Thea Baird, CIP, CAIB, this year’s winner in the Emerging Leaders category of the Insurance Institute of Canada’s 2023 National Leadership Awards has a history of going the extra mile.
“You can message me at three o’clock in the morning and I probably would respond,” the St. John’s, NL-based vice president and broking training manager at Aon said. “I never say no to anything. People tell me, ‘You have to learn to say no.’”
When Baird’s not answering emails at 3 a.m., she spends her time off work with her family, running marathons and other road races, and teaching fitness.
Another example of Baird’s committed approach is her response to being tapped to introduce the presenter of the Rising Star award at 2023’s Canadian Association of Insurance Women’s convention in Montreal. Baird was determined to use Quebec’s official language during her stage time but didn’t speak French. So, she learned the language through the use of an app and sought help from colleagues in Montreal to nail the pronunciations.
“Everyone was just shocked. It was really hard,” Baird told Canadian Underwriter. “It was over 200 people just staring at me and I just got up, and I did it, and it was great.”
Baird’s been with Aon for eight years and spent six years in broking marketing and two years in broking training. She was recently promoted to vice president. “I always said that if I had a chance to change the way that we do things here, to improve processes [and] make things easier for brokers and for everyone, that I would jump on it,” said Baird.
“This broking training role came open and [the hiring manager] said I’d be a perfect fit. And here I am.”
A typical day involves “lots and lots of meetings” and numerous team member training sessions.
“The offshore team that I assist in managing provides support for many tasks that assist our broking and account management teams. These include pre-renewal tasks support during the negotiation and binding phase, as well as post renewal processes. The training and ongoing management support that I provide is integral to our ability to deliver superior client service.” Baird said.
Building that team required Baird to provide basic insurance training 101, as well as bringing team members up to speed on the company’s values and strategies.
“I also have an onshore team that I assist in managing. They [collaborate] with the offshore team and provide additional support when required. They help to keep the processes moving,” Baird said.
“One of the goals is to expand the onshore team to provide service and assistance to our specialty teams, as some admin tasks can be re-directed to our teams so it can free up our salespeople and brokers.
“Every day I support these roles as well as create new roles as required – anytime changes are made to our training materials, I implement those changes. Then I take them through each task, take them through the revised training presentations.”
Baird credits her extensive board participation for garnering her the Emerging Leaders nomination. In 2013, she worked with Donna Payne, now with RBC Insurance, to help recreate the local chapter of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Insurance Women – which is a member of the Canadian Association of Insurance Women. The local chapter recently had a name change and is now the Insurance Association of Newfoundland Labrador.
“We changed our name to be gender neutral in hopes to grow our membership,” said Baird. “I’m all about inclusion and diversity. I’m very big on that.”
Baird also sits on the boards and committees of the Insurance Association of Newfoundland Labrador (Director), the Canadian Association of Insurance Women (Treasurer), Insurance Institute of Newfoundland and Labrador (first VP), Atlantic Insurance Symposium Committee (Newfoundland & Labrador Rep), and Atlantic Insurance Seminar Discussion Board (Newfoundland & Labrador Rep).