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The Top 6 In Australian Insurance

Insurance News takes a look at the Top 6 in Australian Insurance


Robert Kelly, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Steadfast

The founding father of Steadfast is realising his vision for the company at a bewilderingly swift rate. Since listing in 2013, Steadfast has become a company capable of dealing in practically any branch of insurance, including personal lines and life. It has around 304 brokerages and about 750 offices around, Australia, with its consolidated revenue growing 80+% in the 12 months to June 30 to reach close to $6billion in Insurance Premium.

Kelly is building a juggernaut that has an increasing capacity to provide straight-through services for clients via its force of directly owned and affiliated brokerages, underwriting agencies and specialist services. Maintaining a pace that would exhaust much younger men, the industry’s ultimate wheeler­ dealer shows no sign of slowing down as he adds new bits and pieces to the Steadfast operation just about every month.

Kelly has been one of the go-to people in the Australian insurance industry for many years, and that hasn’t changed. Despite the constraints imposed on him by virtue of his company’s listed status, he remains the insurance industry’s most candid advocate. Like a modern trade union leader, he’s as much at home talking shop with ordinary insurance people as he is hammering out agreements in the industry’s boardrooms.


Peter Harmer, Managing Director and Chief Executive, IAG:

He’s not likely to go slow in taking a new broom to the region’s largest insurer, because Harmer carries into the top role at IAG an attitude that’s savvy, sharp and challenging. Inheriting a solid and successful company from his predecessor Mike Wilkins, Harmer is well placed to exploit IAG’s large customer base.

His enthusiasm for Big Data and customer-centric development will see the market scrambling to keep up with what will almost certainly be new distribution strategies. There’s also room for greater efficiencies within IAG – from a rearrangement of IAG’s “silo” approach to much of its management, for example. Harmer is the right person to cut through internal resistance using precision and persuasion.

His experience at the top of Aon’s UK operations and his transformation of CGU from a ponderous traditionalist into a commercial insurance market leader – all the time while juggling with the integration of Wesfarmers Insurance’s business into the mix – is a fair example of the sort of dynamism he can bring to the whole IAG group. Expect the unexpected.


Mark Milliner, Chief Operating Officer­ designate, IAG:

This was a tough one to call, but every insider Insurance News consulted had the same thing to say: The decision in November by Milliner, the chief executive personal lines at Suncorp, to quit the group and join Peter Harmer at IAG is a game­ changing event in a market where Suncorp and IAG are tough competitors.

Milliner built his reputation as the mastermind behind the Brisbane-based insurer’s back-office overhauls, its auto repair revolution and his willingness to go head-to-head with powerful politicians over mitigation issues. Passed over this year to replace Patrick Snowball as group chief executive at Suncorp, Milliner is tipped to be a masterful deputy for Harmer, bringing 22 years of change management experience with him when he starts at IAG in mid-2016.

His industry nous and his straight-shooter attitude have earned Milliner high status in our Top 20 over the past few years, and we reckon nothing much will have changed, except his place of work. Suncorp’s loss is a very significant gain for IAG. Game on.


Ajit Jahn, President, Berkshire Hathaway Insurance:

Another out-of-the-box choice, perhaps, but Ajit Jahn has the ability to change the Australian insurance industry, if he’s inclined to.

Jahn shook up the local market twice this year – once with the arrival in Australia of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, an insurer with the financial and technical wherewithal to disrupt the market in pretty much any way it sees fit – and then with the acquisition of 3.7% of IAG for $500 million. That deal carries some unprecedented side-deals.

The media-shy Jahn is often tipped as a successor to Warren Buffett. He wields considerable influence in the industry through his management of Berkshire’s massive reinsurance operations.

This year he has had to drastically tweak or cancel some deals in his empire to counter falling revenues, and there has been some change in strategies as well. That’s what makes the IAG deal so globally interesting. It was a one-off, and is seen as the spearhead of Jahn’s typically innovative – but untypically late – charge into Asian insurance, where IAG is very nicely placed.


Mark Searles, Chief Executive, AUB Group

Even though the reputation of AUB – until last month Austbrokers – for consistently increasing returns to shareholders may have lost a little lustre recently, Mark Searles shrugs it off as he adds greater ability and flexibility into his partner brokers’ armouries.

Searles is focused on diversification, building new support services that will increase the range of services brokers can provide their clients. That has seen Austbrokers taking up stakes in companies specialising in workers’ compensation, injury management and ancillary risk management activities over the past year.

His diversification drive is assisted by the growth of the New Zealand broking arm and the continuing success of Austagencies, whose underwriting agencies continue to pump out increasing amounts of revenue. Austbrokers now derives 23% of its profit from non-broking sources.

Searles is confident he and his team will be in the right place if/when premium rates recover through 2016.

His bold strategy is being closely watched by partners – some of whom are wary – and the wider market. With broking under assault from emerging alternative distribution systems, he might just have hit on a solution others can emulate.


Heinrich Eder, Managing Director, Munich Re Australasia

When reinsurance takes a bath, it often does it in spectacular style. But in a year of disappointing reinsurance returns, Eder can count on the increasing influence of his general insurance operation, Great Lakes Australia, to counteract some of the other side’s negative results. Great Lakes has been around for long enough for insurer clients of Munich Re to get used to a subsidiary that competes with them.

It’s underwriting an increasing amount of new business, most recently Sports Underwriting, Solution Underwriting and Calliden spin-off Calibre. Eder has been around the local market for 12 years – 10 of them as MD responsible for all Munich Holdings’ life and general operations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. He’s totally immersed in the market’s issues and associations, is well-liked and, as you’d expect, totally trusted.


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