Healthy spread

HBF’s ex­pan­sion plan

The West Australian - - INSIDE COVER -

of ex­cess cap­i­tal over the next four years to fund ac­qui­si­tions in­ter­state and in WA and an over­haul of its 20-year-old IT sys­tems.

The tech­nol­ogy up­grade alone will cost an es­ti­mated $200 mil­lion, but Mr Van Der Wie­len said the group had no choice but to mod­ernise if it was to ap­peal to dig­i­tal­savvy con­sumers.

“We haven’t done what other com­pa­nies have done in tech­nol­ogy, and need to catch up,” he said.

The bal­ance of the $300 mil­lion funds will be ear­marked for east coast growth and buy­ing new busi­nesses in WA.

HBF ex­pects to play an ac­tive role in what it re­gards as in­evitable con­sol­i­da­tion of the pri­vate health in­sur­ance mar­ket, which re­mains highly frag­mented.

“It’s not about get­ting out of WA,” Mr Van Der Wie­len said. “But if you need younger peo­ple in the fund, where do you go get them?”

It also plans to push deeper into the health sec­tor in WA by buy­ing “ad­ja­cent” busi­nesses, most likely in den­tal, op­ti­cal and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and phys­io­ther­apy.

As well, it is ex­plor­ing closer ties with its Friendlies phar­macy fran­chise and the pos­si­bil­ity of home­based ser­vices in dif­fer­ent ar­eas such as on­col­ogy.

To sup­port the growth plans, HBF has been hir­ing top-flight se­nior man­age­ment to fill new roles across fi­nance, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, HR and tech­nol­ogy.

“We’ve got the com­mit­ment and the cash, and we’re work­ing to bring in the right ex­per­tise and re­set our struc­ture,” Mr Van Der Wie­len said.

New ap­point­ments in­clude Pro­fes­sor Hugh Dawkins, di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Pop­u­la­tion Health Ge­nomics, Pub­lic and Abo­rig­i­nal Health, as HBF’s first chief health ad­viser.

Mr Van Der Wie­len has al­ready driven ma­jor change since join­ing HBF in March 2017, pulling sport­ing spon­sor­ships, sell­ing prop­erty and re­struc­tur­ing poli­cies.

The lat­ter at­tracted crit­i­cism from its one mil­lion­strong mem­ber­ship base over the ex­clu­sion of pre­vi­ously cov­ered pro­ce­dures.

But Mr Van Der Wie­len has con­sis­tently ar­gued that the changes were nec­es­sary to limit pre­mium in­creases.

HBF is promis­ing next year’s in­crease will be one of the low­est in the coun­try.

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