Joshua Krenus, president and CEO of Alteri Insurance Brokers, tells IBC about his journey to open a life-insurance-only brokerage, how he's grown business during the pandemic and why competing with the big brokerages can be a very good thing.
IBC: What inspired you to open Alteri Insurance Brokers a few years ago?
Joshua Krenus: Originally I was on the wealth management side, and I was also life insurance licensed. About five months in, I realized that I really loved the insurance piece and wanted to start my own brokerage just on that. So, in 2017, Alteri Insurance was born as just a life insurance brokerage. Then, as we came to the end of the year, we started to become slowly licensed with different carriers and eventually were able to sell general insurance products in January 2018.
IBC: What did you enjoy about life insurance so much that it made you want to start your own brokerage?
JK: I really believe in the product. Plus, once it’s evaluated and assessed and put in place for the client, it’s something I don't really have to stress about thinking about every single day, unlike with wealth management.
IBC: Did you feel that a life-insurance-focused brokerage was something that was missing in the Vancouver market?
JK: Yeah. The fact is, there were no life insurance brokerages. That’s not a thing. There are individual agents that are life licensed, but they all do money management, too. So I thought, wow, this is a unique opportunity to be really niche and see how it works out.
IBC: What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities for you in Vancouver?
JK: Challenge-wise, Vancouver is a very small place, so it's heavily saturated in certain product lines. The good thing about life insurance and reinsurance in general is that everybody needs it, so you're not limiting yourself to any form of the population.
The pros are that there are only a handful of players here doing commercial and personal lines. Basically, 95% of the brokers in British Columbia are after Autoplan ICBC [Insurance Corporation of British Columbia] appointed licenses. They’re retail-facing, looking for foot traffic; they're not after your commercial or any other form of your business.
With us, we're not after foot traffic. We are generally competing against the really big players, such as Hub. That's a pro for me, because I feel like we're not in a saturated market in that way. Sometimes big companies just don't want to deal with certain levels of premium or certain clients, so we end up servicing those clients really well, which works out for everybody.
IBC: How has COVID-19 affected your business?
JK: There was a little bit of uncertainty with regard to the commercial policies that we have; we were wondering if people were going to shut down or pause their policies. But we encountered quite the opposite. A lot of people came to us wanting to analyze their policies more and ended up increasing their policies. We didn't see retention go down at all; we’ve actually had a sales increase since COVID started.
IBC: Assuming things eventually get back to a state of normalcy, what are some of the goals you’re excited to put in place?
JK: We're currently on the hunt right now for more commercial space, which is super unusual in this period of time. So that's exciting.
Naturally, with this pandemic happening, a lot of the brokerages in town are letting go of a lot of agents because they simply don't need them anymore. We see those experienced producers looking for a place to hang their hats as an opportunity in terms of hiring.
We just continue to plug away and grow. We grew this year by four people already – that was really aggressive for us. And we don't have plans of stopping. We’re small enough right now that everybody is a really big part of the story, and the producers love that. They want to write their chapter of this book.