What makes an Insurance Business Canada Awards winner?

Victors share their secrets to success

What makes an Insurance Business Canada Awards winner?

Insurance News

By Jen Frost

Nominees and winners of this year’s Insurance Business Canada (IBC) Awards 2022 gathered at the Liberty Grand in Toronto on November 17 for the first time since 2019. Speaking to Insurance Business Canada at the event, many category winners appeared to feel they had things in common that set them apart in very competitive fields.

Aviva’s sustainability efforts and community focus were likely drivers of its triumph as P&C Insurer of the Year, said Court Elliott, Aviva SVP corporate affairs.

“We’re constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to things like sustainability; we’re constantly out there, growing and evolving and investing in the community,” he said.

Community was of vital importance for many winners – “for us it’s all about community,” said a Desjardins representative – and they said they believed that giving back and getting involved had helped set their entries apart.

“I hope this demonstrates that it doesn’t really matter how small or big you are, you can make a difference in your community and around the world,” said Brian Schryer, CEO of family-owned New Brunswick based Kent & White Insurance, winner of the Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility category.

A focus on bringing great service to clients in what can be a challenging environment was also highlighted as winning material. Inclusive cultures, and talent more broadly, were also of importance for winners when weighing up their victory.

Enabling people to bring their “authentic” selves to work and putting time into “building an inclusive culture” was key for CNA, said Terri Mason-Benjamin, CNA VP, marketing and distribution, Canada.

“We’ve obviously seen exponential growth over the last number of years but the thing that does it for us is we have, I believe, some of the best people in the business, and we’re having fun, and we’re a family and everybody’s in this together,” said Stephen Billyard, president of Billyard Insurance Group (BIG), winner in the big brokerage of the year category.

“We’ve got a lot of young people, with a great management team underneath us that helps us in pushing this every day, and we’ve got a lot of good insurance company partners,” said CJ Nolan, CEO and president of Munn Insurance, named brokerage of the year (10 to 100 staff).

Individual winners all had their own stories and different paths to achievement.

For Sukhdeep Kang, Armour Insurance Brokers CEO, being a “woman generally in insurance” can pose its challenges, being a “brown woman” at times even more so. Kang, who has led Armour since 2010, was named Leader of Change for her efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Winning the award “gives me more responsibility to bring change, not only in my office but across the industry, and to bring more diversity,” Kang said.

“It’s always been that the journey is more important than the destination for me,” said Asima Zahid, Lloyd’s director of market development, winner of the Business Development Manager of the Year award.

As for what sets her apart, Zahid said: “Regardless of how a broker fits in with the Lloyd’s proposition, I always try to help them, even going outside of what is required.”

Tiffany Reider, Westland manager of client experience and Insurance Broker of the Year, reflected on a “whirlwind” year in which with her family brokerage Reider Insurance was snapped up by Westland.

“Going from eight offices in Manitoba to now a national company is a huge change, and it’s an honour to be able to represent Manitoba and Westland,” she said.

“I used to think kindness was an underrated virtue,” said Amy Stiller, Northbridge underwriting specialist and Underwriter of the Year. “But I do think that’s what makes me stand out from other people – empathy and a willingness to help.”

Insurance is “your bread and butter”, said Young Achiever of the Year Reygel Robles, JEM Insurance Group insurance broker, and to succeed you must learn “not only the products but also the passion for the business”.

Well on the way to having steered the mutual through its three-year “unprecedented” transformation plan, Gore Mutual CEO Andy Taylor was named CEO of the year.

“It’s really a reflection of the incredible leadership team that I have, the supportive board that we have behind us, and, most importantly, the amazing employees that come to work every day at Gore Mutual,” Taylor said after the event.

It was a big year for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, with outgoing IBC president CEO Don Forgeron, who is retiring, having received the Lifetime Achievement Award and incoming CEO Celyeste Power, currently IBC EVP of strategic initiatives and advocacy, named Woman of Distinction.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to continue to represent this industry in this new role [at the IBC],” Power said.

“The future’s looking very, very good by the looks of this room tonight.”

Given winners’ focuses on talent, community, passion, diversity, culture, and service, it was perhaps no surprise that members of the insurance industry said they were “delighted” to be back together to celebrate for the first in person IBC Awards in three years.

“It’s been great and fantastic to be back in person – finally,” said Burns & Wilcox Canada VP and director, commercial insurance Tyson Peel. “You definitely need to be back all the time!”

It was “absolutely wonderful” to be back to celebrate in person, said Advocis president and CEO Greg Pollock.

“This actually is a relationship business,” Pollock said. “The old adage is that insurance is not bought, it is sold – and it’s true, because people don’t always recognize that they need these kinds of solutions to help them with their futures.”

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