Susan Gilbert, President-elect, Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba
Susan Gilbert, president-elect of Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, started off in marketing and finance and used the same skill sets to find her confidence and success in the world of property and casualty insurance.
Early in her career, Gilbert worked in marketing positions in the finance sector, followed by starting a consulting company and working with a national advertising agency.
Making the move back to Manitoba with a small family in tow, it made more sense for their family to concentrate on building MIG Insurance, which at the time was a management platform for independent brokers. MIG offered access to markets, broker management system and administrative functions, and eventually became an exit strategy for these managed brokers — with MIG making 10 acquisitions in Manitoba.
At this time, Gilbert had a watershed moment. She used her marketing skills to help build a brand identity for this new cluster of acquired offices.
“Initially, I was in Brian’s life, helping him in the business, right?” recalls Gilbert. “When we talk about barriers, that probably was my own barrier that I put upon myself; I saw this [situation] as me not really working in my own industry — it’s just to better for our family at that time to help with what we were building.
“Trying to raise three kids and have a career outside of that just seemed like an insane thing to try to do at that point in time. It’s interesting, however, that there was really more for me [in the P&C industry] as I got more and more entrenched into MIG and building it out and developing out.”
Gilbert’s perspective on balancing both career and family, and being able to impact policy at MIG, led to some innovative policies that allowed all members of the team some flexibility, ensuring that they could find work-life balance as well.
“We’ve worked with some amazing women along the way, who helped us really build this company,” says Gilbert. “Certainly, we never would have been able to build something the way we did without really respecting their perspective on how we can move forward with the new entities that were all being brought under one umbrella.”
And mentors know no age, says Gilbert.
“You can be a mentor and can be someone pretty new into the industry, or much younger than the person you’re mentoring. I have to say, I’ve been inspired and mentored by many women who are younger than me or have a different perspective than me, or can push me [to think differently].”
Mentorship is all around the P&C industry, she adds. “It’s aligning with people who can help you understand what the next steps are,” as she describes it.
Being involved in the insurance community can be a benefit and provide the opportunity to meet others who are working on the same issues and challenges, Gilbert observes. Over the years with IBAM and IBAC through Brian’s involvement in association work, and now her own journey with IBAM, Gilbert credits Canada’s broker community as being key to developing a great network of support and growth.
For example, she credits mentors in both the brokerage and insurer side of the business for helping to influence how to build a brand in the digital space. That starts by understanding and clearly communicating your brand vision and values, she says.
“In every engagement we have with clients, not just digitally, we put those values at the forefront,” says Gilbert. “If your team really understands those values, they are empowered to make decisions in the moment and know that you will stand behind them. Through this, MIG was able to build a great team that is now part of Westland Insurance.”
Gilbert’s advice for the next generation of leaders is to embrace a curiosity that sparks continuous learning in the industry. Engage with others who can help you continue to learn and grow. Rather than being limited by what might seem as a constraint, work with your team to imagine what can be possible.