Rising Stars 2022

Bound for greatness

There’s plenty of reasons to be excited about the future of Canada’s insurance industry. 

And they are the 46 young people, aged 35 or under, who were awarded the 2022 IBC Rising Stars awards. To determine the winners, a renowned panel of judges reviewed the candidates’ roles, achievements, goals and contributions to the industry, as well as recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals. 

The Rising Stars are bridging technological changes and promoting work-life balance, while progressing and understanding an industry that has historic ways of operating. 

“I believe that we will still need a steady flow of new Gen Z workers as the baby boomer generation begins to reach retirement to ensure that our industry keeps growing”
Emily Flanigan, Agile Underwriting Solutions

 

 

One winner, Emily Flanigan, says, “The younger generation is very culture focused. We are tech savvy and value work-life balance a lot. We’re also very ambitious and adaptable, so we’re ready for change.” 

While fellow winner Uzair Zamir revealed his success is tied to relating to his clients. He explains, “I believe everyone in the industry is working hard to make their mark but a few things which make me a niche is building a unique relationship with the clients, developing a personal style and understanding their needs. In addition to this, I focus more on educating the client on what they are paying for rather than how much they are paying.” 

 

Tomorrow’s leaders

The number of seniors (65 and over) is growing six times faster than the number of children (0 to 14) in Canada. Even worse, the number of Canadians approaching retirement has never been higher, with more than one in five (21.8%) people of working age between 55 and 64, according to Statistics Canada. 

As such, the insurance industry is engaged in a revolving-door replacement scenario: young folks coming in and older folks going out. Unemployment was at 4.9% in July 2022 – the lowest ever on record – giving younger job seekers the upper hand. 

Flanigan, a commercial underwriter for Agile Underwriting Solutions in Nova Scotia, is one who has seized that opportunity. She has been in the industry for three years, starting as an underwriting assistant. Her achievements include implementing an exclusive underwriting program and product, as well as being among the top five new business production underwriters on the Agile team.  

“As per the Insurance Institute’s demographics report, millennials have made up the largest portion of the P&C industry over the past couple of years,” says Flanigan, a young millennial herself at 28. “I believe that we will still need a steady flow of new Gen Z workers as the baby boomer generation begins to reach retirement to ensure that our industry keeps growing.” 

Explaining why Flanigan has managed to stand out, Agile Underwriting Solutions senior vice president Matt Ripley says, “Emily has all the traits one would look for in a future leader.” He went on to explain that it’s her desire and ambition to push on that really impressed. “She has consistently outperformed her new business targets finishing the year among the top three new business producers within Agile Underwriting Solutions across Canada,” adds Ripley. “In her short time in the role of Commercial Underwriter, Emily has established an exclusive welding program that will earn over $1M+ GWP in its first year and recently developed a new residential realty program in Atlantic Canada.” 

Part of Flanigan’s success appears to be down to her understanding and keenness to learn lessons from more experienced colleagues. “A great workplace is a diverse workplace where it’s inclusive and each person can bring positive things to the table,” says Flanigan. “It’s also a good idea to get into the industry now, when the baby boomer generation is still here, so we can learn from them.” 

“Consumer behaviour has been changing for all generations, requiring businesses to be more efficient and utilize technology”
Patrick Tapuska, Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services

 

The difference makers

Patrick Tapuska, another winner, is a commercial broker for Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services in Alberta and agrees with his colleague.  

Of the baby boomer generation, Tapuska acknowledges they are the original titans of industry who are now looking to retirement and to pass along their wealth of knowledge to the younger generation of industry professionals like himself. 

That attitude is why he has facilitated the placement of insurance business that has resulted in a combined premium volume of more than $5 million GWP over the past year. 

Senior director of marketing at Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services Colin Wight, recalls a memorable moment when he realised Tapuska was a Rising Star. He says, “In one specific circumstance, our premium was over 15% more than what the prospect had currently been paying, but with Patrick's assistance, the importance of the coverage benefits was effectively communicated to the prospect and we ultimately won their business.” 

More words of praise come from the firm’s managing partner Brent Williams. Of Tapuska, he adds, “He's been an exemplary employee, extremely hard working and dedicated, and has a very bright future in this industry and he's helped our office grow by 40%, year over year. He's been a huge part of our success, and we definitely hope he makes our office his home until retirement.” 

Aged 28, Tapuska is also another young millennial who characterizes his generation as seeking a more equitable work-life balance.  

In addition, he sees younger professionals as most likely to adapt the industry to meet the demands of modern consumers.  

“Consumer behaviour has been changing for all generations, requiring businesses to be more efficient and utilize technology,” he explains. “The younger generation of insurance brokers is being expected to adapt the industry to be more user-friendly, as well as to be accessible through the use of social media and other electronic media platforms.” 


Proving that point, the insurtech market is projected to be worth more than $152 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research, fuelled in part by the demand to streamline. In addition to fully digital experiences helping to eliminate a lot of frustrating paperwork, younger consumers are seeking new coverage, such as pet and tech gadget insurance, as well as greater personalization and flexibility, according to Early Metrics. 

Then there is 25-year-old winner Kiran Kaur, who is described as “extraordinary” for her performance as a broker at Billyard Insurance Group Mississauga East. The company’s business development manager Tina Tomaszewski says, “Kiran has added a great value to our branch and the organization as a whole. As a high-volume broker, she has paved the way for many new young brokers and has helped them see what it takes to be great like her.” 

Also highlighted was her ambition to be the best. “Kiran is more focused and motivated than most. She is very dedicated to personal growth and investment,” Tomaszewski adds. “Another important thing to mention is though Kiran is a new broker, she has a great ratio of business. Most young and new brokers take the easy route and write auto and tenant policies, but Kiran mostly writes auto and home, and commercial policies. She really is one of a kind.” 

“I focus more on educating the client on what they are paying for rather than how much they are paying”
Uzair Zamir, Billyard Insurance Group Etobicoke

 

 

Attracting the next generation

Learning from more-experienced colleagues is good in principle, but you still need to get the younger generation through the door. 

A viewpoint that may attract others comes from Zamir, a sales manager with Billyard Insurance Group Etobicoke, who underlines the satisfaction of delivering results. “I chose a career in the insurance industry for numerous reasons, new challenges every day, large social life/circle and most importantly the satisfaction of helping the community,” he says. 

Zamir’s colleague Manal Mansha underlines how important he is for their business’ ability to attract new recruits. She explains, “He has plans to promote youth’s success by hiring young folks with determined and enthusiastic personalities and training them under his mentorship to the extent that it would help them in becoming successful young professionals.” 

Flanigan emphasizes the importance of getting people while they’re still undecided about their career paths, targeting high schools and job fairs to showcase the importance of the industry. That will help them envisage what their future could be.  

She also feels that there could also be an improvement in job posts, noting that they should explicitly highlight that the industry is large and offers many different and engaging opportunities.  

“It’s also important to highlight our industry social events for networking and show that it’s a very fun industry to be in,” she adds. “There’s lots to do and lots of people to meet.” 

Tapuska agrees that Flanigan’s idea of attracting candidates early could help turn insurance in Canada and the US from something that you “just fall into” into a more aspirational profession, such as finance or law.  

“It would be more of ‘they’re actually here to provide a service to protect my property, to protect my interests,’” says Tapuska. “They’re not just in it to sell me something and then move on; they’re actually a caring professional who is interested in my well-being.” 

He also advocates for an increase in ex gratia payments to help foster a sense of benevolence and to facilitate better responses to natural disasters.  

As Glen Hopkinson, senior vice president and head of claims Canada, AXA XL, recently said in an article on axaxl.com, “Once [you get a young person] in the door, lock it!” (He was joking.)  

“[It’s important to show them that] it is an industry that is beneficial to the breadth of a career,” he says. “It’s buildable. And it is rewarding. For those who join me in a career in claims, they will find it is so incredibly satisfying to provide superior customer service in a time of need. They will come to appreciate that when we are dealing with customers, they are in a time of need. Our customers will be dealing with a significant property loss, an injury, or they may be named in a lawsuit. It is our job to help them navigate these uncharted waters and, when we do so successfully, it is very rewarding.” 

 

Millennial wisdom

Sadly, there are many stereotypes that still linger like younger people are spoiled, lazy and can’t be separated from their cell phones, or older folks are stuck in the past and can’t comprehend what Wi-Fi is. 

Rebecca Collins, president of Search4U Insurance Recruiters, has dealt largely with candidates in their late 20s and early 30s and has had mixed experiences with younger recruits. 

“I have actually spoken to candidates who are like, ‘I don't want to be at work earlier than 10 a.m.,’” she says. “‘I will only work from home. I want this much money.’ When it comes to putting in the work to climb the ladder or to get to where they want to be, they just don’t want to do it. They want everything handed to them on a silver platter.” 

Some of the Rising Stars have their own thoughts on these perceptions and impressions. 

First, Gen Z. Flanigan characterizes them as culture-oriented, tech-savvy individuals who value their leisure time. Tapuska says, “[Gen Z] requires greater mental health initiatives and work-life balance from their employers. [They look] to have business transacted using more technology but sometimes lack the understanding that business, in order to be successful, has to be transacted in person with long hours required to get the job completed.” 

Second, millennials. “They are ambitious, adaptable and agile,” explains Flanigan. Tapuska feels like they’re less motivated by money and more focused on work-life balance. While younger generations may feel frustrated by the slow pace of development in the insurance industry, says Collins, they could benefit greatly from developing patience and realizing that it takes years to reach senior positions.  

Third, Gen X. For Flanigan, they are good and motivated leaders, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. “They are highly motivated by financial gain. But with most having children in the Gen Z working demographic, they are also pushing for the workplace to be more adaptive to the use of technology, as well as mental health care,” says Tapuska.

Fourth, baby boomers. “They are loyal and company focused,” says Flanigan. “In the end, a great workplace is a diverse workplace as each brings something positive to the table.”  

 

Rising Stars 2022

  • Adam Shibuya
    Senior Underwriting Specialist, Management Liability
    Liberty Mutual Canada
  • Adrian Dacanay
    Director of Operations
    Ai Insurance Organization
  • Alex Hillhouse
    Personal Lines Sales Team Leader
    Mitch Insurance
  • Alexandra Dube Lorrain
    AVP, Head of Specialty Claims
    Liberty Mutual Canada
  • Alyssa Fandrick
    Commercial Support Broker
    Long Lake Insurance
  • Anna Rickard
    Signature Service Manager
    Rogers Insurance
  • Brandon Hocking
    Commercial Lines Account Executive
    Schill Insurance Brokers
  • Brynja Clipsham
    Senior Underwriter
    Vailo Insurance Services
  • Caryn Stepp
    Branch Manager
    Long Lake Insurance
  • Dale Abrams
    President
    Abrams Financial
  • David Blanchard
    Manager, Product and Platform
    Travelers Canada
  • Derek Anderson
    Senior Business Development Representative
    Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company
  • Derek Lothian
    President and CEO
    Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan
  • Emily Flanigan
    Commercial Underwriter
    Agile Underwriting Solutions
  • Ernest Mashingaidze
    Claims Adjuster, Strategic Products
    Insurance Institute of Canada
  • Isabelle Landry
    Account Manager
    Ostiguy & Gendron
  • Janu Debalathas
    Business Development Manager
    APOLLO Insurance
  • Jasmine Sun
    Junior Underwriter, Equipment Breakdown
    Sovereign Insurance
  • Jay Jeworski
    Senior Loss Adjuster
    Charles Taylor Adjusting
  • Joanne Bowles
    Senior Account Manager
    Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services
  • John Ohorodnyk
    Senior Account Executive and Production Leader
    HUB International
  • Joyce Rajadurai
    Senior Underwriter
    CHES Special Risk
  • Keely Thompson
    SR Commercial Broker
    Long Lake Insurance
  • Kerris Lawlor
    Associate Underwriter
    Burns & Wilcox
  • Kiran Kaur
    Insurance Broker
    Billyard Insurance Group - Mississauga East
  • Kyle Anderson
    Commercial Account Associate
    Johnston Meier Insurance Agencies Group
  • Leena Malik
    Senior Underwriter, Commercial Insurance
    Burns & Wilcox
  • Leonora Keenan
    Senior Claims Associate
    Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
  • Lynn Mawunganidze
    Manager, Claims Policy and Standards
    Pacific Blue Cross
  • Madeline Potter
    Operations and Human Resources
    Beyond Insurance
  • Marisa Berezowski
    Senior Broker, Financial Services Group
    Aon
  • Matthew Carr
    President
    Gifford Carr Insurance Brokers Group
  • Melissa Woods
    Commercial Lines Underwriter
    Portage Mutual Insurance Company
  • Michael Anderson
    Director, Operations
    Begin Insurance
  • Natalie Langdon
    Underwriter
    CHES Special Risk
  • Parin Meehallage
    Manager, Operations and Innovation
    Liberty Mutual Canada
  • Patrick Smoke
    Partner
    Apex Surety & Insurance
  • Patrick Tapuska
    Commercial Broker
    Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services (Alberta)
  • Ray Rowe
    Supervisor, Underwriting - Commercial Lines
    Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company
  • Samir Amiri
    Training and Quality Assurance Specialist
    Marsh Canada
  • Thomas Watson
    Owner
    Guardsman Insurance Services
  • Tiffany Stathopoulos
    Marketing Manager, Personal Insurance
    Gore Mutual Insurance Company

Methodology

Starting in May, IBC invited insurance professionals across the country to nominate their most exceptional young talent for the annual Rising Stars list.
 
Nominees had to be aged 35 or under (as of August 30, 2022) and be committed to a career in insurance with a clear passion for the industry. In order to maintain a focus on new talent, only nominees who hadn’t been previously recognized as an IBC Rising Star (or Young Gun) were considered.
 
Nominees were asked about their current role, key achievements and career goals, as well as the contributions they’ve made to shaping the industry. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account. The final list of 46 Rising Stars was determined by an independent panel of industry leaders composed of:
 
Asima Zahid, Director of Market Development, Lloyd's Canada
Sheldon Williams, Chair, CABIP
Vinita Jajware-Beatty, President, TIWA
Shirley Chisholm, President, EWIIN
 
The Rising Stars 2022 report is proudly supported by the Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals (CABIP), Toronto Insurance Women’s Association (TIWA) and Ebony Women International Insurance Network (EWIIN).