A 30-year friendship: Insurance News Publisher Terry McMullan and Ebix Australia Managing Director Leon d’Apice at the celebration in Sydney marking the US-based company’s entry into Australia
We at Insurance News owe an enormous debt to Leon d’Apice. Without the support of Ebix Australia’s Managing Director, this publication might never have got off the ground.
A little history: In 2000 Telstra purchased Insurance Network Services, a technology company owned by five insurers. The new company, InsNet, was set up to build a platform linking insurers and brokers. Telstra poured a lot of money into it and named the result Sunrise Exchange.
At that point I’d been working as an editorial and public relations consultant in the insurance industry, and was contracted by Telstra to provide a weekly industry service called Sunrise Exchange News.
It published only on Mondays, and while we now publish industry news every working day, our Monday bulletin is still the one that looks at the world with a wider focus.
And it’s 19 years since US-based global insurance technology business Ebix – previously initially known as Complete Broking Systems (CBS) then Delphi Information Systems – acquired significant Australian tech specialist Heart Consulting. Leon d’Apice was the local chief of Delphi-now-Ebix and knew the local insurance market intimately.
Christmas 2007 came with an announcement that Ebix had acquired the Sunrise Exchange operation from Telstra for $50 million. It was a huge surprise to everyone, not least me. What did this mean for my little news service?
Leon told me Ebix didn’t want to continue the service but he would be happy to help us inform our Sunrise Exchange subscribers so we could “bring them across”.
With only a few weeks to go until the first bulletin of 2008 was due, we commissioned a new independent website running a bespoke operating system built by a genius friend, using a domain name we’d idly bought several years before, simply because it might come in handy one day.
That domain name was www.insurancenews.com.au. It launched on Monday February 4 2008 with its inherited subscriber base of a few thousand. The site has grown from that modest Monday bulletin to a daily news service with more than 31,000 subscribers and total visits heading towards 2 million a year.
Insurance News magazine was launched in October the following year. The first advertiser to sign on was Ebix, which has advertised in every edition of the magazine since.
Leon is still very much the top man at Ebix Australia, although much of the past 18 or so months has been spent recovering from a disastrous cycling accident that left him with extensive injuries. But Leon is made of tough stuff. Like the Man from Snowy River’s doughty mountain pony, his pluck is still undaunted and his courage fiery hot.
At Ebix’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in July, Leon was front and centre, greeting industry guests, talking about his company’s future development and swapping industry gossip.
We’ve missed his sharp comments that often cut to the base of a debate – and there have been many debates as the tech field has grown and Ebix’s hold on broker systems caused tensions with some notable competitors. We’ll never forget his off-the-cuff statement in 2010 that “over the years the IT road in this industry has become littered with corpses”.
Our congratulations to Leon and the team at Ebix Australia for their first 30 years of valuable service to the local insurance industry, and more personally our sincere thanks to Leon for his unstinting support of Insurance News over the past 25 years. We extend to him every good wish for his continuing recovery.