Established in 1941 as the Perth Metropolitan Hospitals Benefit Fund, HBF has gone through a few name and brand transitions over the years.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the group’s consistent reinforcement of its caring, service-oriented focus.
In 1945 the company dropped ‘Perth Metropolitan’ from the title to reduce member confusion that treatment benefits were restricted to metropolitan hospitals.
The organisation later condensed the name further to HBF, and in 1989 expanded its insurance offerings beyond health to include home, car, and travel insurance.
It’s now the State’s biggest travel insurer and one of the top four insurers in home, car and travel.
But through the decades the mutual insurance fund has reinforced its caring service, according to HBF public affairs manager John LeCras.
“The main focus has always been about a caring service. That’s very important to us, because as other banking and financial institutions close the doors we keep member service centres open, because feedback tells us our members want the choice to speak to someone face to face,” he said.
Mr LeCras said this brand platform permeated all parts of the organisation, with the consistency of the service and brand offering ensuring its success through time.
“It sounds like a cliche but people here really do think about members first and sometimes when we have to change a product or increase premiums its just as tough to tell our own people,” he said. “I think a lot of people have loyalty to HBF and we are conscious that we need to do all that we can to repay that.
“We are especially conscious of the fact that we have to work constantly at providing value to our members.”
Mr LeCras said extensive market research was undertaken each year in order to better improve services and provide innovative solutions for HBF’s 900,000 members.
“There’s a lot of work done behind the scenes to provide that. Our provider registration is extremely rigorous and we don’t apologise for that because we want to protect our members,” he told WA Business News.
“We launched the HBF doctor in response to members wanting more information about health. We have magazines for our older members that focus on issues relevant to them.”
And while Ted has been around for about a decade, the tagline, ‘Are you with HBF?’ has been around for much longer.
Originally developed by Dick Baynham Advertising, the slogan was the prominent campaign feature of the late 1980s and 1990s.
Ted was introduced by 303 Advertising and has developed into a long-term brand icon.
“Ted has been a successful brand icon and he is intimately associated with HBF. We’ve extended that brand to the Internet in the form of Ask Ted,” Mr LeCras said.
“Ted stands for what HBF does. It’s a caring service and Ted is symbolic of the warmth we believe the brand has.
“I don’t think there is any restriction using Ted going forward.”
HBF’s home, car and travel insurance originally had different brands but have since come under the one banner in order to gain better market recognition for its services, according to Mr LeCras.
More recently, the promotion of HBF as a mutual organisation has helped sell the company’s point of difference.
“We are not profit driven and our objective is to serve our members not shareholders,” Mr LeCras said.
He said HBF was one of Perth’s biggest advertising accounts, a result of a very competitive industry.
“It’s a very competitive marketplace and we need to keep the brand out there and generate new and younger members,” Mr LeCras said.
“Our biggest recruitment every year is when young people leave home and have their first job and seek out insurance products. A lot of the time they ring their parents and find out what insurance to get.”
But remaining strong in the sector has required staying in touch with the market and offering unique selling points.
“About 20 years ago there was one level of hospital cover; now we have young singles’ cover where you can get covered for the things you are likely to need, rather than hip replacements and cataracts,” Mr LeCras said.
“We have an a product for older people that’s proving popular also.”