Economic Development, Health Care, and Human Resources

Innovative business model is worth the risk for insurance firm

HNi finds ‘nontraditional’ route is way to go for business insurance.

January 22, 2016
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If innovation is the key to success, HNi Risk Services of Michigan could be the poster child.

The relatively young insurance firm, which came to Grand Rapids in 2011, has a different way of doing business. Labeling itself as a nontraditional insurance firm, HNi is dedicated to finding innovative solutions and strategies to create a better value for its customer base. And that focus is paying dividends.

A number of West Michigan business insurance providers saw an increase in premiums billed this past year — but none came close to the leap made by HNi.

According to Business Journal research, Lake Michigan Insurance Agency increased its business insurance premiums by 5.3 percent, from $38 million in 2014 to $40 million in 2015. Doyle & Ogden Insurance Advisors saw an increase of about 2.7 percent, while Lighthouse Insurance Group Inc. also saw an increase of 2.7 percent, from $260 million to $267 million.

However, HNi saw the largest percentage increase in premiums issued by far — a 28.6 percent jump from $35 million in 2014 to $45 million in 2015.

The president of HNi Risk Services of Michigan, Nathan Steffen, said the increase is a continuation of the growth the company has experienced since its beginning.

“We have grown in excess of 25 percent since our inception,” Steffen said. “And I would anticipate in 2016, we’ll also be over 25 percent growth. Obviously, that becomes harder to do the larger you get, but we continue to grow rapidly because of our approach.”

Steffen said a large reason for HNi’s bright future comes from the young firm’s ability to attract talent to West Michigan and to retain those employees.

“It’s basically just staying ahead of our competition and bringing innovative strategies to our clients while recruiting and retaining our best talent,” he said.

In addition to meeting the traditional needs of its clients, Steffen said HNi also offers advisory services that set the company apart from its competitors. From helping to create a best-in-class safety program to increasing employee retention and even offering branding services, HNi offers services typically thought of being outside the purview of an insurance company.

Steffen said as a whole, the marketplace for business insurance firms is likely stagnant. While insurance premiums have been increasing, so has the competition. And to get ahead, firms need to adapt and set themselves apart from the pack.

“The companies that are seeing true organic growth are doing something different to set themselves apart,” he said. “It’s not just business as usual.”

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