Brokers on Underwriters 2023

Underwriting excellence

The 2023 IBC Brokers on Underwriters awards commend 45 outstanding Canadian insurance professionals persevering in a challenging field. They are all making profitable decisions, as well as delivering outstanding customer service to brokers and internal stakeholders. 
“Being an underwriter is not an easy job,” says Sylvester Slowakiewicz, director of personal lines at Billyard Insurance Group. “Almost every interaction, be that a call, email or in-person conversation, involves processing a large amount of information and making conclusive decisions within very short timeframes.” 

Hundreds of Canadian brokers participated in IBC’s survey, sharing their exclusive insight into what they want from underwriting partners. The chart below details what’s most important to them. 


“We want to spend the time and help them understand the risks that are in front of them and help them make sure they get the right coverages”
Alexander Blair-Johns, Signal Underwriting Alexander Blair-Johns, Signal Underwriting


Communication wins business

The top factor in determining if underwriters could earn more business from brokers is making communication a priority. 

Morgan Roberts, director of Ontario for RH Insurance, says a top-performing underwriter “should be a person who is able to answer any question and go through coverages that a client may need”. She adds that “a great broker-underwriter relationship is key”. 

This theme is emphasized by broker Laura Sauer of Alex Berthelot Insurance Brokers, who details what she wants. “Good or bad, I prefer to talk to my underwriter,” she says. “Less automated and more one-on-one calls.” 

This is continued by Tino Buntic, associate broker at Sound Insurance Services, who comments that what matters to him is for the underwriter to “be available to answer phone calls”. 

Some providers use online means to aid communication, but this tactic isn’t popular with IBC’s survey respondents. 

Commercial broker Peter Krizanac of Acumen Insurance Group explains, “Insurers need to hire more staff to facilitate turnaround times and less focus on broker portals.” 

Award winner Linden Kerr, managing director of Forward Insurance, a company that specializes in construction, offers an insight into why she is being honoured and has responded to what brokers want.  

“As underwriters, we’re here to support our brokers, and remembering there’s a live human at the end of that submission or the referral or that email,” she says. “Providing great service to them means you roll up your sleeves, you stay late to get that quote out, you pick up the phone while you’re eating your lunch, you read that email before you get into the office.” 

Being available to communicate and respond to brokers in a timely fashion isn’t easy, but for Kerr it’s a necessary part of the job. 

“The most important thing to mention about being a really good underwriter for your brokers is the hard work that comes with it,” she says. 

Summing up the frustration that brokers can encounter, Fred Legace of Kamloops Insurance Services details his peers’ expectations of quality service. “These days, the ability to pick up the phone to ask questions is primary. So many underwriters are hiding behind a corporate communication firewall.” 

Winner Connie Givelas, senior property casualty underwriter with Special Risk Insurance Managers (SRIM), makes a point of being reachable and understanding what brokers want. She says, “I answer my phone, which is unusual these days. I return voicemails and, most importantly, I treat my brokers as I would want to be treated.” 

“I answer my phone, which is unusual these days. I return voicemails and, most importantly, I treat my brokers as I would want to be treated”
 Connie Givelas, Special Risk Insurance Managers 


Personal touch and turnaround 

Brokers continually re-evaluate how they interact with their underwriting partners. 

A major issue is turnaround time, with 74% of IBC’s respondents reporting that it has either improved or remained the same over the last 12 months. 



Another key fulcrum is an accommodation and a willingness to deal with individual broker circumstances. 

Krizanac explains what he expects in this area. “Someone who can be commercial but still maintain their integrity,” he says. “As brokers, we never want to feel like an underwriter is buying business or taking advantage of our trust.” 

There is a requirement to deal with brokers in a personalized fashion.  

Veralin Phillips-Michael, branch manager at First Foundation Insurance in Calgary, adds, “They should be willing to take each case individually and make a decision based on that case, not paint everybody with the same brush.” 

This is another area that Kerr underlines her credentials as a 2023 winner. “I know my wordings but I never make assumptions… Our partners are really knowledgeable about what goes on in the marketplace and the products they’re selling. So, when they’re giving me feedback on my wordings, or the interpretation, that is something I need to really tune up and listen to in order to be able to move forward with it.” 

Echoing this, Givelas says, “I love discussing new cases and possible scenarios with broker partners. I even guide them along the way with my underwriting knowledge so they’re aware of the risks involved with a particular class of business.” 

She adds, “I look at all risks. I approach them based on what is needed and how I best can accommodate that risk and ways to think outside the box to get them terms now.” 

Other survey respondents shed further light on the need for flexibility. 

Beverley Fox of Westland Insurance Services comments on the expectations among her colleagues of their underwriter. “Someone who understands the insurance world and can think outside the box.” 

Account manager at Nacora Insurance Brokers Robyn Caicedo further details that brokers value an “ability to negotiate and strategize when issues occur, and communication is open and honest.” 

Another winner, Alexander Blair-Johns, the CEO of Signal Underwriting, specializing in healthcare, underscores the importance of educating and accommodating brokers. “We want to spend the time and help them understand the risks that are in front of them and help them make sure they get the right coverages.” 

“As underwriters, we’re here to support our brokers, and remembering there’s a live human at the end of that submission or the referral or that email”
 Linden Kerr, Forward Insurance


Constant innovation  

IBC’s winners understand that staying ahead of the game is vital as if they stand still, brokers will find underwriters who are pushing forward. 


To win more business, Blair-Johns plans to keep up service levels, assisting brokers with placements, and knowledge transfer. “The other thing that we’re doing, we’re bringing new products to the market,” he says. “We have three or four new products that will be coming out in the next six months.” 

As Forward celebrates its first anniversary, Kerr says the company is being responsive, consistent, accessible, and competitive and is releasing 18 more products in the next year.  

At SRIM, Givelas is going to focus on maintaining mutual trust. “It is not enough to be very responsive anymore. It is about being solution driven,” she says. What is clear is that remaining a top-performing underwriter is a challenging and continuous process. 

This is encapsulated by Slowakiewicz, who adds, “Undoubtedly, it’s a demanding task, but if you approach brokers as your clients and the way you’d like to be treated as a client, you will quickly develop a reputation as the go-to industry expert and preferred business partner.” 


Brokers on Underwriters 2023

  • Alexander Blair-Johns
    CEO, Class Underwriter
    SIGNAL Underwriting
  • Amanda Settee
    Underwriting Specialist, Construction
    Zurich Insurance Company
  • Brad Clisdell
    P/C Midmarket Underwriter
    Aviva Canada
  • Carly Philps
    Senior Underwriter
  • Catherine Wu
    Senior Commercial Underwriter
  • Christine Lepore
    Senior Underwriter
    Travelers Canada
  • Connie Givelas
    Senior Property Casualty Underwriter
    Special Risk Insurance Managers
  • David Park
    Commercial Underwriter
    PMU Specialty Underwriting Managers
  • Dawn Morris
    Manager, Underwriting
    Billyard Insurance Group
  • Denise Lasiuk
    Cheif Technical Underwriter
    Equitable Life of Canada
  • Erin Clingwall
    Personal Lines Property
    SGI Canada
  • Gabriel Morneau
    Senior Vice President
    CHES Special Risk
  • James Pond Jones
    Vice President, Casualty and Environmental Liability
    i3 Underwriting
  • Jean Marsden
    PL Underwriter
    Peace Hills General Insurance
  • Jean Mullin
    Commercial Underwriter
    GFH Underwriting
  • Jennifer Scott
    Senior Field Underwriter
    CHES Special Risk
  • Joanna Yee
    Trading Underwriter
    Royal and Sun Alliance
  • Jo-Anne Thayer
    Senior Personal Lines Underwriter
    Intact Insurance
  • Joyce Rajadurai
    Senior Underwriter
    CHES Special Risk
  • Katherine Benton
    Underwriting Specialist
    Great American Insurance
  • Kelly McGuinness
    Team Lead Canada, Production Underwriting and Business Development (East)
  • Laura Stanley
    Senior Commercial Lines Underwriter
    Portage Mutual
  • Leah Vineberg
    Underwriter, Commercial Insurance
    Burns & Wilcox
  • Linden Kerr
    Managing Director
    Forward Insurance
  • Louise Dion
    Manager, Underwriting
  • Mark Morilla
    Senior Portfolio Underwriter
    Unica Insurance
  • Mark Paje
    Senior Casualty Underwriter
    Chutter Underwriting Services
  • Meagan Woensdregt
    Managing Director
    Lions Gate Underwriting
  • Megan Braun
    Residential Underwriter II
    Red River Mutual Insurance
  • Michelle Downes
    Senior Commercial Auto Underwriter
    Aviva Canada
  • Mike Wilkinson
    Underwriting Manager
    Starr Insurance and Reinsurance Limited
  • Morgan McBain
    Underwriter II
  • Nicole McLean
    Underwriter I, Commercial Lines
    Intact Insurance
  • Raquel Awad
    Associate Underwriter
    CNA Financial
  • Richard Karim
    Senior Underwriter
    ARAG Legal Solutions
  • Sarah Davies
    Supervisor of Operations
    GFH Underwriting
  • Serena Bosley
    Underwriting Assistant (Pl)
    Beacon Underwriting
  • Shelly Fedoruk
    PL Underwriter
    Peace Hills General Insurance
  • Shirley Standing
    Beacon Underwriting
  • Stacy Goddard
    Senior Underwriter
    Agile Underwriting Solutions
  • Steffi Lehman
    Team Lead & Personal Risk Services Senior Underwriter
    Chubb Vancouver
  • Steven Hrab
    Director, Construction
    Burns & Wilcox Canada
  • Tara Schlosser
    Commercial Lines Underwriter
  • Yar Ziolkowski
    Property & Casualty Specialist
    Sovereign General Insurance


To uncover the best underwriters in the Canadian insurance industry, the Insurance Business team undertook a rigorous marketing and survey process, leveraging its connections to brokers across the country. Brokers were asked to nominate their underwriters and rate them on six key criteria: communication, new business turnaround times, knowledge of their own products, knowledge of their competitors’ products, being solution-oriented, and ability to discuss new cases. Underwriters that were rated 80% or greater were named 5-Star Underwriters for 2023. 

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