HBF’s expansion plan
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.