A culture that cares | Monocle

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Identifying potential
It’s a sunny morning at Holmes Murphy’s HQ and the rumble of the popcorn cart in the central atrium is enticing brokers from their desks. As light pours in through the vast windows and illuminates the rolling cornfields beyond, company veterans and ambitious young brokers gather over coffee, swapping ideas and plans for the weekend. America’s Midwest is known for being a remarkably personable place. Yet at Holmes Murphy there is a particularly special interplay of people and generations. Every employee is, as one long-serving staff member puts it, encouraged to bring their whole self to work.

In 2022 the Holmes Murphy team might be bigger than ever, but according to chief marketing officer, Susan Hatten, caring about colleagues’ unique potential is a spirit that carries through into how the whole company does business. “We care deeply about our partnerships and relationships with clients, and our employees are at the front lines of that,” she says. “Our people are the heartbeat of what we do each and every day.”

Some of the most senior figures at Holmes Murphy began as interns and have stayed to invest their entire career in the brand. “That speaks to the continued growth of opportunities,” says Charisse Vaughn, senior VP of employee benefits, who rose to that position after joining the firm straight from college. “It’s part of our business model to pull talent through the organisation and continue to do so at all levels.”

There is also a well-trodden path for employees to become aspirational shareholders in the business, grounded by a fierce no-nepotism policy. Quin Leith, who joined Holmes Murphy as chief strategic investment officer in 2022, was impressed by the company’s entrepreneurial spirit and points to the numerous subsidiary businesses that it has built and sold as evidence of this. “That’s not just catching lightning in a bottle once. It demonstrates something to me about the business, the culture, the people.” 

Clearing a path
In 2017, Holmes Murphy set out to propel more women to senior positions. Women Optimizing Women (WOW) was founded to recognise key figures who define the company’s culture and today 69 per cent of the enterprise leadership team is female. Stephani Manning, senior VP of Innovative Captive Strategies, heads up the programme: “In the US, the insurance industry tends to skew heavily male at leadership and ownership levels. But we’re able to attract great women to work at Holmes Murphy by showing them a clear path to senior positions, demonstrating how others have paved the way.”

Spreading the word
Holmes Murphy has worked hard to develop its environmental, social, governance (ESG) programme, investing in making its offices less wasteful and committing to employee wellbeing and greater diversity in how it hires. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the firm created ethOs to consult other companies on how to tune up their ESG values. 

“Most organisations can’t describe their culture,” says ethOs president, Ali Payne. “Employees often have quite a different idea from their leadership or point to physical things in the office, like ping-pong tables. For me, culture is about the feelings that an employee has towards their organisation and that means every employee determines who you are as a business.” 


Holmes Murphy HQ in Waukee, Iowa.


Charisse Vaughn, senior VP of employee benefits. 


Stephani Manning, senior VP of Innovative Captive Strategies.


The HQ’s popcorn cart.

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