This article was produced in partnership with Intact Insurance.
Bethan Moorcraft, of Insurance Business, sat down with Al Schill, president of Schill Insurance, and Jeremy Green, regional vice president, British Columbia, Intact Insurance, to discuss a unique insurance brokerage and its winning philosophy.
An “athlete first and scholar second,” Al Schill (pictured), president of Schill Insurance, knows how important it is to build a culture that will “get the right players on the team”. The well-known phrase “insurance is a people business” rings true for the second-generation, family-owned brokerage in British Columbia, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in February 2022.
The brokerage follows a “Schillosophy” with one core goal: to make customers feel good. While many people think of insurance as a necessary evil – a bit like taxes – the team at Schill are trying to change that narrative.
“We’re not selling; we’re providing advice to clients,” said Schill, who leads the brokerage alongside his brothers Matt and Jarett. “Our responsibility is to educate them. We want to provide clarity to the client about what can affect them and about how it needs to be covered. When they’re all done, we want them to have the confidence to be able to go and live their lives, and not be waking up at night thinking about the ‘What ifs?’”
It is a noble “Schillosophy” and one that can only be fulfilled by an engaged and empowered workforce. This has been a focus for Schill Insurance since day one. Schill explained: “We hire great people, and then we get out of the way and allow them to do great things. We really encourage engagement and for everyone to have a voice. Everybody in our organization is super important. They all play different roles, but every role is important to the goals that we’re chasing.”
Schill Insurance’s core values differentiate the brokerage in the marketplace, according to Jeremy Green, regional vice president, British Columbia, Intact Insurance.
“They’re clearly driven by their values, and they have a strong service culture,” said Green. “We know they’re committed to providing their customers with very high levels of service from the moment the customer walks in their door, all the way through the claims process. They put a lot of value on their relationships with their customers, the markets they work with, their vendors, and all of their stakeholders. We consider Schill Insurance to be a model insurance brokerage.”
A focused growth strategy
Compared to some of its competitors, Schill Insurance has stayed “close to home” through its 50-year history. Since 1972, the brokerage has grown from a small, one-person office in Port Coquitlam, B.C., to eleven offices located across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
“From minute one, we’ve been very focused on growth and becoming a bigger and better brokerage – but we don’t want to grow at all costs,” Schill told Insurance Business. “Our approach has been very focused. Through acquisition, for example, we’re looking for new products to add to or augment our offerings, new insurance partners who can add to our capacity, and of course, new talent.”
What Green admires about Schill Insurance’s acquisition strategy is “the weight they put on organizational fit”. Schill himself admitted that the brokerage has walked away from deals because the cultures didn’t align.
“When they’ve done acquisitions, we’ve witnessed and we’ve heard about how those teams are treated with a high level of respect, both during and after the purchase,” said Green. “That shows incumbent owners that their staff are going to be well looked after once the deal is closed. There are different types of acquisition strategies in the industry. Schill Insurance is cautious, but it does it very, very well.”
While Schill Insurance could quite easily follow the M&A trend and sell to a large private-equity-backed buyer, the brokerage has instead chosen to stay true to its roots – specifically, to its people.
“As a leadership group, we love to develop our team,” said Schill. “We’re always trying to improve our talent, to watch them grow and see them take responsibility for their growth. When you see that steady improvement in action, and you see the pride and joy our people take out of that growth – that’s why we’re here. I don’t want that to go away. It’s a lot of fun, and I think that’s a piece that can be lost when you become part of a large organization.”
A unique talent solution
With such a laser focus on people, Schill Insurance has come up with a unique solution for talent attraction and retention – something that the industry at large has been struggling with for several years. With an eye to developing more grassroots talent, the brokerage hired a full-time director of training and development, who heads a department designed to offer internal training and development initiatives for all Schill Insurance employees.
Schill described the education program as “a massive project,” but said it’s already showing results. He added: “I think most brokers of our size wouldn’t see that as a worthy investment, but we just couldn’t see any way not to do it. It’s not a revenue generating position, but it absolutely is crucial to our success in the future.”
Green has witnessed how the leadership team at Schill Insurance strives to educate their employees. He said that whenever Intact launches a new broker training session, or a new product, Schill Insurance is always very quick to sign up their team to learn more.
“That is unique,” said Green. “They’re focused on making sure their employees are educated and knowledgeable in all aspects of the business, and they clearly keep their teams engaged. We see this in the results of our interactions with their staff on a daily basis. That has resulted in a strong partnership, rooted in mutual respect, collaboration, open and timely communication, and a shared desire to always put the customer first.
“Our staff enjoys working with Schill Insurance. When everybody likes to work together, and can collaborate with very clear communication, it’s the customer who wins at the end of the day. That’s what makes Schill Insurance unique, and we’re proud to partner with them.”