From 'garage project' to successful insurance business

Kelly Gregor  - Insurance Business NZ  - 13 Sept 2017

Businesses are always looking for a “point of difference”, something they can hang their hat on that makes them stand out from the hordes of competitors all vying for the same slice of the pie.

True market differentiation is hard to find, and sales talk can often simply pay lip service to ideals. That’s why when Rene Swindley and Andrew Newman left Crombie Lockwood in 2008 to set up their own shop with Frank Risk Management, they did so with the promise to be different, and to be able to prove it.

Almost 10 years later, what started out as an ambitious “garage project” in Hamilton is now a successful business with clients all over New Zealand. Last year, they won the NZ Small/Medium Broker of the Year at the annual ANZIIF awards, which validated their "transparent remuneration" structure.

Swindley said transparency and supporting the client is at the core of what Frank does.

“Frank Risk Management was created out of a desire to provide full disclosure insurance – no hidden income,” he explained. Frank doesn’t charge commission and brokers don’t have sales targets, meaning the client benefits from a “team-focused approach.”

“We set about doing things differently,” he said. “We didn’t want to be just-another-broking-house. We didn’t want to focus on sales over advice. We wanted to provide support and get claims moving quickly.”

Swindley said Frank is built on transparency, “our clients see what we earn.”

“We offer good value advice for a disclosed fee, and our clients see that fee,” he said. “We are completely upfront about our fees and why we charge them.”

After identifying a gap in the market, Swindley thought like-minded brokerages would race to offer a “no hidden fees structure.”  However, that’s not been the case, he said.

“Nothing has changed in 10 years. There is still self-interest in the industry and this will continue until regulation forces change. We will get there eventually. The trend, eventually, will be more client focused.”

Last week, Swindley was invited to be a panelist at an ANZIIF conference on customer experience. The panel discussed how technology is changing and challenging how advice can be given (whether via a person or robot) and how technology can add value to the customer and the customer experience. Other panelist included Joanne Davis-Calvert of the Financial Markets Authority (FMA), Brenton Charnley, co-founder of Insurtech Australia, Craig Kirk, GM of Delta Insurance and John Lyon, CEO of Ando.

A proposal before the FMA, which submissions have now closed on, regarding the introduction of robo-advice was a key topic at the conference. If enforced, the FMA would use its exemption powers to leapfrog the proposed changes to the Financial Advisers Act, due for review in 2019. It would mean that advisers could provide online advice to their clients via a robot, an algorithm.

The exemption will enable advisers to provide personalised financial advice through a digital channel before the 2019 law reform. The FMA says this will facilitate greater access to advice for consumers while providing consumer protection safeguards. If granted, the exemption would be enforced towards the end of the year.

Swindley said that while there had been negative chatter in the industry about whether robo-advice could ultimately replace advisers, he didn’t think that would happen, and it would improve the customer experience because customers want consistent and easy to access advice.

“At times it will make the process easier,” he said. “It will be quicker and cheaper.

“A robot can, in many circumstances, provide better and more accurate advice than a human. But there will always be a need for relationships and personalised advice, especially for complex businesses with variables such as overseas activities, or where there are various parties involved, these clients will need to speak to a broker [human].”


Anna Game-Lopata - ANZIIF Writer | 7 June 2017

When Frank Risk Management bagged the 2016 ANZIIF New Zealand Small-Medium Broking Company of the Year, the feedback its director Rene Swindley received was exceptional, and he says he's confident the award has increased client retention.

Swindley first became interested in insurance while studying insurance law at university.

After graduating and working for one of the bigger broking houses, Swindley and Frank Risk's other founding director, Andrew Newman, came to the realisation that there was a better way to do insurance.

'We were so confident the transparent approach would work that we resigned, pushed ahead with the new venture and never looked back,' Swindley says. 'To take risks like these I figure you have to have a certain amount of blind optimism.'

Transparent approach

Frank Risk was founded in 2008, with a vision to disrupt the traditional approach to insurance.      

With no client base, Andrew Newman and Rene Swindley left the comfort of well-paying jobs at a corporate broker to start trading as Hutchison Rodway (Waikato) Ltd. 

In 2014 they changed their name to Frank Risk Management Ltd, which perfectly described them and their approach to business — frank, upfront, and transparent.

‘Frank Risk was built on the belief that clients deserve complete openness when dealing with us. They can see exactly what we do and assess this against the fees charged,’ Swindley says.

‘We take the time to gain an understanding of our clients and build a risk management program that is best suited to them and their goals.’ 

The secret sauce

Swindley says clients are encouraged to look at risk management in a broader context, and to consider other factors such as business continuity planning.

‘It's good business sense,’ he says.

‘Insurance claims are an area where we set a higher standard in the industry — we've had claims paid when a previous broker thought all was lost.

‘Looking at things from a client’s point of view and having as much policy knowledge as the insurer makes the difference. We have a reputation with insurers for fighting hard on behalf of our clients. No compromising.’

Having said all this, Swindley is coy about the culture of his business and what makes it special.

‘Now that would be giving away the secret recipe,’ he quips.

‘But I can say our business culture is about always doing right by our client, and if you ask any of the Frank team it’s not about simply putting the hours in.

‘If you are in a good place with your work or have had a good win, head home for the day. 

‘Our primary proposition is our transparency, and this is something the rest of the industry continues to struggle with.’

Smaller is agile

He adds the key elements of being a successful small–medium broker come down to being responsive. 

‘It’s a major advantage over the slower moving, procedural-driven bigger guys,’ he says. 

Asked what made him apply for an ANZIIF Award, Swindley says he felt Frank Risk had done pretty well as a broking house.

‘But as we tend to keep to ourselves it seemed appropriate to put it to the test and see what the industry thought,’ he says. 

‘We were motivated by the idea of getting more profile through the awards and by the associated potential of attracting the best people to join our team.

‘We hoped an award, as well as the process, would help with the marketing piece.’ 

Application process brought benefits

He says the application process in itself provided Frank Risk with some great metrics on the business and helped the team think about and assess its strengths and weaknesses. 

Most importantly, Swindley wanted to communicate the nature of the company’s transparency and client advocacy to the judges. 

‘Those are the two aspects that make us what we are and have been the primary contributors to our growth. 

‘It was important for us to explain to the judges how we utilise this approach in our business.’ 

A personal joy, and great for business

Swindley says winning felt a real privilege. 

‘My first thought was how pleased the Frank team would be to get this recognition, and how much they deserve it,’ he says. 

In terms of business, he adds the award has most definitely assisted in getting a few new accounts across the line. 

‘It’s an additional and important arrow to our quiver and we have enjoyed discussing this with existing and prospective clients,’ he says.  

Frank Risk Management opens new mATAMATA branch

Piako Post | 10 May 2017

Leading Kiwi insurance brand is committed to region’s farmers and business owners

Hamilton commercial insurance broker, Frank Risk Management has just opened a new branch in Arawa Street, Matamata. Director David Bradbury said “It was a natural progression for Frank. We have significant business in the region already and having a branch in Matamata will support this”.

David joined the Frank Group in 2016 and is well known in the region from his previous broking role, sports and family interests. David is excited to have the opportunity to head up the Matamata branch. “There is a lot going on in the town and we offer an alternative to the traditional broking model which could save clients a significant amount of money”. 

Frank Risk Management was founded by Andrew Newman and Rene Swindley. In 2008 they started business with no client base, but a commitment to providing full disclosure fees and utilising technology to deliver insurance more efficiently. Since then they have grown to become a significant independent broking and risk management firm. Still Waikato-based, their clients span the length and breadth of New Zealand. Frank also operates two successful web based insurance businesses. Frankie, which provides business insurance online, and Initio, a specialist facility for rental properties and holiday homes. In 2016, they were awarded the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance small/medium broker of the year. At the awards, they were recognised for their innovation, business growth and client focus.

Frank is committed to providing a higher standard of risk management and claims advocacy.  Our transparency and full disclosure leave clients in no doubt that we work for them, not the insurer. Frank considers claims are king! We are highly resourced with some of the most qualified industry professionals in the country to ensure events are handled with minimal disruption, and that clients receive everything to which they are entitled.

David would be happy to discuss risk management and insurance options with any business or farmers in the region.

Frank risk management Wins 2016 Award for New Zealand Small/Medium Broking Company of the Year

Waikato Business News | 28 Nov 2016

Hamilton-based company Frank Risk Management won the 2016 prize for New Zealand Small to Medium Broking Company of the Year, at the Australia and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance Awards.

Frank’s unique business model and innovative thinking were singled out by the judges, who also commented that “Founded in 2008, with no clients and a vision to disrupt the traditional approach to insurance Frank Risk Management has since expanded to more than 2000 clients serviced by 13 highly skilled staff…” The judges also acknowledged the company’s “…complete transparency with clients of all sizes and the innovative manner in which it demonstrates value to those clients”.

Frank Risk Management was started by Andrew Newman and Rene Swindley, who initially ran the business out of a small garage. They both left the comfort of well paying jobs at a corporate broker, and set about disrupting the market.  It’s ‘fee for service’ approach to insurance broking and risk management immediately put it offside with the established corporate multinationals that dominate the provision of SME insurance in New Zealand.

The company name, Frank Risk Management, reflects the way they operate on a full disclosure basis - without hidden commissions - and their belief that business owners have the right to know what they are paying for.  Frank Risk Management encourages all insurance buyers to ‘ask their broker for a complete breakdown of costs’.  Good brokers should have no problem with this and the buyer can then decide if the remuneration equates to good value for the services provided.

Mr Swindley said that the award was an affirmation of the Frank Risk Management philosophy of bespoke insurance placement and claims service, risk management support and disaster recovery planning that is built into their overall service.

NZ's first online Cyber Insurance Platform

Scoop Independent News | 19 Feb 2016

Industry pioneers release NZ's first online Cyber Insurance Platform

Full disclosure insurance pioneers, Frank Risk Management, are pleased to announce the launch of its new dedicated cyber insurance website, Frankie.

With cover underwritten by Delta Insurance New Zealand Ltd, the Frankie Cyber Insurance website provides New Zealand's SME market with information, examples and the ability to acquire cyber liability insurance online.

Cyber loss is the fastest growing threat to organisations of all sizes, regardless of the territory in which they are based or operate.  Cyber incidents can result in significant financial loss, reputation damage, business interruption, and business closure.  A cyber incident 

is not always malicious, a loss can be as simple as an employee opening a virus infected email they believed to be a remittance advice or leaving a company smart phone in a café. The Frankie website allows businesses to understand these risks and how they could impact their business.

Importantly, the Frankie website allows businesses to explore the costs of cyber insurance for their business, so that should something go wrong, the cyber experts and the financial backing are there to assist.

Rene Swindley, Director of Frank Risk Management, said: “Cyber and technology related losses are a major threat to New Zealand business.” Swindley believes that business owners are too relaxed about cyber risk and that it often takes a costly lesson before SME’s realise the impact on their operation. He said “...this attitude can result in dire situations such as the business being unable to access its mission critical software or client data. Having good cyber risk management procedures in place joint with the safety-net provided by cyber insurance cover is a relatively simple task but one mostly ignored by the SME sector.”

Ian Pollard, Managing Director of Delta Insurance, which offers New Zealand’s most comprehensive Cyber Insurance policy (available through Frankie), said “…all New Zealand companies, especially SMEs, should be taking Cyber Risk and Cyber Risk Management seriously…” “It’s not just big businesses who are victims of cybercrime, cyber-attacks or privacy breaches; more significant to the New Zealand economy is that smaller businesses are often more vulnerable due to their lack of appropriate risk management strategies.”

Rene Swindley added that most small businesses in New Zealand only see their insurance provider on an annual basis. Rather than waiting for their own insurance providers to catch up with this major business risk, Frankie allows the SME sector easy online access to insurance and information around the risks of cyber incidents.

Hamilton insurance challenges industry to get frank on fees

Scoop Independent News | 20 Nov 2014

Hamilton-based commercial insurance brokers Hutchison Rodway Waikato launched their new brand Frank Risk Management today, which reflects the company’s commitment to fully disclose income to their clients.

Frank Risk Management directors Rene Swindley and Andrew Newman said business owners have the right to know what they’re paying for and Frank Risk Management is unique in that the company has always operated on a full disclosure basis without hidden commissions.

“Frank is a good name for our company, because that’s what we are - upfront and frank,” said Swindley.

“From our point of view, eventually New Zealanders should see a shift in regulation that will make all insurance brokers disclose their income, as they currently do overseas. We’ve always been ahead of the industry in this respect,” he said.

Mr Newman said greater disclosure is catching on with other brokers, but it is often a reactive measure and all that’s disclosed to the client is the fees charged on top of a commission that the broker receives with no disclosure of the amount of commission itself.

“This is not full disclosure. Clients need to know the total remuneration so that they can measure this against the value the broker adds,” said Mr Newman.

The directors said their business has experienced rapid growth since they first started in 2008, which is partly due to income disclosure, but also the risk management support and disaster recovery planning that they build into their overall service.

“This means our clients are less vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of the insurance market and are taking a longer term view of their risk expenses, generally with better results. Since the Canterbury earthquakes many businesses have had a rough ride with increasing premiums and restrictive cover. Taking charge of matters pays,” said Swindley.

The directors said while Frank Risk Management is not claiming to provide the cheapest service, it is putting its stake in the ground as a company that is committed to providing greater value as a result of full income disclosure.

“Often it’s a business who has had a bad claims experience and thought that it wasn’t fairly represented who sees the importance of knowing exactly what they’re paying for and the value they’re getting out of their broker,” said Mr Swindley.

Partner Jaden Hatwell said the company of seven is excited about the new brand.

“We have invested a lot of time into the change of identity, and we think it is important to emphasise the difference between Frank and our competitors,” he said.

Frank timeline

  • 1989: Steve Taylor founds Hutchison Rodway Insurance Brokers
  • 1990's: Hutchison Rodway secures key clients in the Auckland market
  • 2005: Under the guidance of Steve Taylor, Andrew Newman and Rene Swindley start Hutchison Rodway, Waikato - based in Hamilton
  • 2009: Hutchison Rodway Waikato (HRW) launches New Zealand's first fully transparent broking firm
  • 2009-2014: HRW grows from a small two man operation to a team of seven
  • 2011: HRW goes live with Fully online rental property insurance offering, Initio
  • 2012: Initio and Bookabach enter into joint venture for the online insurance of Holiday Homes.
  • 2014: Jaden Hatwell joins the team and is made a Partner of the firm; HRW acquires new premises in Clifton Road, Hamilton; HRW re-brands to Frank and announces to the market 'this is how it does business'

Frank is the pioneer of disclosed fee insurance broking.

frank risk_david bradbury hauraki branch
Pictured above from left to right: Kathy Walker, Andrew Newman, Rene Swindley and Angela Baker

Pictured above from left to right: Kathy Walker, Andrew Newman, Rene Swindley and Angela Baker