Building on a Business
Guardian Risk Managers is a wholesale brokerage that is a division of Underwriters Insurance Brokers, a B.C.-based retail insurance brokerage.
Company: Guardian Risk Managers
President: Kevin McIntyre
Year Founded: 2006
# of Employees: 6
Status: Private company.
The company wrote less than $10 million in premiums in 2009.
Beginnings: Guardian Risk Managers is a wholesale brokerage that is a division of Underwriters Insurance Brokers, a B.C.-based retail insurance brokerage. McIntyre was part owner and president of Underwriters Insurance Brokers when his tenure as the president of the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C. (IBABC), between 2005 and 2006, opened his eyes to a new business opportunity. [McIntyre is now the CEO of Underwriters Insurance Brokers as well as president of Guardian Risk Managers.]
In January 2006 Guardian Risk Managers was launched in B.C. Since its launch the company has expanded to the rest of Western Canada. Its main lines of business are commercial insurance, liability insurance and high-valued homes.
Reason To Watch: With plans to expand to both Ontario and the Maritimes, 2010 promises to be a busy year for Guardian. McIntyre believes his company’s unique underwriting philosophy is the key to its success in Western Canada, and is confident that brokers in the Central and Eastern parts of the country will be equally receptive to Guardian’s products.
“We started out by writing very good business that other insurers found some little wrinkle in,” says McIntyre. That wrinkle was often a minor detail that nevertheless violated most mainstream insurers’ strict eligibility criteria.
Recent Triumphs: When starting out in 2006, McIntyre relied on his extensive experience and contacts in the B.C. market to get the word out about his new company. Guardian advertised and set up a booth at the B.C. Broker convention to make further connections. When it was time to expand to other Western provinces, Guardian followed a similar strategy.
“We built a pretty good network of small brokers that occasionally needed some assistance, and then we’d try to take that same kind of message across the West,” says McIntyre, who makes a point of attending all the provincial broker conventions to maintain existing relationships and cultivate new ones.
Despite the soft market and struggling economy, McIntyre says Guardian grew by 45% in 2009.
Challenges: Expanding to new markets in Ontario and the Maritimes is the main challenge facing Guardian.
New Initiatives: “We’re moving from being a Western Canadian operation to being a national company,” says McIntyre, noting Guardian has started moving into Ontario in January 2010 and plans to do the same in the Maritimes by the end of the spring. As such, the company’s main focus is not developing new lines of business but taking its existing offerings and moving them to new territories.
“At this stage our process is to contact a number of smaller brokers in Ontario and let them know what we’re doing,” says McIntyre. “A large part of that process involves sending brokers information packages that outline Guardian’s line of products, a strategy that has worked in Western Canada and is now being utilized in both Ontario and the Maritimes. We want to write quality risks that have those wrinkles. We take the information that’s presented to us and try to find a way to make it easy to write.”
“We want to bring that same common sense approach we use in Western Canada to Ontario and the Maritimes, and hope that we can gain the trust of brokers there.”
Odds and Ends: Provided liability insurance to an animal trainer who trains and supplies dogs, cats, raccoons and various other creatures to the Vancouver movie industry.
Guardian Risk Managers
Charitable contributions: N/A
Guardian Risk Managers
Suite 208-310 Nicola Street
Kamloops, BC V2C 2P5
© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the April 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.