented people to come in and really make their mark. At one of the bigger, more established firms you’re not going to be able to disrupt the existing business model, but with insurance still finding its feet, it gives ambitious candidates a lot of scope to really carve out their own path and make a name for themselves.

There has been a lot of noise about how difficult it has been to secure top talent recently – why do you think you’ve had so much success? What are you doing differently?

A tight labour market means that candidates have a lot more power, and a lot more choice about where they work. Which means that they can afford to be selective and proactively look for roles within organisations that align with their personal values.

Honan is quite a progressive company. We’re extremely proud to have a young and diverse workforce – the average age of our team is 30, and we have skew slightly more female (60 per cent), which includes 50 per cent female within the senior leadership team. This really gives us an advantage when it comes to recruitment, because candidates get excited by the opportunity to work in a company that values individuals, promotes diversity, and actively encourages its people to challenge the status quo.

You yourself joined Honan from PwC – how have you found the change?

I admit, I was one of those people that believed the stereotypes that the insurance industry was boring before I joined. But after a few meetings, our CEO Andrew Fluitsma convinced me to come across and I’ve never looked back.

It really is a fantastic industry to work in. The remuneration is very attractive – and I can’t stress enough, this is not a sales job; we earn fees for our services, not on commission. And for employees who really want to make their mark, there are serious progression opportunities you just don’t get in larger companies where you can get lost in the crowd.

I would encourage all young candidates who have envisaged a life for themselves at one of the Big Four firms to seriously consider insurance broking. This is a line of professional services that can make a real difference in people’s lives – it’s interesting work, the people are fantastic, and there are very real opportunities for growth and career advancement.

The fact that we’ve had so many ex-Big Four consultants join us in recent months is a testament to just how much a career in insurance has to offer.