Canadian Underwriter

Strength Test

September 23, 2013   by Regan Reid

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Company: Macdonald Chisholm Trask Insurance

President: Mike Brien 

Macdonald Chisholm Trask Insurance is a coming together of two long-time rural Nova Scotia brokerages: Macdonald Chisholm and L.G. Trask. I bought Macdonald Chisholm in 2002, and in 2005 I purchased L.G. Trask. We felt that there was a significant amount of goodwill in both the Macdonald Chisholm and the Trask names. They were well known in the Nova Scotia market, if not Atlantic Canada. Both brokerages were multi-branch operations and both were 60-plus year-old brokerages. Since 2002, the company has grown about sevenfold. The significant growth has come through acquisition, but there has been some organic growth in there. However, organic growth in this marketplace has been very difficult. We recently purchased a business, Harrison & Associés Assurance, which had three locations in New Brunswick, two of which are in the French area of the province. In March, we purchased Homburg Insurance, which included another brokerage called C.D. Armstrong. We’re just finalizing that merger as we speak.

We’re a large regional broker with multiple offices in Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. We have about 125 employees across 20 offices. As a company, we are very focused on our own people. For example, the insurance industry in Nova Scotia does not have a continuing education program. You get your license and you’re armed and dangerous. So at MCT we have our own continuing education program, what we call “MCT U.” It’s a mandatory number of hours each year that our team members have to take part in. We talk about new products that are on the market and sales initiatives, which to us is very much tied to not only selling new business, but also retaining existing business. We’re also very big on strengths assessments. We do assessments of every person in the company, myself included. We’re trying to get people to work to their strengths as much as possible.

There’s been a tremendous amount of good that has come out of that. We’re always working with our people and asking, “How can we do more proactive work with our clients?” The answer kept coming back: “We just don’t have any time.” So, at our office in Yarmouth we had a group there whose main strength was administration. They understood companies, routine, protocols that needed to be done, and they were good at it. So we made a deal with our teams and said, “If we take a lot of this administration stuff off your desk, will you spend more time with the client?” The answer was “yes.” So now all the administration funnels into our customer care resource, our CCR. It’s taken the stuff off our brokers’ desks that they weren’t that good at, and now they’re working with more clients and we’re seeing it with our renewal numbers—they’re going up.

A lot of our competitors are giving up the ghost on personal lines and feel that they’re not going to be able to compete in the days ahead with the banks. We have not given up at all. If we have a good offering and do it properly, we certainly feel that we still have the opportunity to carve our own little niche out of the marketplace. And on the commercial side, we do have some specialties that we’re known for, marine being one of them. We’re never going to be a TD, RBC or a Johnson, but we do feel that our proposition has merit and the clients will see the value in it.  We are primarily a rural brokerage. Obviously we have some concerns about the rural economy, but at this point it continues to be something that we’re actively pursuing.

— As told to Regan Reid 


Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the August 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.