Navacord values what diverse leaders bring to the table

"It doesn't matter if you're male or female – you feel supported because you're listened to," says VP

Navacord values what diverse leaders bring to the table

Insurance News

By Alicja Grzadkowska

The Canadian insurance industry continues to struggle with reaching gender parity in its leadership ranks, which doesn’t bode well for innovation. Research from Harvard Business Review has revealed that diverse teams are more effective at solving challenges, as well as reaching diverse markets and customer segments.

Against this backdrop, leaders that are part of the Navacord family of brokerages have discovered workplaces where their expertise and insights are valued, and where they have plenty of opportunities to thrive, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit that Navacord fosters, as well as the training that it provides.

When Patty McNeil, today the vice president of commercial insurance at Jones DesLauriers, a Navacord broker partner, came on board at the company, she found an organization that supports all leaders. She first started in the industry working in the niche area of pet health insurance, before taking a break to get married and have kids. A few years down the road, she went through a divorce and needed to go back to work full-time. As she looked back on her previous roles, she realized that insurance had served her well, so she returned to the industry, working on the commercial insurance side for a carrier, and quickly moved up the ladder, eventually becoming senior vice president for another independent broker, when she decided it was time for another opportunity.

“I’m a major advocate for my own career… and I started entertaining some different opportunities. One of them was Jones DesLauriers,” explained McNeil. “Eric Osborne, the president and CEO today, reached out to me via LinkedIn to meet for a coffee, and [later] I met with many of the other senior leaders at Jones DesLauriers. At the end of the day, it ended up being the right place for my next move.”

Like McNeil, Jennifer Adams, today the vice president of commercial lines at Waypoint Insurance, another Navacord broker partner, found her way to the brokerage after a long career in insurance, though one that had a few speedbumps along the way. For example, the brokerage she was working at as a director when she left to have children put her right back into account administration when she wanted to come back, leaving her to start her career from scratch – this despite the fact that she had, in the meantime, spent four years working in England with a Lloyd’s broker.

After stints at several large insurers, Adams was hired at Waypoint in 2017, where she started as a branch manager. At this brokerage, she found no lack of opportunities to climb the leadership ladder. A year and a half later, she was running the commercial sales team in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Four months after that, Adams took on the role of commercial lines sales and development manager, which she held until this year, when she started overseeing all of commercial lines at Waypoint. “I love the fact I’ve been given this opportunity,” said Adams.

Over the past three years at Waypoint, the VP has received tons of support from leadership at the brokerage.

“Our CEO is really supportive and that helps. When you have a direct line right into the CEO to make decisions, you can fully articulate your needs,” Adams said, adding that Waypoint is also able to stay nimble with its decision-making and has less red tape than other larger brokerages, while also having access to the national strength and resources of Navacord.

The organization is likewise attuned to its financial performance and while it places a huge amount of trust in its leaders, that doesn’t come without hard work.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into proving that we’re profitable,” said Adams. “Every quarter, we do a lengthy quarterly review, followed by budgeting at the end of the year, which is extensive. It’s a great exercise because it allows you to stay on top of your department … and there’s been some great training that Navacord has given to us, as far as making us even more aware of where we are every quarter.”

On the other hand, McNeil is still relatively new to her role at the brokerage. She’s been with Jones DesLauriers for around nine months, but, over this time, she’s been busy fostering a team spirit among the commercial staff as the brokerage experienced some of the most successful new business months in its history, all while the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have unfolded not-so-quietly in the background. In the meantime, McNeil has been surrounded by a diverse group of leaders and has felt the support emanating from top brass.

“At Jones DesLauriers, the leader of personal lines and the leader of commercial insurance are both women. When I look at the account directors that report to me and who have people reporting to them, most of them are women,” said McNeil. “So, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female – you feel supported because you’re listened to. My expertise is valuable, and I’m relied upon for good advice, for big thinking, for the nitty-gritty, for negotiation skills – I’m valued for what I bring to the table.”

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