Being CEO is no walk in the park. Commitment and consistency are just the beginning of the skills needed to foster the success of a company, and the Canadian insurance industry has some of the best examples of what it takes to sit at the top.
LowestRates.ca is the presenting sponsor for the CEO of the Year at this year’s Insurance Business Canada Awards (IBCAs) and CEO Justin Thouin chatted with Insurance Business about the details of his own journey.
After working for an online gambling company in the UK for almost a decade, Thouin could not help but notice the uniquity of financial rate comparisons, and the lack of rate comparison sites in the Canadian market.
“I saw the power of companies that leverage technology to provide convenient solutions that consumers love,” he said.
Thinking about his next steps, Thouin left his former role and returned to Canada knowing there were massive savings to be made, which is how LowestRates.ca was born.
“It was a steep learning curve when the company started. We were starting from scratch with limited insurance knowledge or industry contacts, but I saw the ability to build a very profitable company,” he explained.
Thouin noted that one of the biggest lessons he’s learned as a leader is saying ‘no’. “You must be very strategic in terms of how you deploy capital. There’s a lot of good ideas but you have to say ‘no’ to most of them,” he noted. “Staying focused and saying ‘no’ very often was exceptionally important to our successful growth.”
Once the LowestRates.ca team chose the areas they wanted to focus on, the next phase was all about execution.
“There’s no substitute for hard work. You have to make sacrifices and work exceptionally hard,” Thouin mentioned. “I didn’t view LowestRates.ca as a job, it was my life, which is a key foundational concept that contributes to the success of the company.”
When it came to building his team, Thouin looked for people with a fire in their belly that show up to work every single day with the goal of making a difference. With an eye for recruiting talent, the CEO said LowestRates.ca’s driven and dedicated team ultimately contributes to the success of the company.
“When we first started, we couldn’t compete with salary or perks but what we could compete with, was creating an environment where people can feel like their work is meaningful,” he said. “I look for attitude and natural aptitude more than specific skills. Skills can always be taught, passion can’t.”
The goal of the company was to help Canadians make better financial decisions and Thouin’s company has been able to save Canadians over a billion dollars since its inception.
“Moving forward we would love to save Canadians a billion dollars per year,” he added. “We also want to continue working with as many direct-to-consumer insurance companies and brokerages as possible to be the best option for the industry when it comes to acquiring new business at scale.”
Thouin also emphasized the importance of being honest with his staff and treating people the way you would expect to be treated.
“That’s what everyone needs. Building up a foundational level of trust helps overcome any obstacles that may arise along the way,” he added. “My biggest hallmark is my transparency. You always know exactly where we stand. It makes for great leadership and great relationships throughout an organization.”
Read next: The importance of trust in turbulent times
“When it comes to Canadian insurance, I think leaders who are going to push for innovation will end up on top,” said Thouin. “The focus of innovation should be on consumer delight, and we use technology to drive some of that delight and make the process of buying insurance surprisingly painless, and maybe even pleasant.”