Building a national insurance powerhouse requires boots on the ground at a regional and local level. Ideally, those employees should have a wealth of knowledge about their respective regions and, perhaps more importantly, should have a strong local network of personal and commerical relationships. These attritbutes are exactly what David Harris (pictured) brings to Burns & Wilcox, where he recently joined as director of underwriting for Atlantic Canada, becoming the managing general agent (MGA)’s first Canadian senior leadership hire outside of its Toronto HQ.
Harris has lived and worked in the Atlantic region for his entire insurance career. He has more than 25-years of industry experience and a large network of local, national and international relationships in the personal and commercial insurance space. He joined Burns & Wilcox after a 25-year stint at Angus-Miller Insurance Ltd., where he most recently served as chief operating officer. In this newly created role as director of underwriting for Atlantic Canada, Harris will be responsible for overseeing operations of Burns & Wilcox’s Halifax, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and St John’s offices.
“I’m very excited to join Burns & Wilcox,” Harris told Insurance Business. “It allows me to take on some new challenges while also maintaining the connections and relationships I’ve built and the work that I’ve done in Atlantic Canada over my career. The nice part about this new role is that Burns & Wilcox already has a very strong foundation in the region. I see my role as continuing to build out our capabilities in the region, while also building stronger connections with the Toronto teams and other specialty teams around the country.
“Atlantic Canada has a lot of things to offer that are sometimes overlooked. We have world-class support facilities, the largest oil refinery in Canada, world-class paper mills and saw mills – so for me, this role is about trying to expose our broker partners in the region to more of the products and services that Burns & Wilcox can offer and to help brokers take advantage of that.”
The MGA market in Atlantic Canada has been very strong for more than 50-years. While relationships in the region continue to strengthen and grow, there remains some separation between what happens in Atlantic Canada and what happens in other parts of the country. One of Harris’ early goals, he said, is to increase connectivity and collaboration among specialty practice leaders throughout Burns & Wilcox’s national network. By opening the communication lines, getting specialty insurance experts into Atlantic Canada, and creating new opportunities for broker partners in the region, Harris hopes to diversify the MGA’s product offering and drive growth in the region moving forwards.
“At Burns & Wilcox, we’re always looking to diversify our expertise and build on it,” said Jodie Kaufman Davis (pictured below), corporate senior vice president, H.W. Kaufman Group and managing director, Burns & Wilcox Canada. “Atlantic Canada is a very MGA-heavy insurance market. We’ve been in St John’s since we started in Canada, then we opened up in Nova Scotia and now we have David in New Brunswick. It’s very important for us to have a local presence where we’re writing business, and Atlantic Canada has been a growing region for us from the get-go.
“David brings to us tremendous expertise and experience specific to the geography that we believe is really crucial to our ongoing growth and success. In hiring David, this is the first time we’ve had someone on our Canadian leadership team that has been outside of Toronto. That adds significant value because he brings new perspective to the leaders in our organization, and we’re able to be in the know at all levels of the organization so that we can strategize and collaborate effectively.”
So far, Burns & Wilcox’s focus in Atlantic Canada has been largely focused on its property and casualty “bread and butter MGA business,” but the firm has lots more to offer, according to Kaufman Davis. This is where Harris’ expertise and local broker connections should really come into play.
“One of the big things I plan to do here is to diversify our broker force,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of ideas about what the right broker profile looks like, and I think it’s important for an MGA to work with a broad spectrum of brokers that can deliver varieties of business, especially those that are well connected in their communities that are locally owned. I think bringing more of those brokers into the mix positions us well for success because we’re getting a broader cross-section of business. I see that as allowing us to maintain stability and continue to build in the region.”