Insurance Business Canada Rising Stars 2021

Insurance Business Canada Rising Stars 2021

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An industry's future is only as promising as its young talent – and the need to rejuvenate the insurance industry workforce is critical 

“Insurers should not take their eyes off longstanding, longer-term talent objectives, such as attracting more millennials and Generation Z workers to backfill positions left open by what is likely to be a growing number of retirees in an aging workforce,” advised Deloitte’s 2021 Insurance Outlook report. “They should also bolster the recruitment of those with advanced data analytics and automation skills to fuel faster, more effective digital transformation.” 

These findings resonate with the experience of two of this year’s IBC Rising Stars. After immigrating to Canada from Iran at a young age, Armin Habibi grew up in the GTA and got into sales at the age of 18, initially helping his mother sell products at trade shows across Ontario before discovering insurance in college. At first, Habibi believed it was a dry, boring field. 

“After getting a better understanding of the products and how the broker channel works, I could not have been more wrong about this,” says Habibi, who has written more than 700 new policies and managed over 500 clients since he joined Insureit Group in 2018. “I think insurance is one the most complex and fascinating industries in the world.” 

Despite growing up in an insurance family – her grandfather started Reider Insurance 55 years ago – Tiffany Reider also had some misconceptions about the industry. She studied education in college but ended up making a U-turn from a teaching career to get into the family business. 

“Before I joined the insurance industry, I thought it was just a bunch of old men wearing baggy suits meeting for coffee all day,” Reider says. “Although there are still a lot of meetings with coffee, there aren’t nearly as many baggy suits. Our industry definitely has a bad rep of being seen as an ‘old man job’ with little excitement. This is where everyone is so wrong. Things are always changing.” 

 

Moving with the times 

While both Habibi and Reider are grateful for everything they’ve learned from their elder colleagues, they also emphasize the positives that younger professionals bring to the table. 

“The younger generation can learn a lot from the traditional methods of insurance and integrate that knowledge into the modern insurance world,” Habibi says. “On the other side, I think that efficiency is an area which can be greatly improved on. I think the older generation should be more open to implementing technologies that would help the whole broker process. Even if these efficiencies may not have an impact on the bottom line, making the broker’s job more seamless can reap rewards in different ways, [such as] attracting and retaining younger talent.” 

Reider echoes that sentiment, noting that those with more experience in the industry have been an enormous help in navigating the current hard market – but she also wishes they’d be more open to embracing new technology. 

“I think us younger generations have so much to learn from our older colleagues, but also have so much to teach them too,” Reider says. “They have so much experience and things to offer us that I think we sometimes overlook because we do things differently.” 

Even though she’s now a senior manager, Reider admits she still struggles to overcome ageism. “No matter how many framed certificates you have hanging on your wall or how professional you dress, there will always be those people who don’t want to deal with you because you look too young to know what you’re doing,” she says. “This is a challenge that I experience at least once a week.” 

Meanwhile, Habibi says one of the toughest challenges he’s faced has been striving to match consumers’ expectations of super-fast turnaround times in an industry that can often be sluggish. 

“The marketing process can take time, especially on larger accounts,” he says. “As our world becomes more digitally advanced, consumer expectations have increased. However, due to the nature of our work and the current market environment, the turn-around time for obtaining quotes does not always meet those expectations.” 

Change is happening, though – both Habibi and Reider have seen paper-based materials give way to digital technologies, and Habibi lauds new portals for quoting, binding and issuing policies, which have modernized the insurance process in recent years. Reider acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped speed up this transition. 

“When I first started in the industry five and a half years ago, we emailed and faxed,” she says. “You wouldn’t dream of sending in a policy without a physical signature signed in ink. Today, we are e-transferring funds, providing electronic signatures for policies, and many of our major companies have portals that we work within.” 

The pandemic also gave enterprising young insurance professionals a chance to shine. At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Habibi did his best to help others’ while providing extra payment flexibility to his clients. And when the first series of lock-downs came to Manitoba, Reider hit the ground running. 

“With more than 70% of our staff working from home due to age or being immuno-compromised, suddenly we had offices that previously had 45 employees reduced to six,” she says. “We were closed to the public and had to create new, inventive ways to service our clients within the government guidelines for COVID.” 

 

Making a mark 

For those just getting started in insurance, Habibi advises them to take it slow and build a solid foundation of knowledge. 

“There are so many aspects in this business, and you should try to learn as much as you can,” he says. “Knowledge is everything in this industry, and the more you know, the more successful you will be. This will take time.” 

Reider suggests taking that knowledge-gathering process to the next level by looking outside your own company. “Be a sponge,” she says. “Jump in and get involved in the industry. There is so much more than just the office you work in.” 

Over the next decade, both Reider and Habibi have their sights set on establishing themselves further as industry leaders. 

“In 10 years, I would like to be building a team of sales professionals and leading them to success in the broker world,” Habibi says. “I believe in the power of a team and would be grateful to be in a position to advise younger generations based on my experience.” 

Reider’s goals, meanwhile, revolve around making meaningful progress on improving the industry’s gender balance. “Over 70% of our industry is female, but less than 20% of those females hold senior/executive positions,” she says. “My hope is that by getting as involved as possible, I can, with my peers, help influence a change to this. It’s 2021 – there is no excuse for that percentage to be that low.” 

 

Methodology

Starting in March, Insurance Business Canada invited insurance professionals from across the country to nominate their most exceptional young talent for the annual Rising Stars list. Nominees had to be age 35 or under (as of March 31, 2021) and have committed to a career in insurance with a clear passion for the industry. In order to maintain a focus on new talent, only nominees who hadn’t been previously recognized as an IBC Rising Star were considered. 

IBC received more than 100 nominations, encompassing young professionals working in a wide range of insurance jobs across Canada. Nominees were asked about their current role in the insurance industry, their key achievements, career goals and the contributions they’ve made to shaping the industry. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account.  

The IBC team used this criteria to narrow down the list to 61 of the Canadian insurance industry’s most promising young professionals. 

 

Winners

  • Cam Mitchell
    Business Development Manager, Gore Mutual Insurance Company
  • Chukwuma Ejieh
    Manager, Cognitive Analytics, Gore Mutual Insurance Company
  • Cody Macpherson
    Account Executive, KASE Insurance
  • Jennifer Borges
    Commercial Auto Manager, Gore Mutual Insurance Company
  • Jennifer Jackson
    Director of Business Development, Cheep Insurance
  • Mathieu Villemure
    Commercial Underwriting Manager, Quebec Operations, Sovereign Insurance
  • Naheed Jaffer
    Senior Actuarial Manager, Aviva Canada
  • Olga Tchoueva
    Account Manager, Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services
  • Robert Holmes
    Senior General Adjuster | Complex Casualty Practice Leader, Canada, Crawford & Company
  • Stephanie Duclos
    Technical Lead, Errors & Omissions, Special Risks, Victor Canada (Victor Insurance Managers Inc.)
  • Tony Gallo
    Underwriting Specialist, Vice President – Directors & Officers Insurance, Victor Canada (Victor Insurance Managers Inc.)
  • Trent Brown
    Insurance Broker, dbi Brokers Ltd. 
  • Valeriu Danci
    Director Mid-Tier and Core Technologies, Gore Mutual Insurance Company 
  • Adam Di Stefano
    Account executive, Ferrari & Associates Insurance & Financial Services
  • Aimee Walker
    Junior account manager, RiskTech Insurance Services
  • Armin Habibi
    Associate broker, Insureit Group
  • Aun Japanwala
    Business insurance broker, Lyon & Butler Insurance Brokers
  • Brent Lariviere
    Account manager, A-WIN Insurance
  • Christa MacNeil
    Technical service specialist, Guardsman Insurance Services
  • Christopher Aloussis
    Broker success manager, APOLLO Insurance
  • Colette Thibodeau
    Technology/social media advisor, Leduc Insurance Agency
  • Connor Lea
    Business development manager, Fuse Insurance
  • Daniella Sam
    Data and analytics specialist, Aon
  • Danielle Cugliari
    Senior underwriter, AIG Canada
  • Darrin De Stephanis
    Senior underwriter, Intact Insurance
  • Denae Popp
    In-house insurance advisor, Surex.com
  • Dounia Khali
    Financial lines practice leader, claims – Canada, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
  • Eddie Yu
    Managing partner, Billyard Insurance Group – Burlington Wes
  • Gurpartap (Garry) S. Pandher
    Sales director, Able Insurance Brokers
  • Haaris Karimullah
    Commercial account executive, Leibel Insurance Group
  • Hantao (Eric) Yang
    Team leader, UW Insure Brokers
  • Haris Khan
    Insurance broker, Billyard Insurance – Mississauga East
  • James Ciavaglia
    Senior underwriter, property & casualty, Burns & Wilcox Canada
  • Jessica Anderson
    Manager, broking services, Axis Insurance Group
  • Judith Pila
    Account manager, Capital Insurance Brokers
  • Julie Bordignon
    Broker success manager, APOLLO Insurance
  • Kate Shaw
    Underwriter, executive solutions, Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company
  • Krishna Patel
    Operations manager, Burns & Wilcox Canada
  • Kyle Albert
    Partner, senior advisor, Lloyd Sadd Insurance Brokers
  • Laurence Dube
    Team leader and senior underwriter, CHES Special Risk
  • Madison Cheffins
    Broker engagement manager, APOLLO Insurance
  • Magdalena Sokolova
    Operational innovation, technical data & business performance manager, APRIL Canada
  • Maria Novelia
    Associate marketing broker, J.T. Insurance Services (Canada)
  • Marie-Claude Bélanger
    Director, Quebec office, PAL Insurance Brokers Canada
  • Mark Andrew Co
    Insurance broker, Billyard Insurance – Mississauga East
  • Matthew Ablakan
    Broker of record/owner, Millennial’s Choice Insurance
  • Michael Caron
    Director of producer group, Central Agencies
  • Miran Saradzic
    Commercial multi-line account executive, HUB International
  • Monika Slomczewski
    Complex case analyst, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
  • Nafees Ahmad
    Underwriter, CHES Special Risk
  • Paige Woodward
    Registered insurance broker/accounts manager, Vasey Insurance Brokers
  • Philip Schuman
    Vice president, commercial lines, Wilson M. Beck Insurance Services (Alberta)
  • Rina Arce
    J.T. Insurance Services
  • Ross Sabiston
    Commercial line advisor, AC&D Insurance
  • Ryan McKenna
    Account executive, McDougall Insurance
  • Sam Eshraghi
    Marketing manager, RSA Canada
  • Sam Jazayeri-Moghaddas
    Team leader, PrimeService Insurance
  • Sharon Young
    Claims consultant – commercial risk solutions, Aon
  • Stephen Logush
    Senior underwriter, Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company
  • Steven Miotto
    Senior underwriter, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
  • Tiffany Reider
    Vice president, Reider Insurance
  • Tijana Djokic
    Senior risk control consultant, RSA Canada

 

Featured Winners