In late December, national insurance brokerage Holmes Murphy announced that it would be undergoing a rebrand. According to the company, the brand refresh reflects its philosophy that insurance services should adapt to an ever-changing world.
But for Dan Keough, chairman and CEO of Holmes Murphy, adapting to changes does not stop at a simple brand switch – for him, constant innovation is an “absolutely essential” part of any competitive broker. Insurance Business interviewed Keough to understand how he managed to navigate his brokerage through the pandemic, and how other brokers can do the same.
How did you become a broker? What do you particularly enjoy about broking?
When I was attending the University of Iowa, my dad’s cousin, Jim Keough, introduced me to the head of Gallagher’s Program area, and I received an opportunity for an internship. I worked hard and was fortunate enough to receive a job offer after my internship.
I became an expert in an area that enabled me to go further faster in my career. Insurance is complex, and I enjoy finding solutions for clients that could help their company drive down costs and solve problems.
Additionally, I enjoy the range and diversity of my job, along with the people I work with. The industry is always changing, so there are always new products and tools to explore and expand upon. At Holmes Murphy, we have more than 1,000 employees and their exceptional knowledge, expertise, and care for one another, our clients, the community, and the industry is unmatched. Each of our employees are committed to propelling our 90-year-old privately held company forward to ensure we’re always best-in-class for our clients.
Can you tell me about your role – and its key responsibilities?
As Holmes Murphy’s Chairman & CEO, I work very closely with the leadership teams throughout Holmes Murphy and our subsidiary companies. At Holmes Murphy, we’re always working on new and innovative explorations to help our clients identify their risks sooner, and drive down costs, faster. Whether it involves employee benefits, cyber-risk, construction, mental health and wellbeing, etc., our team of insurance professionals are true problem solvers working on the issues that impact our clients’ daily lives. It’s another way we lead with care and compassion to achieve our full potential, together.
Another aspect of my role is making sure we deliver the best-in-class products and solutions for our clients. With this, finding options that save money is just the beginning. At Holmes Murphy, we work with our clients’ individual business culture to ensure they are provided quality care for their unique situation.
Also in my role, I advocate for, sponsor, and support a number of initiatives identified by Holmes Murphy to help advance the industry as a whole. As one of the largest independent insurance brokerages in the country, we see this as one of our core responsibilities.
For example, as Co-Founder and majority owner of BrokerTech Ventures along with M3 Insurance, Holmes Murphy has brought together 15 super-regional brokerage firms and 14 insurance company partners to innovate the industry. We are embracing innovation to help companies large and small identify risks sooner and drive down costs faster with a determined mission to pave the way for the future of the insurance industry.
I believe my biggest role, however, is to care for our people, clients, and the communities we live in. Our purpose statement, “Caring for Your Unique Potential is our Soul Purpose,” is core to how we do business — we want to help all stakeholders reach their unique potential. We believe tremendously in this.
In fact, between 2019 and 2021 alone, the Holmes Murphy Foundation awarded more than $3,875,740 in Community Foundation, Direct Giving, and Employee Match dollars to the communities where our employees live, work, and play. It’s an honor to be a part of a company that is committed to supporting organizations that help create a brighter future for our families, friends, coworkers, clients, and partners in each of Holmes Murphy’s markets across the country.
As the CEO of Holmes Murphy & Associates and co-CEO of BrokerTech Ventures, what do you think are the key challenges facing brokers looking to innovate in a post-pandemic world?
Our industry is in a constant state of change, made even more prevalent by the current health challenges. If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that innovation is an absolutely essential component of the healthcare and insurance sector. We have seen time and time again that companies who are able to adapt are those who will thrive in situations like these. Likewise, if there’s a main driving force behind all of this, it’s that we don’t always know what challenges may lie ahead, but it is necessary to be prepared for the unexpected.
I am very grateful for our team who has continued to prioritize our clients in some of the most challenging times brokers have faced to date and how they have continued to deliver on our core principles.
Of course, I think a big part of leading in this mindset is making sure our team has the drive and resources necessary to excel in their positions. At Holmes Murphy, we have always taken a vested interest in our employees’ wellbeing, and this has been especially important during the pandemic. Our leadership understands caring for our employees directly correlates to the services they provide. In fact, as part of this, we created a business called ethOs that is specifically focused on the WHOLE person and their overall wellbeing. We engage this team, along with an Employee Experience Community we created, to ensure our employees have what they need when they need it.
While not always being able to gather in person can present challenges and barriers to this, we have also found creative ways to keep in touch and remain connected. Whether it be through a personal phone call, a handwritten note, or simply an email “checking-in,” making sure our employees are okay and have what they need to succeed is a fundamental part of our culture at Holmes Murphy and a key step in continued innovation.
What are some of the key ways that you are able to support your clients right now?
We have a great team with a deep level of expertise focused on exceeding our clients’ expectations. We want to bring clients new ideas and drive down costs faster — BrokerTech Ventures is the latest example of how we do that.
As Holmes Murphy continues to grow, we are evolving the perpetuation of leadership to remain independent based on the traditions and qualities which our organization was founded upon 90 years ago.
Being a private and growing insurance brokerage in an industry full of consolidation is unique, and we are extremely proud to demonstrate this core philosophy. We would not be here without the dedication to excellence and continued care for our clients and communities from our employees and our leadership, and the fact that we have remained independent keeps the focus where it should be — innovating for the sake of our clients.
What are some top tips you would offer brokers looking to successfully embrace new innovations at this time?
Overall, I think it really comes down to having an open mind and listening closely to fully understand clients. If you work to establish a relationship with clients and listen to what their challenges are, it will get to the root of the issues they face, and chances are there is some type of solution that is uniquely qualified to fit their needs.
Understanding not just their needs in terms of coverage, but also other aspects, such as their motivations and long-term business goals, all play a factor. I also think it’s critical to understand every client’s culture. As we’ve all seen over the past couple of years, a culture can make or break an organization, so not understanding this area of a client’s business is a risk.
Insurtech resources have come such a long way, even in the past couple years, so in my perspective, it’s all about surrounding yourself with a team that will stay at the brink of innovation by keeping up with industry trends and best practices for the current landscape. The world of insurance can seem rightfully intimidating to new brokers and clients alike, but it is also a fascinating collaboration between business, technology, and strategy with many opportunities for growth and an exciting career.
At the end of the day, we all need to be open to what we don’t know. We’re at an interesting intersection right now with the speed of change in business. The insurtech movement is trying to move in to help, and through this, we’re able to learn from them and apply it to how we can advance our clients.
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