An Insurance Business Canada Young Gun three years in a row, Cole Leitch, president and CEO of Avant Insurance Brokers, knows a thing or two about succeeding in the industry. His modest beginnings in insurance, sweeping the floors of his father’s brokerage, turned into an established career that led him to open his own brokerage years later.
In this Q&A, Leitch (pictured) shares insight into starting a company for other brokers with the same goal, and points to where the industry can do better on the client side.
I worked my way up from there after high school and started working part-time while I was playing hockey and stayed in the business, moving my way up through doing auto and personal lines, and then got into being a marketing assistant, got up into commercial sales, and continued on as a commercial sales person.
My dad sold in 2007 and all the staff from Flanders went over to the place that he sold to. I worked there as a commercial account executive for five years. From there, I moved on to another brokerage as a commercial account executive, and two years ago, I left there and started Avant with my father.
As far as advice I could give, I would say one of the big things would be make sure you foster relationships, not just on the client side, but on the insurance company side. There have been a few people who have been really influential in our ability to grow as a company, and getting set up [when we started out], there were some people that, without them supporting us, and without the relationships and the friendships that I had with them, it would’ve been very, very difficult for us to have started Avant.
We don’t worry about the amount of premium or the amount of commission that a client is making us because if we take care of those clients, we’ll make enough money and we’ll make our profit, we’ll be taken care of financially.
That’s one of the big things that we do a lot differently, is we worry about the clients first. The mentality is that the balance sheet will work if we take care of our clients. We will make the money.
The other thing is that we’re 100% independent. Not a lot of brokers in our area and not a lot of our competitors – almost none of our competitors – can say that at this point. We’re not owned by an insurance company, we don’t have loans from an insurance company where we have minimum premium requirements, we don’t have ownership by large corporations or international entities. It’s a family business and there’s not as many of those left in our industry as there used to be, and that goes back to the relationships that we have.
I saw more opportunity for advancement [in insurance]. I saw more opportunities in general. Aviation is a tough one. For the first number of years, you’re almost literally flying for food. It’s tough to have a family – I have three kids – it’s tough to feed your family when you’re not making really any money on your job, so it was difficult from that side of things, too, and being away from home.