Turning insurance into a relationship business

Dana Bouwman of Insight Insurance and Risk Management in Edmonton talks about how to build and sustain a client list

Dana Bouwman is account executive at Insight Insurance & Risk Management in Edmonton.

Dana Bouwman
Dana Bouwman

Tell me a little bit about what you do? How and why did you get involved in this career?

Bouwman: I facilitate liability and property insurance programs for mid-sized companies. Specifically, I focus on construction, manufacturing, and tech companies that have $10-plus-million in yearly revenue. It’s a lot of fun. In addition to my regular work, I’m on the finance and risk management committee for the Edmonton Construction Association (ECA), and I am on the marketing committee for the Edmonton Chapter of Association for Corporate Growth (ACG). In my spare time, I have a weekly insurance vlog where I update CEOs and CFOs on the latest happenings in commercial insurance. I also just released the first couple episodes of my podcast: Banter with Bouwman.

I began my insurance career working in home and auto insurance. A family friend told me I would enjoy working in the industry. She was right.

I made it a priority to always make decisions based on what was best for the customer. I was quickly promoted to working on commercial insurance for mid-sized companies. Now that I have honed my craft for a few years, I am in a position where I can easily determine the type and depth of insurance my clients may need. Usually I spend four or five hours over the span of several weeks with a new customer before I present them with insurance options. It is really satisfying when a customer’s priority shifts from wanting the best price, to wanting the best value for a fair price. That’s when I know I have done my best for them.

What are some of the key trends you’re seeing in the insurance industry these days? And what are some of the challenges the industry is facing?

Bouwman: There is currently a lot of turbulence in the insurance industry. Insurance companies are looking to increase their underwriting profitability. That means insurance underwriters are being strongly encouraged by higher-ups to increase the price both on business they already have on the books and also on new business coming in the doors. Some businesses are seeing a 25 to 40 per cent increase on their insurance program. The potential increase may be more if they have had losses or are in higher risk segments. Businesses can help themselves mitigate this turbulence by helping their insurance broker. Start the insurance process at least 120 days in advance this year. Provide your broker with all the information they ask for in a timely manner. If you have a good broker then you should still be able to get a reasonable terms this year, but obviously every situation is unique.

I think one of the challenges that we are seeing in today’s insurance marketplace is that things are going digital. Insurance is not immune to automation. Right now we are seeing a lot of home and auto insurance sold online. I can go out and purchase a homeowner’s policy or a personal auto policy online. It is not just millennials. We are seeing it a lot where people of all ages are going online for their personal insurance needs.

I think that small business insurance is going to see a lot of automation in the next decade as well. I don’t believe there will be a lot of automation in my area of insurance, which is commercial insurance for mid-sized companies. There is a lot of deviation with mid- and large-sized company insurance needs, so I don’t think this segment of insurance will be automated any time soon.

The real issue for me, I think, will be that there will be crowding. I think a lot of the people who are doing personal insurance and small business insurance will try to crowd my space in mid-sized commercial insurance. I am diversifying my skill set for job security but also because of interest. There are many interesting facets of the insurance industry.

What does that role as a director with the Edmonton Construction Association entail and why did you get involved?

Bouwman: The board strategizes to advance the construction industry in Edmonton, and then we support management in the operational implementation. Our board strives to be the hub of construction excellence and we engage with owners/developers, general contractors, trades people, engineers, architects, suppliers and manufacturers. All these groups are included in the conversation on how we can improve the construction process. That’s why I got involved. I have so many construction customers that it just made sense for me to be a part of the conversation.

The ECA is the second largest local construction association in Canada. We work to advance the industry and create solutions that benefit not only our members, but also owners and consultants who are deeply involved in every construction project. For example, every western province used to have their own construction bidding software. The ECA was instrumental in encouraging widespread use of Buildworks across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which has created efficiencies and cost savings for all three provinces.

Why is Edmonton such a unique place to do business and has that changed at all with the economy?

Bouwman: The Edmonton business community is very relationship driven. This city has a population of one million people, but in a lot of ways it feels like a close-knit small town. I have heard that in other cities, having a relationship with a key decision maker gets you in the door to give your pitch. Whereas in Edmonton, just having a relationship will often earn you the business without having to compete for it.

It’s a very interesting dynamic that I think is being tested because of the changing Alberta economy. Companies and people are becoming more price conscious as they tighten their belts. Historically, relationships were incredibly important to do business in Edmonton, but we will see if that changes in the coming years.

Do you have any advice for young people who are getting started with their careers?

Bouwman: This is something that I am very passionate about. It is so incredibly important for young people to make sure that they have a mentor either within their company or within their industry. A mentor will help you navigate difficult client situations and office politics. I have found that it is very valuable to be able to bounce ideas off an experienced person in my industry.

When I first started interviewing with my current company, I told them that salary, benefits, and other compensation was important, but that was not my priority. I do want to be paid a fair wage. But what was really important to me was mentorship.

Most businesses will see it has an asset to have a young employee on staff who is eager to learn and advance their skills. As a young person, it’s almost impossible to advance in your career without having someone help you get past that initial learning curve.

Interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

© Troy Media

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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