Broker of the Year
Business development in tough times
Peter Blodgett: principal, Darling Insurance & Realty Ltd., Peterborough
Andy Friya: vice-president, Harbour Insurance Services Ltd., Toronto
The economic downturn of 2008 has had a lasting effect on Canadian and international businesses and it has, of course, also affected the Canadian independent broker. But despite facing economic headwinds in recent years, the finalists for Broker of the Year have succeeded in continuing to grow their businesses.
For Andy Friya, vice president of Harbour Insurance Services in Toronto, the health of the economy plays an important role in the success of his business. Harbour Insurance Services specializes in watercraft insurance—in other words, luxury insurance. “The fact is, when the economy turns the way it’s been the last few years, the first thing that starts to go is the toys,” says Friya. He has had clients cancel policies because they could no longer afford their yacht, or downgrade to smaller boats. If, for example, a client is forced to downgrade from a 40-foot yacht to a 30-foot yacht, that greatly affects Friya’s revenue. “Twenty-five per cent of my premium is based on the size of that person’s boat,” he says. Despite the obvious challenges the economy has posed, Friya has been working to expand his business through Internet optimization. “If you were to Google insurance right now, [what would] come up is TD Insurance because they have a lot more money than the rest of us do,” he says. But Friya has employed a website optimization company and pays Google for certain keywords. Now, when a client searches for “marine insurance” on Google, Harbour Insur- ance Services appears within the top seven to 10 listings. “That’s been very, very effective for us,” he says.
In the face of a recession, Peter Blodgett, the principal broker at Darling Insurance and Realty Ltd. in Peterborough says, “good businesses survive because of good, solid business principles.” For him, that means putting his clients and com- munity first. In fact, the brokerage motto is “to assist clients with integrity, professionalism and efficiency, while promot- ing leadership in the community.” He says his approach to clients is what separates Darling Insurance from the “forces that keep gnawing at our business”: namely, the direct writers and the banks. “We still believe that people want to deal with people in our industry. They don’t always want to go on a computer to buy their insurance,” he says. “We feel there’s still a place for the independent broker.”
Blodgett feels he’s proven himself right by opening three new brokerages across Ontario within the last five years. Speaking of the success of these brokerages, Blodgett says, “It’s obvious that the public still wants to deal face to face with somebody.”
Copyright 2012 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the October 2012 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.