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nib reaches magic milestone of one million customers

National health insurer, nib health funds, has reached a significant milestone in the company's history signing its one millionth Australian Residents Health Insurance (arhi) customer.

After starting operations more than 60 years ago to provide accident cover for workers at Newcastle's BHP Steelworks, nib has grown to become Australia's fourth largest health insurer.

While nib is now international, with an international students and workers business as well as operating New Zealand's second largest health fund, nib has continued to achieve incredible growth in its core arhi business. Since launching an ambitious national marketing strategy in 2006, nib's customer base has grown more than 56%, from 640,000 customers to today's mark of more than one million.

New South Wales, and in particular the Hunter, remains the heartland for the health insurer, with more than 57% of nib customers based in its home state. However, nib has achieved the most significant growth in Victoria where there are now 192,000 nib customers. This is an increase of 181% over the past 10 years.

nib Chief Executive Officer, Mark Fitzgibbon, believes the company's success has derived from a strong product offering, innovative marketing strategies and, of course, outstanding service delivered by a dedicated workforce.

"We have a workforce of more than 900 employees across Australia, with more than half located in the Hunter, each of whom have been major contributors to the success of nib over many years," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"Our employees do a wonderful job on a daily basis, both on the frontline and behind the scenes, to deliver the outstanding level of service that our customers have come to expect."

Mr Fitzgibbon believes that nib rewrote the rules for the industry back in 2006 when it launched a national campaign that aimed to significantly grow their customer base, particularly in the under 40 market.

"This was a big step for us, because overnight we pretty much quadrupled our brand and marketing investment.

"It was a well researched and executed strategy that provided immediate results, particularly in the emerging markets of Victoria and Queensland. Since then we have continued to outperform the industry on a national basis in terms of year-on-year policyholder growth.

"The industry landscape continues to be challenging though. Competition among the top insurers is stronger than ever, plus we have seen the emergence of online retail brokers in the market, and it’s now very easy for customers to switch between health funds.

"Our ability to innovate through product design, customer service and invest in channels like the internet and digital has ensured that we continue to 'punch above our weight' against our larger competitors."

Mr Fitzgibbon added that since listing the company on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2007, many of nib's customers who are also shareholders, have shared also shares in the success of the business.

"Since its very beginning more than 60 years ago, nib has made profits in order to survive. But since our listing we've been able to return any surplus earnings to our shareholders, the vast majority of whom are nib customers, many living in the Hunter Valley.

"As a result, they've seen the value of their shareholding increase by more than 280% since we listed, and have also benefit from more than $415 million which has been returned to our shareholders in the form of dividends and capital return over this time."