Founding female employee opens HBF’s new Perth city branch

HBF chief executive John Van Der Wielen and Eldred Klemm at the Perth city branch opening.
HBF chief executive John Van Der Wielen and Eldred Klemm at the Perth city branch opening.

THE first female employee who had a pivotal role in developing what’s now WA’s biggest health insurer opened its new Perth-based branch this month.

Eldred Klemm, HBF’s first clerk typist, unveiled the company’s new city branch location on Wellington Street after more than three decades located on William Street.

More: Eldred Klemm is a pioneer of women in the workforce as the first female employee of what became HBF

The new location at HBF headquarters is just minutes from the Hay Street office where Mrs Klemm helped approve 2,500 health insurance applications within the first 10 days of opening in 1941.

The 98-year-old Jolimont great-great-grandmother is one of HBF’s longest standing members and as a founding employee Mrs Klemm remembered having to learn on her feet.

“When I left school, I knew that nursing and teaching weren’t for me and so I went on to business college and I just got on with things,” she said.

“I worked at Perth Hospital for a few years and when my boss Leslie Hart, who was the accountant at the hospital at the time, went over to start the Metropolitan Hospital Benefit Fund he took me with him and I didn’t look back.”

HBF chief executive John Van Der Wielen said the branch move was about delivering face-to-face service, that people like Mrs Klemm established all those years ago.

“While it’s critical we deliver a great online user experience, it is just as important for us to employ and train brilliant staff and make sure our customers receive the best personal service,” he said.

“Every detail of the new branch from software and digital experience to furniture and layout has been designed to help our staff focus on the customer.”