Finalists unveiled for Aviva Canada’s women-exclusive scholarship

Making a name for themselves in insurance, these professionals have found success and encourage others to do the same

Finalists unveiled for Aviva Canada’s women-exclusive scholarship


By Alicja Grzadkowska

It’s that time of the year again, when Aviva Canada announces the finalists for its Women Creating Legacy in Insurance Scholarship Fund. The lucky winner of the award will receive a scholarship to attend the Ivey Business School’s leadership program, in addition to coaching from faculty and peers. The fund was inspired by the work of Christie Mills, who opened her insurance brokerage in 1979 and was a trailblazer for women in the insurance industry.

Now, two more women are following in her footsteps as well as those of previous winners of the scholarship. Cassidy Allison (pictured, left) is one of the nominees, and stumbled into the industry when she graduated from school and was looking for a job in marketing. A posting for a marketing communications coordinator at Moore-McLean Insurance Group caught her eye and she applied, despite not having a background in insurance.

“They took a chance on me,” said Allison, adding that she spent the first six months getting her feet wet as she learned about insurance and how to market it to customers. Then, the company acquired Hallmark Insurance Group to become McLean-Hallmark, effectively doubling in size. She was promoted to marketing and communications manager, her current role, and now oversees a team that includes contractors and vendors.

“That was the moment I realized I could make a career in insurance, still being creative and also being a part of a really cool business that does more than just say ‘give us your money and hope nothing bad happens’ because that was what I came into the industry thinking,” said Allison. “My future goals are to continue to improve the image of the industry. As a whole, I think we have a hard time recruiting young people and it’s because they think insurance is boring. I want more people to see it as a really interesting place [to work], and that there’s also what I call insurance-adjacent roles – things like marketing, accounting, HR – that allow you to do other things than just sell policies.”

The fact that Aviva Canada promotes women through the scholarship is also important to Allison, considering there are more women than men working at McLean-Hallmark, but the senior leadership is still mainly comprised of the latter.

“I see the disparity and I hope that this scholarship, whoever they choose, helps to encourage more women to step up and take the leadership role in their organization,” said Allison.

Finalist Laura Bolster (pictured, right), the chief operating officer at Victoria-based Megson FitzPatrick Insurance, is already in a leadership position at her firm, and has spent her career in insurance taking on opportunities that were demanding, but ultimately rewarding. When it came time to upgrade the brokerage’s technology four years ago, Bolster stepped up to the plate.

“We had switched from a very archaic broker management system to a brand new one – the implementation of Epic, which is Applied Systems’ new platform,” she told Insurance Business. “That was probably the most intimidating undertaking that I’d ever been involved in, but I knew I had to do it. I knew that as a leader, I had to roll up my sleeves.”

That wasn’t the only wave of change that Bolster has witnessed during her time at the company. When she started working at Megson FitzPatrick three decades ago, there were 15 employees. Today, there are over 100 staff members in five offices. Bolster’s title changed, too, as she progressed from selling auto insurance to home insurance to commercial lines.

“I just kept taking all my courses and I was the assistant to one of our founding partners for about eight years. That was a huge learning piece for me – the mentorship that I had with one of the senior partners at Megson,” said Bolster, adding that eventually her role morphed into one in management. “They gave me a lot of autonomy. I knew I could go wherever I wanted, and I took on a leadership role and started managing the commercial team. I still had my own clients and I still do, but I started overseeing the large commercial team that we had, which involved a little bit of HR and a lot of operations for that particular department.”

As Megson FitzPatrick makes its succession plans and C-suite retirements are planned, Bolster wants to be ready to take on a bigger title, which is where the Ivey program can help her.

“There is going to be opportunity for me in BC,” she said. “I will be having to take even more of a strategic leadership role, so I really think this timing is good for me for the Aviva leadership program. It’s going to give me that extra confidence and boost that I’m going to need to step up in the next year or two for what’s coming around the corner.”

Related Stories

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!