Canadian Underwriter

Top 5 pieces of advice for insurance pros

December 20, 2019   by Adam Malik

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From left, moderator Lana Cuthbertson, ATB Financial, Lynn Oldfield, AIG Canada, Sarah Robson, Marsh Canada, Christine Lithgow, Aon Risk Solutions, Yvonne Steiner, Zurich, and Gloria Brosius, RIMS president at September’s RIMS Canada Conference in Edmonton.

There was plenty of advice dished out at conferences over the last year, whether it was on attracting talent, how seasoned pros can help the younger generation, or how insurers can think differently. Here are some of the highlights.


When asked what advice a young professional would give their older colleagues, allowing for a flexible work environment was top of mind at September’s Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) Canada Conference in Edmonton.

“Work doesn’t need to get done, in my opinion, from 9-5. Everybody has individual circumstances and interests that might need them in the middle of the day,” said Chubb’s Jacob Snell.

Jessica Hewitt, a risk manager with natural gas company Encana, agreed, saying her view shifted after starting a family. “I genuinely love insurance, but for me, it shifted my perspective into work is something I do; it’s not somewhere I go,” she said. “I think it’s about having that flexibility. If I need to go home because I’ve got a sick kid or something, I have to be trusted, I think, to make sure I’m getting my job done.”

Build your brand

Brokers may not realize it, but they have a brand, and it’s built through networking and how they treat people.

“You have a brand that’s incredibly valuable. The committees you join, the charities you support, the teams that you’re on – that’s your brand,” said Paul Stone, vice president of national distribution engagement for sales and distribution at Travelers Canada at IBAO’s Young Broker Conference in June. “It’s also about sitting down with the leadership [of your brokerage] and looking for opportunities to enrich that brand. It’s asking questions and making sure you’re leveraging everything you can because everybody has a brand.”

When it comes to relationships, be it the CEO or someone in the mailroom, treat everyone the same, he added. “We hear these horror stories of someone dealing with someone at a certain level [and] they tore a strip off them. Don’t do it. It will haunt you. It will follow you. Your reputation is everything. Guard it. Promote it.”

Women speaking up

When Christine Lithgow was offered a position that was junior in comparison to the one she left six years prior after the birth of her first child, she had one simple response.

“I had to remind them: It was a baby that dropped out of my uterus, not my brain,” the chief executive officer of commercial risk solutions Canada at Aon Risk Solutions told attendees of the RIMS Canada conference in Edmonton in September.

It was an example of the challenges women face in the workforce and the insurance industry is no exception.

“The reality is, we need to call out the discrepancies and the inequalities [and] highlight the successes in order to promote and challenge and change,” said Sarah Robson, president and chief executive officer at Marsh Canada.

Bring them inside

When you’re trying to attract bright young talent, you can’t rest on your laurels, said John McNeil, co-ordinator of the Insurance Management Program at Humber College, at the Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association Claims Summit in Toronto.

Plastering your company name on the side of a building might be enough to attract attention, but that’s just the start. Bring students inside as well. “When they walk downtown on the weekend, they see all of your signs on the buildings and they wonder what it looks like on the inside,” McNeil said.

Host a field trip. Let them get an idea of what it looks like in the halls, how people interact and the diversity, just to name a few.

Deconstructing insurance

Insurers need to think differently about how they sell insurance. Given the gig economy and one-off life events, people want coverage for specific activities, not an umbrella policy.

“We got to think about deconstructing insurance into different components instead of having it all bundled together into a big policy,” said Denise Garth, senior vice president of strategic marketing at Majesco at the recent Executive Forum in Toronto in August.

Young people also want value added services, like home maintenance and repair. “These are things that are not traditionally thought of as an insurance product,” Garth said. Adding those products to a policy creates more ways to engage with them and show value, she added. It create a different kind of insurance experience.

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