An award-winning broker in Quebec who received RCCAQ’s Distinction Relève recognition for distinguished brokers in 2016, and landed on the Insurance Business Young Gun list in 2017, Maxime Poulin (pictured) got his career in insurance off the ground when he was hired as a trainee in underwriting at ING (today, Intact) in Montreal back in 2003. He climbed the ranks from there, becoming a junior underwriter and later, an intermediate underwriter in commercial lines.
The ability to take on responsibilities early on in his career kept Poulin interested in insurance.
“I think it’s very rare in an industry where you can have so much responsibility so fast. The opportunities are all there – it’s really for you to grab them and position yourself,” said Poulin, adding, “Whatever field or niche you’re interested in, they need insurance, so you can build on that and if you’re interested in an industry, the client is going to feel that, and they’re going to trust you and what you can offer them.”
While Poulin gained tons of experience during these years, and even took a stint in ING’s Halifax office to get exposure working in an English environment, he was ready for a change that would make his work more exciting. The insurance professional got another perspective on the industry when he started his new position at Compu-Quote (today, Applied Systems), working on business development in Eastern Canada.
“All brokers were using Compu-Quote at the time, so I was at the conventions, and I got to travel and visit most of the brokerages in Quebec and a lot in Eastern Canada. I was really able to establish my contacts, see different ways to operate, different sizes [of brokerages], and different types of coverages,” said Poulin, now the executive vice president and partner at Groupe Ostiguy & Gendron in Quebec. “It was interesting, but I found that as a provider, especially as an IT provider, you’re close to your brokers, but you’re not that involved in their day-to-day business, so I wanted to be closer to the brokers. At that time, I met someone at AXA, and then moved on to the business development team at AXA in Montreal.”
Involved in training, acquisitions, strategic development, and new products at AXA, Poulin was closer to the centre of the broker action, and developed a relationship with the Ostiguy & Gendron team. In 2012, Poulin became the business development manager at the brokerage before acquiring the firm in 2015 with three other partners.
Since then, his proudest accomplishment has been taking the office from 40 employees to 85 in a matter of three years, and building growth from around $35 million in premiums to $65 million, while expanding from one office to five across Canada.
“It’s easy to have a vision, it’s easy to make plans, but to really execute them and deliver on them, that’s another thing. So far, we’ve been able to deliver, whether it was to our markets or our employees or financial partners,” said Poulin.
Planning out the brokerage’s growth meant zeroing in on niches and specialties in order to stay competitive and relevant in the commercial insurance space.
“As a commercial-focused broker, we find that the marketplace is going to keep evolving and we want to stay pertinent to our clients and to our markets. For us, the way to do that is to build expertise, and the way to build expertise is to focus on niches, so we made strategic acquisitions in trucking, aviation, and surety to bring expertise,” he explained.
Looking out for acquisition partners that fit with the brokerage’s vision is part of the process, but so is the post-acquisition task of helping teams succeed and making sure that these insurance professionals continue doing what they love, whether it’s being in the field with clients or training new employees. The acquisition needs to be win-win, according to Poulin.
“When we buy offices, we want to keep the staff because we’re buying the expertise,” he told Insurance Business. “We’re paying for the expertise, we’re paying for the people, so we really want to make sure that at the end of the transaction, they’re still on board with us, and they’re going to be happy and can see themselves with the Ostiguy & Gendron group.”