by Barzin Assadi As seen in APeeling, September 2019
A common question people ask me is how I ended up working in Insurance, and the answer is because I fell into it, which is how most people start as a Commercial Insurance Broker because the property and casualty insurance side of the business is not as well known as life Insurance.
My journey started when I finished my undergrad at SFU and the only thing I knew was, I didn’t want to be an accountant.
I graduated with a degree in economics and wanted to work in the financial business, but not banking or accounting. The University’s career advisors send out an email saying ING insurance was having an open house. All I knew about ING was ING Direct, I had no idea there was an insurance company, which it turns out is the major part of the ING business. I went to the open house at their new office on Renfrew, in a beautiful building, which I liked, where they told us about a two year rotational desk trainee program that is very tough to get into. They interview 70 - 80 people and only pick 2 or 3 for the program. Right there, I knew I had to be one of the ones they picked.
After four or five interviews, I was accepted into the program as one of the three people from the west.
We completed two years of training in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto, working on everything from farming, to mining to real estate. Six months before the end of the program, I was a level 2 underwriter. Level 1 is junior, level 2 is intermediate, level 3 is senior. As part of the program, I sought to get my designation as a CIP, which I completed within a year and a half.
When I started in the program, I liked to work on new business, so I would get to work early in the morning to grab all the good stuff before anybody else could. I consistently worked on all the difficult stuff, and rapidly became good at what I was doing.
Once the program was done, I started looking to see what else there was to do in the insurance industry and I found out there’s a set of companies called MGAs or Managing Agents. They are like insurance companies, but don’t put up their own capital and have special knowledge, like marine or aviation or cannabis, for example. So, I moved over to a MGA as their Lloyds underwriter and marketing manager.
After a year, I wanted to see what else I could do and found out about the brokerage side of the industry. I went to work for Pemberton Insurance because they were initially an insurance brokerage, mortgage company and trust.
Then RBC bought the trust, the mortgage spun off on its own, and Pemberton remained the Insurance broker company. When I started with them, I knew I was going to do my MBA so I knew I was only going to be there for a year before I left to focus on school. I got a year of experience in corporate insurance before I moved to Toronto in 2012 to complete my MBA.
One of the reasons I took the MBA program was to figure out if I wanted to sell insurance or find a new career path. After learning about investment banking, consulting, and insurance, I realized insurance was the best option for me.
When I finished my MBA in 2014, I returned to Pemberton. I am now a VP of production for BFL Canada.
That is how I fell into insurance as a career and where is has taken me so far.
Right now, my team is in the growth phase and we’re looking for two new people to come on board in different capacities. People who will support the team as junior brokers wanting to learn and grow into a production role.
I really enjoyed the broker side of the business because it is entrepreneurial and you build relationships with clients.
They need the personality traits to become salespeople and are willing to commit to the necessary industry training. Since my part of the industry is not well known, there aren’t enough brokers or staff available, which is good and bad. It means I have less competition and a harder time growing my team.
To succeed as a broker on the property and casualty commercial side of the Insurance business, you must love talking to people and it is better if you are an extrovert because being with people is a big part of what we do. You have to be persistent and be able to take rejection on a regular basis because you’re going to hear no 90% of the time. If you can’t take rejection, this is not going to be the business for you, actually, any career in sales will be difficult for you.
Barzin Assadi is commercial insurance professional with BFL in the Vancouver area