October 2, 2017 by Angela Stelmakowich, Editor
Scott Treasure likely always had an inkling he would end up in the family business, but first he needed a bit of seasoning.
It was his father’s spoken rule that “neither my sister nor I were getting hired into the family business straight out of anything,” reports Treasure, now chief executive officer of Edmonton’s Treasures Insurance & Risk Management Inc., a founding member of the Excel Insurance Group, which started two years ago and currently has nine offices throughout western Canada.
“If we wanted to work in the family business, we had to prove ourselves outside the family business first,” the incoming president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) says of his family brokerage, which first opened its doors in 1948.
His sister opted for the legal route, now a lawyer in Edmonton, while Treasure gravitated toward business.
“I’ve always been interested in business (a passion perhaps fanned while vice president of his elementary school in Grade 6) and a little bit of politics,” says the third-generation broker.
So fresh out of university with commerce degree in hand, Treasure secured a position within major account sales at then behemoth, Nortel Networks, which in the late 1990s and into the 2000s was big, competitive and exploring new areas.
Starting in 1997 in Edmonton, he moved up the ranks and was transferred in 1999 to Vancouver, where he stayed for about a year.
“It was very exciting and it offered some interesting insights into big companies,” Treasure notes, including learning how best to work within large groups and how to deal with diverse opinions.
But then his father called, providing a chance Treasure could not pass up. “The opportunity to come back and work in an industry that felt like home to me was something that I definitely wanted to do,” he relays.
The return home was clearly welcome, but it also required a change of mindset. Treasure was going from a large company to a far smaller operation, from a software/hardware sales environment to a consumer service-oriented role, and from a top sales position to… the mailroom?
Treasure was brought into the mailroom of the brokerage and worked his way through numerous positions before eventually becoming one of firm’s leaders.
“My dad instilled in me that those relationships with other good brokers can only help you as a broker and as a person,” he relates.
As for his time at Nortel, it offered a big-picture view that remains of value today. “When I came back here, (the experience) showed me there’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat when it comes to business.”
All good, but Treasure was still yearning for a bit of that big company feel. To “scratch that itch,” he got involved in his local Progressive Conservative constituency association in Edmonton, serving as its president for a number of years. The constituency association experience, coupled with his day-to-day role as a broker, made serving with the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta (IBAA) a seamless transition.
At IBAA, he held several positions, including president. “You end up putting your hand up — or not taking a step back when everybody else does,” Treasure quips, but adds that volunteering, another thing that his parents emphasized the importance of, offers much in return.
“It was something I found interesting and rewarding and felt like we were doing something that was important and that parlayed into working with IBAC,” he says.
MAINTAINING CONSUMER PROTECTIONS
During his year as IBAC president, Treasure does not expect to be breaking much new ground, suggesting that the goal is to continue to build on work done previously to ensure consumers remain protected. Part of broker DNA, the triumvirate of need for customer choice at point of purchase, advocacy at claim time and advice throughout the life of a policy will remain the focal point.
As is always the case, the Bank Act warrants attention, time and resources. “It’s an ethical, moral issue for us,” Treasure emphasizes. “What can happen when a consumer is offered something for sale at the point where they are being granted credit — just the intrinsic vulnerability in that situation,” he relays.
With just one Hill Day remaining before the current review of the Bank Act wraps, expected some time in 2019, IBAC needs to get its message out to politicians about the importance of not downgrading current consumer protections, Treasure contends.
Brokers are not saying “banks are evil,” he points out. The strong regulatory structure in place for financial institutions “helped us avoid bank failures in 2008,” he says.
“That’s exactly what we’re there to support — the rigorous application of those regulations and that includes not allowing banks to sell insurance at the point of granting credit,” Treasure emphasizes. It is important for brokers to be diligent “in making sure the federal government, both the elected politicians and the bureaucrats, understand who we are and what we’re saying.”
Treasure’s view is that “banks can sell insurance all they want.” As long as selling is separate from the point of granting credit, “we will compete with them as insurance brokers all day long.”
It is a belief that brokers hold with confidence.
“We are promoting the broker value proposition,” Treasure emphasizes.
However, ensuring that the value proposition is not only maintained, but enhanced, likely means clearing a few technology hurdles. “The challenge is to maintain that (consumer understanding of broker value) and deliver that via technology,” he says.
Another continuing challenge — but one that shows promising signs of improving — is the double-entry piece.
Calling the “portal dance” entirely inefficient, “the more portals you give me, the harder it is for me to prove out that value proposition to the client,” Treasure points out.
“Once we eliminate having to enter into our own system and another system, and
vice versa,” he maintains, “our value proposition has no boundaries.”
That clear view will be required as change continues to muddy the insurance landscape, including with regard to fintech and insurtech initiatives. Like the Bank Act, Treasure suggests this is an area where regulators will have a say in how the environment will eventually look and what this could mean for all participants.
However, it appears that regulators are moving in the preferred direction with regard to insurtech. Regulators seem to be signalling it is important that technology does not outstrip regulation, technology does not get too far ahead of the rules, and regulations are in line with technology and the way products are delivered, Treasure suggests.
He sees his experience on boards like IBAA — coupled with fellow members he has worked with and learned from — as helping build the skill set he currently has, one that positions him well to assist with moving IBAC forward and focusing on the future.
Representing brokers across the country, “I want to make sure they’re all able to maintain their value proposition to their clients and, hopefully, their market share, but they’ve got to be able to deliver that.”