Why leader swapped insurer for broking role

Why leader swapped insurer for broking role | Insurance Business Canada

Why leader swapped insurer for broking role

Emily Horsman was revealed as NFP head of Canadian broking this month, joining the business from Markel Canada where she was vice president, alternative distribution. She spoke to Insurance Business about her new role and why the race for talent is one of the biggest challenges facing brokers today.

NFP has racked up acquisitions in recent years, having bagged 10 businesses in Canada since 2018, including Foster Park Brokers, Ogilvy Insurance, and McLean Hallmark. In the past two months, meanwhile, it has announced a refreshed Canada leadership team. It has also made key hires, of which Horsman is one.

Read more: NFP names new head of Canadian national broking

Horsman was not looking to leave her previous role at insurer Markel, she told Insurance Business, but when the NFP opportunity came up it “felt like a fit pretty much from the start.”

“To come into this role at a time when a company with so much potential is building its path forward and determining the steps to get there, and to be a part of shaping that, is not an opportunity that really comes up every day,” Horsman said.

“In addition, the leadership team that John Haas assembled has an exciting vision, and it includes talented professionals, some of whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with previously – this made joining NFP even better.”

Read more: An eye for expertise: A look into NFP’s M&A strategy

Horsman had previously swapped between broking and underwriting roles, having worked at Aon Reed Stenhouse, ACE INA, and Willis Towers Watson (now WTW).

This has given her the opportunity to see from “both sides of the carrier-broker equation” and get a better understanding of not just the successes but the pain points that both types of business face.

“It helps with difficult conversations in knowing where both parties are coming from to help both in finding solutions where possible or moving forward to find other ways that we can work together that maybe haven’t been considered,” Horsman said.

Focus areas

Her first focus area in the new role is on what a national broking platform should look like.

“I’m really fortunate to be able to work with [the current team] to connect further nationally and to determine what we want that to look like as we continue our focus on clients,” Horsman said.

Ensuring that NFP’s strategy is clearly communicated to insurer partners is another of Horsman’s key focus areas, as the broker looks to broaden its offering for clients and build on current products.

Horsman said her third focus area was around her own personal development. Having come from a mainly property & casualty commercial background, Horsman said she was looking forward to learning more about other products that NFP offers.

“Personal lines is a great example of this,” Horsman said. “I’m looking at setting up a ‘how does personal lines work 101’.”

Broker market challenges

For Horsman, a major challenge facing brokers today is attracting the best talent.

“Finding the right people at a time when that ‘war on talent’ has become a common catchphrase makes it really tough to find the right fit,” Horsman said. “This will happen, it just takes more time, and although patience certainly isn’t my strong suit, it is key.”

“Those of us who are already here know what a great place it is to be. But I feel like it’s still a bit of an unknown or unthought of option for new grads,” said Horsman.

NFP has been developing a training program for graduates, according to Horsman, and how the industry can bring talent in is something that the business has been “looking at internally, with lots of ongoing discussion and brainstorming.”

However, Horsman said, “it’s easy to talk about getting the word out but finding the most effective way is a bit trickier.”

Another challenge facing brokers today is the entry into a transitioning market, which requires ongoing communication with clients.

“Like most challenges, it creates opportunities as well,” said Horsman. “And it’s identifying and harnessing those that’s the exciting part of that challenge.”

The third challenge highlighted by Horsman was around understanding client needs in a changing world.

COVID has, to some extent, changed the broking landscape, as firms had to “pivot” to keep up with changing customer requirements, according to Horsman.

“Throw a hard market on top of that, and it’s been an interesting few years,” she said.

However, while brokers have had to work hard to get up to speed and deal with a new way of working, many clients have been facing tougher situations.

“Just as we’re dealing with staffing shortages, back to work discussions and transitions, uncertainty, supply chain issues, and industry specific challenges, many [clients] are facing these in even larger capacities,” Horsman said.

“Or perhaps they’re suddenly looking at a significant growth in their operations over the past few years, which is still a change. Or [they could be] revamping their operations, or [facing] multiple changes in their operations as they morph to address new customer needs or ways of operating.”

Horsman was buoyant that while a challenge, these changes can lead to opportunities and “great conversations”.

“Even though COVID created many challenges, and unfortunately I feel like there’s going to be a lot of negative effects in a number of ways going forward resulting from that, there are some positives that came out of it,” Horsman said.

Culture

This includes an increased focus on “on culture and people across our industry.”

“I would not have moved to NFP if I wasn’t convinced that there’s a culture I believe in and that people were key to the corporate strategy,” Horsman said. “I’m all about people, culture, team, and connection. People are definitely our greatest asset.”

“As leaders, we have a responsibility to focus on our people, and ensure our corporate culture is supportive, inclusive, encouraging, engaging, provides opportunities, all those things, but at the end of the day, [it should still be] fun,” she said.