Grace Insurance Director Frans du Plessis, a 2022 finalist for NIBA WA Broker of the Year, embraced it after studying law in his native South Africa and working as a photographer and videographer.
What made you decide to set up Grace in WA?
I started working as a junior broker in a company in South Africa. I was studying law and still had to pay the daily bills. After I found a good job, I decided to start a full-time job as a broker. This was in 1992.
I started my life insurance business. Later in my career, I was a life and general insurance broker. I moved to Australia in 2008, looking for a safe place and a better future for my children.
I decided it was a good time to change careers and invested in clothing stores, a brand that has become popular among South Africans. Unfortunately, sales were not for me. A prison without bars is not for someone who likes to wander around and see different places and meet new people.
I returned to my insurance roots and worked for two years at CGU as a business development manager. Then I was scouted and worked for a payroll company. Unfortunately, about eight months after the incident, half of the staff disappeared. It was right when the GFC hit. Since it is difficult to find any job in a tough market, I decided to go back on my own and start my own business. I knew it was going to be difficult. I started with zero money. Total cost for the first month, $100.
I love what I do. It is difficult at times but the important thing for me is to find the right employees. It is difficult to control different offices in other countries. Finding the right workforce is critical to success in some countries because they need to be self-sufficient. We have a very high standard to which we work. My 2IC, Aimee Henderson, helps supervise some of our staff. They also monitor our staff and government offices, mainly to make sure we are 100% compliant and that we all work together. We always strive to do the right thing with the customer and provide the best solutions for the customer and our insurers.
Why the name Grace?
I found the perfect G design and I was looking for a name starting with G. I looked at the Guardian, all the G names, and then I thought that everyone could do with a little grace every now and then. It is a fixed belief.
We are usually number one in Australia for any religion insurance as brokers. This is one of the many areas I am focusing on, insurance for churches, religious organizations. We do all these lines of business and have a great customer base in the area.
Unfortunately, some of our insurers have raised these rates significantly, making it even more difficult. For one of my clients, it’s more than double – not making a profit from $5000 to $9500 is a problem for their small output. We reduce our commissions as much as possible to support these organizations in difficult times. It’s not easy to sell to a customer who doesn’t understand – even if you’ve worked hard to, for example, reduce the cost of a bushfire from $50,000 to $10,000.
How did you grow the business?
We are a team of 12 people at the moment. We are growing rapidly in our other countries. The main office is in WA, but our clients are all over Australia.
We expand internationally through acquisitions to recruit employees and take our business to the next level. We currently have offices in WA, NSW and Victoria and Queensland to follow.
CBN has been wonderful, the amount of support they have given me is extraordinary. If it wasn’t for their support, I wouldn’t have been able to grow our business this fast.
They gave me credit for my first purchase, which we just paid off. Since then, we have discovered eight things. We know how to manage and treat our new customers. We have many clients and we love to build a book of newly acquired business and grow a portfolio.
I plan to buy within the next 12 to 18 months, in SA and Brisbane. We are one of the fastest growing ARs in WA and I think we are one of the largest ARs in CBN in WA. My goal is to become one of the most successful ARs in our network.
There are currently many trends in the market. So, if you are awake, I think there are many opportunities. Customers feel free to look around a bit. So if the brokers are not doing their job 100%, they will find another solution or another brokerage.
The key is to take care of your customers, otherwise you will lose them. Our customer retention is high. Having said that, we are losing a lot of housemates at the moment. We have reduced our commissions, we have tried everything, but the prices are too high and many customers just chase the cheapest price and then we just say goodbye to them unfortunately.
You try and explain to them the difference in coverage but unfortunately, they don’t always listen.
What do you do outside?
I am a professional photographer and videographer who practiced weekly for the first three years of starting Grace Insurance.
I played a lot of international games. I would travel all over the world. Some of my favorite places in the world to shoot were Korea, the Maldives, and Mauritius. I have traveled all over the world and shot some of the most amazing places. Unfortunately, covid and work have prevented me from making several trips.
The growth of Grace Insurance and the growth of our business requires my full attention.
Selling insurance is a great opportunity and career for anyone who wants to work hard. It is an amazing business and the level of technology in Australia is very high. I am very impressed with the industry standards and how our work has become.
I have a lot of respect for brokers, they work hard for their clients.