Cybercrime and SMEs: Off the beaten track doesn’t mean off the radar for hackers

When you flick through the Sunday newspaper to locate the sports news, one headline always stops us in our tracks as an insurance broker. A business in Mackay, northern Queensland, had been held to ransom by a hacker, who had accessed its server and scrambled its vital business information. The cybe rattack involved ransomware: a destructive software that infects computer systems and locks the business out of its servers; this leaves the company unable to run its operations until a payment is made to the hacker to unscramble the vital information.

Cybercrime is a relatively new issue for many business owners, so reading articles like this are alarming. The impacted business in this case wasn’t a big city, global financial organization. This was an SME in a regional town, like many of the companies we advise on commercial insurance. Yet it had been targeted for illicit financial gain by an anonymous attacker, leaving the business unable to operate with significant financial, administrative and security implications. Our guess is that this company was unlikely to be insured against this kind of event.

A far-reaching term for any breach of a computer-based service, cybercrime is the fastest-growing type of crime in the world. But as a fairly recent phenomenon, many traditional property or business continuity insurance policies don’t cover for losses or costs associated with system breaches. Examples include spam emails corrupting stock ordering systems and hackers infiltrating servers to access confidential data or customer bank details.

A Ponemon Institute study found that cyberattacks cost Australian companies an average of $2.8 million in 2014. Research by online security experts McAfee in 2013 found that 45% of surveyed SMES had been the target of cyber crime and 46% at the hands of disgruntled employees. In CERT’s (Computer Emergency Response Team) most recent survey, 56% of companies had experienced at least one computer security attack in 2013. CERT’s Executive Manager, Dr Carolyn Patteson, warned last year: “A cyber attack can be very disruptive, having a huge financial impact on a business and also harming its professional reputation. “There have been an increasing number of businesses under pressure from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, where the instigator demands payment to stop the attack or ‘cease fire’.”

Preparation and protection

Whatever the size of your company, if you hold client or employee data, if you process financial information or if you rely on computer-based systems for your operations, you could be at risk of a cyberattack. The advice from national computer crime agencies is to be prepared for cyber security incidents as part of your risk management plan. This includes ensuring that you have the appropriate insurance in place to cover losses and system restoration costs in the event of a breach. What’s more, with evolving legislation and new operating standards to address cybercrime, you could find yourself the wrong side of the law if you don’t have such protection in place.

It is very likely that your company property or business continuity policy does not cover you in the case of a data security, privacy or systems breach. To discuss your cover, one of my team – we’ll be happy to help.

AUB Group adds industry veteran

AUB Group has announced the addition of an industry veteran to help strengthen its total risk solution offering for clients.

The Group has added Jordan Hawke to aid its financial risk offering as he will join the business to lead the life and financial services initiative at the company.

A 25 year veteran of the industry, Hawke joins from Suncorp Life where he was executive general manager of distribution.

Mark Searles, CEO and managing director of AUB Group, said the addition of Hawke will be key to developing the company total risk solution strategy which has evolved for the life and financial services business over the last 18 months.

“The groups Life & Financial Services strategy has continued to progress strongly over the past 18 months, and this appointment will be a critical resource that will plan and deliver the next phase of the strategy,” Searles said.

Hawke noted that it was this developing strategy that led him to join the business as he will focus on building out the next phase of the strategy for the benefit of all AUG Group businesses.

“AUB Group is well on the journey of expanding the Life & Financial Services offering,” Hawke said.

“Coupled with my experience and strong passion for expanding client’s wealth and wealth protection, this position is beneficial to all.

“It’s exciting times ahead.”

Prior to his role at Suncorp, Hawke was also general manager of Asterion Life as well as holding senior roles at Tower Life, MLC and Legal & General Life of Australia.

The Hawke addition follows the announcement of AUB Group results last week as Searles spoke of the importance of the total risk solutions strategy.

http://www.insurancebusinessonline.com.au/news/broker-network-aub-group-adds-industry-veteran-212537.aspx

 

Diversify to survive

Sydney Morning Herald: The pressure is on for insurance brokers to diversify their business amid prolonged difficult conditions wrought by falling commercial insurance rates, according to AUB Group.

Mark Searles, the chief executive of the $576 million broking group, said the outlook for commercial insurance remained “challenging” after years of depressed premium prices.

The trend has taken a toll on brokers’ earnings, forcing some to increase their sales and seek out new clients to survive or grow.

“Yes, I do think brokers need to be adaptable now,” Mr Searles said.

“Our belief is that those who are going to be successful in future need to be highly client focused – whether they be physical risk, people risk or financial risk,” he said.

This includes broadening the types of policies being sold, tapping new client segments, and no longer relying on annual policy renewals from existing clients.

“We are still in negative territory,” Mr Searles said about falling premiums. “The good news is, it’s not as bad as it was.”

The last six months have seen a continued deterioration in premium rates, albeit at lower single digit declines. According to figures from JPMorgan and Taylor Fry, premiums fell 6 per cent last year, and insurers are predicting a further 3 per cent drop for 2016.

Mr Searles’ comments come after IAG chief executive Peter Harmer gave a more upbeat assessment of the commercial insurance sector for 2016. At the company’s half year results last week, Mr Harmer said the company had pushed through low to single digit premium increases during the past two months.

“We’re now seeing some early signs that commercial rates may have bottomed out, however the earning pattern may still impact our results for the next one or two halves,” he said.

But others such as QBE Insurance Group boss John Neal are less optimistic, cautioning business conditions remain difficult.

AUB Group reported a 72 per cent rise in net profit to $23.8 million for the half year to December. The result was boosted by the sale of the group’s investment in broking firm Strathearn Insurance, which yielded $6.2 million in earnings.

The group’s underlying operating profit rose 3.5 per cent to $12.9 million for the period. Investors pocketed a 12¢ per share dividend for the half year – unchanged from last year’s payout.

AUB Group is forecasting growth of up to 5 per cent for the full year, a target it said would be affected by economic conditions and premium rate movements.

Around 27 per cent of AUB Groups’ business now comes from non-broking activities as the company pours more effort into diversifying.

While acquisitions remain on the agenda for AUB Group, Mr Searles emphasised the importance of growing the group’s current holdings.

“Since listed, growth has been driven by acquisitions. As the group got bigger, it’s less about acquisition and more about ensuring the acquisitions you have [are] there to support your strategy,” he said.

AUB Groups’ share price rose 1.1 per cent or 10¢ to trade at $9.20 on Thursday morning. http://www.smh.com.au/business/brokers-need-to-diversify-to-survive-austbrokers-20160224-gn3115.html

 

AUB Group 1HY16 Results

Summary:

  • 72% increase in Reported consolidated Net Profit After Tax for 1HY16 to $23.8m (1HY15: $13.9m)1, benefiting from the $6.2m after tax profit on the sale of an associate.
  • 3.5% increase in Adjusted NPAT2 to $12.9m (1HY15 $12.4m).
  • Fully franked interim dividend maintained at 12 cents per share.
  • AUB expects FY16 Adjusted NPAT growth to be in the range of 0% – 5%3.

AUB Group Limited (ASX: AUB) announced a consolidated Net Profit After Tax (Reported NPAT) of $23.8m up 72% on the prior year. This includes the profit on the sale of AUB Group Limited’s (AUB Group) entire investment in Strathearn Insurance Group Pty Ltd (Strathearn) announced in December 2015, of $6.2m after tax, crystallising strong investment returns to shareholders.

Adjusted NPAT2, which reflects the underlying operating profit of the AUB Group, was $12.9m in 1HY16 (1HY15: $12.4m), an increase of 3.5%, which is pleasing in the context of a continued challenging insurance market.

This result demonstrates the strength of the AUB Group’s disciplined approach to its’ business model, operating model and strategy. Strong contributions have been made from the expansion in Risk Services and New Zealand, more than offsetting the impact of the reducing insurance premium rates in the insurance broking and underwriting agencies sectors. Importantly key underlying business drivers evidenced positive growth including client numbers; insurance and premium funding, policy count and life income.

On a Reported NPAT basis, earnings per share increased to 38 cents per share, an increase of 67% over the prior half year, with a ten cents per share contribution from the sale of Strathearn. On an underlying basis, earnings per share increased by 0.4% (based on Adjusted NPAT).

The interim dividend has been maintained at 12 cents per share and is payable on 29th April 2016.

As foreshadowed at our AGM, we continue to focus on the execution of our client-centric Total Risk Solutions strategy, aimed at enhancing the client value proposition and diversifying income generation, through our core ‘owner-driver’ business model. As our products and services mix and systems capability continue to expand, this will underpin growth across our business divisions building value for our partners and for our clients across Australia and New Zealand.

The AUB Group continued acquisition activity aligned to the strategies of each market segment, and enhanced its portfolio through the divestment of Strathearn and the re-investment of proceeds into higher returning and less volatile investments. Financial year to date the AUB Group committed $61.0m of acquisition spend (1HY15 $45m), or $29.2m net of proceeds from disposals.
AUB Group updated its funding facility, increasing the facility limit to $79.45m on improved terms, and extending the tenure to 30th November 2018.

1 All comparisons are 1HY16 compared to the prior comparable period (pcp) 1HY15 unless otherwise stated. 2. Adjusted NPAT excludes adjustments to carrying values of associates and controlled entities, after tax profits and losses on sale and deconsolidation of controlled entities, contingent consideration adjustments, impairment charge and amortisation of intangibles. 3 The achievement of targets is subject to prevailing economic conditions.

 

Chief Future Officer’s CFO Spotlight – Jodie Blackledge, AUB Group

Jodie’s top three business priorities for early 2016:

1.Engagement and development of my team across all facets of my role – we’re a people focused organisation.

2.Exploring the potential of leveraging services abroad – utilising service capability and capacity in India is definitely on the radar.

3.When preparing our half year results release to shareholders, ensuring we provide clarity and transparency regarding the confidence in our strategy execution.

Head Shot (Jodie Blackledge)

From the Chief Future Officer’s CFO News Flash.

The ASX files: The value is out there

From the Financial Review – comments on AUB Group highlighted.

Volatility in global markets has not produced a fire sale of quality companies, but experts say there are opportunities if you know where to look.

by James Frost and Sally Patten

Steep and sudden sharemarket sell-offs have proved to be a happy hunting ground for those with long-term horizons.

Investors who gritted their teeth and dived headlong into the local bourse at the nadir of the global financial crisis in March 2009, or the peak of the Greek debt crisis in 2011, were handsomely rewarded for their actions.

This time around, however, many top investors are a long way from filling their boots.

Experts say that most of the suffering has been localised to the moribund energy and resource sectors, with only the slimmest of discounts being offered on companies with brighter prospects.

That’s not to say that bargains can’t be found.

‘No sign of panic’

Auscap Asset Management portfolio manager Tim Carleton has not been surprised by the sell-off, which he says has been overdue and thus far orderly.

“A lot of stocks have been sold off because the fundamentals have actually deteriorated. The energy and materials sectors spring to mind. To some extent they are just playing catch-up to the economic reality,” he says.

Carleton runs one of Australia’s top long/short funds. It returned 26.3 per cent in the six months to December, against a 0.41 per cent rise in the All Ordinaries. He doesn’t identify as a sharemarket bear but believes true value is yet to emerge.

“We were selling into the strength in December and selectively adding to our short positions, so the fund’s cash levels are reasonably high. We are just not seeing a huge number of compelling opportunities from a value perspective.”

Carleton says the companies he is looking at are trading at discounts of perhaps 4 or 5 per cent – roughly where they were trading before the Christmas rally.

The volatility in the key benchmarks is flowing directly from the rout in commodity prices, with little sign of contagion, according to Carleton – and therefore no reason to worry.

“We don’t think there is any sign of panic. If you see some, please call me because that’s when opportunities arise.”

Chris Cahill of Quest Asset Partners agrees that the January sell-off is a long way from a market crash.

“The crazy run-up in late December has unwound and we are back where we started. I think there is a perception that a crash has occurred. I think we have just corrected for the Christmas rally that got out of control with some help from a weak oil price,” he says.

Allan Gray ticks Metcash, Austal

Respected fund manager Allan Gray has produced one of the most enviable track records in Australian equities through a combination of contrarian positions and shareholder activism.

Portfolio manager Dan Abeshouse says that although he can identify a number of interesting prospects, the sharp fall in the oil price has not produced a shopping list of bargains for the firm.

“You need to remember you are buying companies that will be producing cash flows for decades. Whether the oil price is going to be X, Y or Z isn’t going be the critical factor in determining the long-term value of many businesses,” he says.

In keeping with the company’s ongoing search for deep value, Abeshouse singles out embattled independent grocer Metcash as an example of a company that has been oversold.

“I can’t tell you what the supermarket industry is going to look like in five years,” he says.

“But what I can tell you is that if Metcash’s future became more certain, investors would be prepared to pay a multiple more in line with its peers and the overall market, whereas today it’s trading on a PE of less than 10 times,” he argues.

Another stock on Abeshouse’s radar is the shipbuilder Austal.

Austal shares have plunged since early December. Investors deserted the stock on concerns including ongoing cost blow-outs, queries over contracts with the US Navy, and the departure of the chief executive.

“This is another example of a company that has suffered in a skittish market,” Abeshouse says. “But it has almost no debt and is pursuing opportunities with other customers around the world.”

Nicol’s three stocks

Chris Nicol, Morgan Stanley’s Australian equity strategist, has three stocks on his shopping list and is watching a few others closely. Insurer IAG is one of the shares he particularly likes.

IAG shares were hit after a profit warning from rival Suncorp late last year, and are trading at about $5.20, down from an eight-month high of $5.75 in early December. But IAG boasts solid defensive earnings and should begin to benefit from premium rises.

The other two stocks on Nicol’s buying list are Super Retail Group, the owner of Supercheap Auto and sports retailer Rebel, and Sonic Healthcare. The former is benefiting from rising consumer confidence and an improved supply chain.

As for Sonic, Nicol argues that the company is not as exposed as investors fear to the government’s plans to reduce or remove bulk-billing incentive payments for certain pathology and imaging tests. Sonic shares have fallen to about $17.60 from $20.59 since early December.

Baillieu Holt’s picks

Stockbroker Baillieu Holst has several stocks on its radar. Head of strategy Mathan Somasundaram likes annuities provider Challenger on the grounds that it will benefit from market volatility as retirees seek to secure future incomes; insurers Suncorp and IAG; and private hospital operator Ramsay Healthcare.

Ramsay, argues Somasundaram, is set to benefit from expansion into the Asian market and the fact that cash-strapped governments globally will spend less on health, pushing patients into the private system.

Somasundaram admits that Ramsay shares are never cheap, but having fallen to $60 from $68 so far this year they are trading at 26 times forecast earnings for 2016 and are a “good buy”.

Baillieu analyst Nick Burgess points to insurance brokers Steadfast and Austbrokers as two companies whose shares have been oversold.

“The general insurance premium rate cycle has worked against them in the past couple of years but I believe that will turn around in the next 12 months,” Burgess says.

Investors Mutual criteria

Investors Mutual portfolio manager Simon Conn remains focused on “quality companies with recurring cash flows that pay you a reasonable yield”.

In this environment Conn highlights three companies that meet his criteria: insurance broker Steadfast, bathroom fittings importer GWA and listed property trust Shopping Centres Australia.

“Steadfast for example is Australia’s largest SME insurance broking business. While it’s not a high-growth business it is very stable, and yielding just under 4 per cent,” he says.

“GWA is exposed to the later part of the building cycle. It’s been through a difficult transition from manufacturer to exporter, it has a strong balance sheet and is yielding 5.5 per cent.

“Shopping Centres Australia is the Woolworths property spin-off. That means it’s got a long weighted average lease expiry [WALE] and is yielding closer to 6 per cent.”

Quest’s Cahill lists developer Lend Lease, online retail specialist Surfstitch and online comparison site iSelect among his top picks. In the case of Surfstitch, its shares have fallen to about $1.70 from $2.09 in late November. Cahill expects the company to post revenue growth of 40 per cent in the current financial year.

Like Cahill, Nicol is also keeping a watch on Lend Lease, on the grounds that it should benefit from any fiscal stimulus unveiled by the government in an effort to promote economic growth.

“Lend Lease screens well in our filters and is on a price earnings ratio below market industrial average of about 11 times,” Cahill says. Lend Lease shares have fallen to about $13 from $17.50 a year ago.

PDF of article here: AFR – The ASX files – the value is out there – 23 January 2016

Analysis: The rise of Australia’s broker networks

Excerpts from the UK’s Post Magazine: James Chalmers explains why Australia’s broker networks are expanding beyond their traditional independent broker network base.

Once a frontier land teeming with small independent brokers, the Australian broking landscape has become increasingly consolidated as competition and compliance costs ratchet up the pressure to join forces.

Large internationals such as Aon, Marsh and Willis maintain a strong presence in the market and Arthur J Gallagher in 2014 asserted its intentions to become the country’s largest broker by swallowing OAMPS, previously one of the largest independent brokers, and has made several other acquisitions including Strathearn last month.

However, the SME sector in particular is dominated by the country’s SME independent brokers of two largest broker networks – Austbrokers (50 brokers in Australia and New Zealand) and Steadfast (over 300 brokers); and while the appetites of each for growth show little sign of slowing, they are embracing different strategies to satisfy their hunger.

Showing the significance of the two networks over their market, the National Insurance Brokers’ Association has 360 members and claims to represent 90% of all insurance brokers in Australia.

Broadening reach

Alongside the Gallagher deal, there were only a couple of similar Australian broker acquisitions of note in 2015, after a flurry of M&A activity in the preceding years.

Austbrokers CEO Mark Searles says that the slowdown is symptomatic of the current softness of the market.

“Brokers are very focused upon looking after their clients and we’re in a very soft marketplace,” he says. “It’s not a time when too many brokers are going to be thinking about going into partnership or selling.”

Instead, both Austbrokers and have Steadfast have seen some of their most encouraging growth come not from brokers but from underwriting agencies and ancillary services.

Both set up underwriting arms in the early 2000s, and have seen them enjoy rapid growth. Austagencies features more than 20 agencies and annual GWP of more than A$280m, while large recent acquisitions have pushed Steadfast’s agency business to 22 brands and almost A$800m in GWP.

Wide offerings
While Austbrokers has been growing its agency side, it has also made some bold forays into personnel risk services, making large acquisitions of workplace injury and rehabilitation specialists.

Searles says most of their clients faced three categories or risk – physical, financial and personnel.

“Classically, an insurance broker will be very focused on the general insurance where the physical risks are, the building, the motor, the whole pack,” he comments.

“What we’re talking about now is total risk solutions. With employee risk, that’s making sure there aren’t accidents at work and if you do have injured workers, how you get them back to work more quickly.

“Similarly, in the financial risk area for business, there is a huge opportunity for life risks, whether it be income protection or key-man insurance.”

For Searles, the embrace of risks beyond those traditionally dealt with by insurance broking firms is part of a fundamental shift for Austbrokers, to holistic risk advisors.

He has an interesting point of view regarding the threat digital disruption poses to traditional insurance brokers, arguing that taking a contemporary broker’s work online is the wrong argument.

“We believe the risk advisor of the future should be one of two trusted advisors to the client, the other one being the accountant,” Searles says. “He or she needs to be a true partner in that respect and ensure all risks are being adequately assessed and covered.”

He adds: “That will give you greater tenure as well because your renewal rates will be high. And if the market is incredibly soft in the physical risk side of things as it is today, a broader relationship can stand a price reduction on one side because the partnership ethos comes through.”

Fresh territories
Austbrokers has also been looking further afield in a geographic sense. In the last year, Austbrokers’ acquisitions in New Zealand have made it the third largest broking entity in that market, writing A$500m in a premium a year.

That, however, is the limit of the group’s international ambitions for now. Searles reflects: “Some of our brokers do have alliances and a presence in Asian markets, but from the group perspective, it’s not on our radar right now.”

Going it alone
Some observers have argued the increasing consolidation of the broker sector has made things more difficult for small independent brokers but for Dallas Booth, CEO of the National Insurance Brokers Association, cluster groups have become a way of allowing smaller brokers to properly compete with large broking firms.

“Working with cluster groups, relatively small broker firms have massive influence and massive buying power in the market – to the tune of billions of dollars – and so that really gives the smaller brokers a very strong footing,” he says. “I think it’s been a tremendous development over the last few years.”

Kelly said that while conditions have become more challenging for independent brokers, they were not at risk of extinction.

“Small brokers operate in some specialised areas and sometimes have very loyal client bases so there is the ability for some to survive longer term,” he says. “But sometimes it is much better to be part of a mothership rather than a rowboat trying to go across the Atlantic.”

The future, at the moment, is bright for Australia’s broker networks.

Full article available here: http://www.postonline.co.uk/post/analysis/2440505/analysis-the-rise-of-australias-broker-networks

Future Forecast

Market conditions, the Financial Systems Inquiry, big data and wearable technology – these are some of the topics occupying the minds of industry leaders.

Broking – Mark Searles – CEO and Managing Director, Austbrokers:

“The consensus about the insurance market is that the commercial lines outlook is still challenging. While premium rates are expected to stabilise, we’ll see a slow transition from the current soft market with premium growth unlikely until FY17.

But this is a one-dimensional view, as it relates to the insurance cycle – by definition it’s a cycle and is always going to turn. It’s the rate of change that’s the variable.

It’s interesting to take a broader look at the factors that will influence our clients over the coming years, and therefore the insurance market. The often-cited trend of ‘emerging risks’ is no longer ‘emerging’, it’s here.

A good example of this is the increasing number of cyber-attacks in Australia. Up to now, Australia has been pretty nonchalant about cyber risk, and even seemed to be fatigued of hearing about it.

That time is clearly over. I would say we are going to experience an increasing number of cyber events.

The biggest opportunity in our view, and one that we’re arguably helping to lead, is to provide our partners and clients with a ‘whole-of-risk’ approach.

If we’re always keeping our clients at the centre of everything we do, giving due consideration to their full risk portfolio (people, physical and financial risks) and providing relevant solutions, the opportunity to help grow and protect their business will also help grow ours.”

Full Insurance & Risk Professional article available here.

AUB Group boss on 2015 highlights and challenges for 2016

AUB Group managing director Mark Searles tells IBNZ his 2015 highlights and what challenges he expects the company – and the industry – will face this year.

What have been the highlights of 2015 for you?
We’ve just achieved our 10th consecutive year of underlying profit growth since listing, which, given the recent state of the market, goes to show that our commitment to our sustainable growth strategy, and our disciplined approach (especially in respect to our owner-driver partnership model) is paying off.

Bringing together so many members of our extended AUB Group (formerly Austbrokers Holdings) ‘family’ both present and past with our industry friends and colleagues to mark our 30th anniversary was also a huge stand out. In New Zealand especially, one of our highlights was the coming together of BrokerWeb Management and Brokernet to form NZbrokers, the 3rd largest broking group in NZ. It’s been exciting to see the 55 broking partners combine their size and strength around a common vision and purpose. Partnership and collaboration are at the core of who we are and this has been supported by our broking and insurer partners, for the ultimate benefit of clients.

What do you hope 2016 will bring for AUB Group, especially NZbrokers?
Growth! It’s an exciting time for AUB Group and particularly for our NZbrokers network, and I hope to see plenty of organic growth and growth through the addition of new members to the NZbrokers family.  We look forward to further enhancing NZbrokers’ purpose of adding value to our partners’ businesses, and new initiatives to support partners and their clients.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges on an industry-wide level?
I’ve had a number of questions over the past year asking about the future of broking in an increasingly ‘direct’ world and the idea that broking will become increasingly marginalised in the SME space. I continue to argue that that’s rubbish.

This is a relationship industry and as long as our broker partners remain relevant to their clients they have a key role to play. Our partners have built up their clients’ trust over a number of years to be recognised as a trusted advisor to their business – enough to justify keeping their broker over going direct and saving a few dollars.

As I mentioned before it’s part of our role to be across issues that could impact our partners and clients and ensure clients have got the right solutions in place to protect the future of their business ensuring relevant solutions to meet their risk needs.

But of course it’s easier said than done! Making sure we can service ALL clients’ risk needs means understanding what’s happening in the regulatory, physical and now even the digital environment. This is where we, as a group, can really make a difference in supporting our partners.

What would you say are the burning issues/challenges you will have to tackle as a company?
The biggest challenge; or opportunity in our view, and one that we’re arguably helping to lead – is to provide our partners and clients with a ‘whole-of-risk’ approach. We started focussing on this journey two years ago not only to mitigate the effects of the insurance cycle but importantly as a key step to confirm our position as Australasia’s leading insurance and risk management specialist.

We’re able to leverage the power of our partnerships to respond to changes in legislation, environmental impacts, information and technology to ensure we’re well positioned to continue to provide the kinds of services clients need. If we’re always keeping clients at the centre of everything we do, giving due consideration to their full risk portfolio (people, physical and financial risks) and providing relevant solutions, the opportunity to help grow and protect their business will also help grow ours.

What recent innovations have made the most impact on AUB Group, either internal ones or external, and are there any internal ones in the pipeline that you can discuss? Leveraging our unique owner-driver partner model in areas outside of our traditional insurance broking heritage (so now extending to specialist underwriting agencies and risk services) marks an innovative and important shift that will provide us with sustainable growth and a competitive advantage into the future.

We also have a number of innovative initiatives across our business areas, such as electronic enablement of specialist underwriting systems.

See full article from Insurance Business New Zealand: http://www.insurancebusinessonline.co.nz/news/aub-group-boss-rubbishes-threat-of-direct-world-210321.aspx 

AUB Group continues momentum and sells shareholding in Strathearn

Sydney, 18 December, 2015:  After an eight year association, ASX-listed AUB Group Limited (ASX:AUB), owners of the Austbrokers broking network, has announced it will no longer hold ownership in Strathearn Insurance Group (Strathearn).

“Divesting in businesses is uncommon for AUB Group. Our unique ‘owner-driver’ partnership model has resulted in only a handful of divestments in our entire 30 year history. But in circumstances where optimisation of our portfolio can be achieved, it is in everyone’s interests to pursue such opportunities,” said CEO and managing director of AUB Group Limited, Mark Searles.

The move follows on from the group’s news earlier this week regarding the successful acquisition of one of New Zealand’s largest brokers, Runacres and Associates. Combined, these announcements clearly evidence AUB Group’s focus towards ensuring the delivery of strong returns for shareholders.

“This divestment decision stemmed from opportunistic timing and favourable circumstances that allowed us to immediately improve the use of capital by the group, and take us one step further towards achieving our vision at the same time” said Searles.

“While important over the years, Strathearn’s portfolio is only one part of our overall offering.  Providing a broad spectrum of risk management, advice and solutions for clients is a key focus for AUB Group, and corporate insurance broking will still remain a part of this DNA going forward.” Searles added.

Mr Searles added, “We have enjoyed solid relationships with our other shareholders in Strathearn and thank them for their contribution to our group. We wish them all the best of success in their future endeavours.”