Steven Hawkins is now a senior vice-president of a major brokerage firm, but he had humble beginnings in the industry.
In 1993, after graduating from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario with a degree in business administration, the incoming president of the Toronto Insurance Conference broke into the industry by landing a job in the mailroom at Wawanesa Insurance.
Doing so was not as easy as one might think. "The economy wasn't very good back then," he says. "People were passing my resume by, thinking I was overeducated and I pretty much wanted to take any job that was available."
So after some persistence, Wawanesa offered Hawkins the job in its mailroom and from there, he worked his way into the auto department. "You really just need your foot in the door and then you can make a career out of what you want," he says.
Today, Hawkins is a senior vice-president for the consumer practice at Marsh Canada Ltd. in Toronto. At his full-time job, Hawkins handles major retail clients for Marsh, and is scheduled to become TIC president in 2013, succeeding Robert G. Harrison.
Hawkins grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. His father worked for Reed Stenhouse (now part of Aon Inc.), specializing in aviation, liability and casualty, before becoming a risk manager for Knob Hill Farms, the now-defunct Toronto supermarket chain.
After graduating from Brock and starting at Wawanesa, Hawkins obtained his Chartered Insurance Professional designation from the Insurance Institute of Canada and completed the Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional program at the University of Toronto, majoring in risk management.
After Wawanesa, Hawkins joined Lombard Canada Ltd. in 1995, spending about five years as a claims examiner for property and casualty losses before taking on tasks as an underwriter from 2000 until 2002.
Property risk factors have changed over the years. Hawkins notes that when he was an underwriter, he dealt with clients whose buildings may not even have sprinkler systems. That is not the case today.
"The building codes and building technology have all improved in the last 20 years, so I don't come across unprotected buildings in my business like we used to," he says.
Also improved is security. "Everyone seems to have the proper safes now," he says. "Things are not in the bottom drawer of the CEO's desk."
Hawkins joined Marsh Canada as a client executive and team leader, handling commercial liability and property for customers in verticals such as manufacturing, transportation and construction. In his current capacity, he manages a team of 10 and is also the lead client executive dealing with Canadian Tire and Boston Pizza.
Among his tasks is helping clients control losses and mitigate claims. "We have on staff actuarial analysts and that will help us pinpoint where a client's having issues," Hawkins says. "For a lot of the retail businesses, it's slips and falls. It sounds minor, but it's a huge amount of the claims that I deal with."
Hawkins will likely be spending a huge amount of his time as TIC president on several initiatives already under way, including a public emergency endorsement for commercial insurance contracts and lobbying at both the federal and provincial levels. "We're not simply a black tie and a golf tournament," he says. "We're an advocate for the commercial brokers, so we're a voice for them."
Hawkins made his comments on October 30, as about 45,000 Toronto residents were without power the day after the storm that originated as Hurricane Sandy made landfall south of Atlantic City, New Jersey and wind gusts in southern Ontario hit 100 km/h.
It is certainly of concern to brokers if clients cannot renew policies because of electronic communications disruptions during these emergencies, says Hawkins.
"You don't want your insureds to be left without coverage just because their policy expired at 12:01 a.m. on a certain evening or morning and they couldn't get in touch with their broker to ensure that a bind order was given, or we couldn't provide them with a quote," he says.
For a few years, TIC has been involved in drafting a public emergency endorsement for commercial insurance contracts, which is intended to extend the term of a soon-to-expire policy, or to suspend the notice period for a pending cancellation, once an emergency is declared. The intent, Hawkins says, would be to have coverage remain in place, after expiry, "until such time proper instructions" were sent.
TIC had worked on the endorsement with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), whose board approved a similar document in 2009. "I'm hoping it comes to fruition early next year, if not by the end of this year," he says, adding that TIC has buy-in from the majority of insurers.
IBC and TIC worked together on an endorsement for property and liability policies, but this did not cover other lines, such as automobile, Hawkins says. Without such an endorsement, a client could be left without a policy because phone and/or internet service is unavailable, the broker could be exposed to an errors and omissions risk, and the insurance company could get bad press should clients lose coverage for a time.
In the Bank
Also on TIC's radar are efforts to ensure banks are not involved in practices such as selling insurance on their websites.
Section 7.1 of the Insurance Business (Banks and Bank Holding Companies) Regulations, under the Bank Act, states, in essence, that a bank shall not provide a link from its own website to a webpage through which there is promotion of an insurance company, agent or broker that deals in insurance products other than authorized types of insurance. These include those related to credit cards, creditors' life or disability, mortgage and travel.
"Whether it's 30 years ago or today, we seem to still be talking about the same themes," Hawkins says.
That is at the federal level. At Queen's Park in Ontario, he notes that TIC is working with the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario to jointly oppose the use of credit scores in assessing risk. Conference representatives are also working with the steering committee of the Ontario Automobile Anti-Fraud Task Force Steering Committee, which is scheduled to submit its final report this fall. TIC also supported, in principle, the Reducing Automobile Insurance Premiums by Eliminating Fraud Act. But Bill 41, which was referred to committee last March and sought to enhance whistleblower protection, died on the order paper when Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the Ontario legislature in October.
On the Web
Hawkins graduated from Brock the same year the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois released the Mosaic Web browser software application. This, in turn, was used to develop Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. It was also the year the U.S. National Science Foundation sought contractors for network access points to connect commercial computer networks, leading to the decommissioning of the NSFNET backbone in 1995.
Today, almost a generation after these milestones in the development of the public internet, some companies are moving more to a web-based technology. But brokers are concerned about firms establishing their own portals.
"Unlike the banks, who use the same technology, insurers and brokers, we seem to have our own internal applications," Hawkins says, alluding to IBAO's efforts to alleviate the problem by supporting the eDoc standard in broker management systems.
"It seems that they are moving forward," he says of the work towards an industry portal. "Hopefully we can see some advancement."
Those efforts will likely be taking some of Hawkins's time as TIC president, too.