March 13, 2023 by Philip Porado
Colette Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, Sovereign Insurance
Although she’s been in commercial insurance for all 28 years of her career, Colette Taylor, chief operating officer at Sovereign Insurance, has done many different things within that time frame.
“I’ve made a point of putting my hand up for positions I felt I could be good at,” she said. “That ensured I was able to gather technical expertise and leverage it through various roles – because you need that gravitas in all aspects of commercial insurance.”
Before her current role, Taylor led the specialty lines portfolio to very profitable results.
“I could’ve just run that business,” she said. “But on the other side of the house, the commercial solutions business was in some distress and, when it was without leadership, they were going to recruit. I put my hand up and said, ‘I could do that job.’ The response was, ‘But we need specialty to continue to be profitable. We need you to focus over there.’ I replied, ‘I’ve got a strong team there. I know what needs to be done to support commercial solutions. I can do both.’
“It could have been a risky move, because it meant taking on a portfolio in distress, but I didn’t give that a second thought.”
Taylor advises women to actively seek out conversations and support from mentors – and to consider that as part of their job.
“A lot of people, particularly introverts, struggle with being proactive in their careers,” she observed. “They wait for people to come to them or to see jobs posted. We’ve all read the statistics about how women will only apply for roles when they feel like they have 90% of the listed attributes. Be aware of your own vulnerabilities and any potential you may have for self-sabotage, particularly when you get into leadership roles.”
There have been moments in Taylor’s career when she felt like someone else was given a role for which she would have applied, had it been posted. “And I had to look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘You can dwell on this and feel frustrated, or you can get back to a more proactive way of thinking about what opportunities will be coming.’”
In recent years, Canada’s P&C insurance industry hasn’t changed at the same pace as some other industries, possibly because it hasn’t had a lot of diversity of thought, Taylor observed. “The only way you truly get diversity of thought is to have a lot of different looking and sounding people around the table.”
Brokers have been creative about the industries they are targeting to hire certain skills (such as sales), she noted. The company side could learn from that creativity.
“They’re looking at all industries involved in sales and recognizing an inherent selling skill is required to be an effective broker,” said Taylor. “And they recognize we can teach people the technical components that will differentiate them as thought leaders.
“We need to be looking for different connection points. We have a real challenge in the risk engineering field right now because our risk engineers are an aging demographic and will soon retire. We’re looking at aligning with different colleges and universities, including technical colleges, than we have in the past to provide sponsorship opportunities and partner with them to try and attract talent into the industry.”