Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- Trisura offers 3 weeks of paid vacation allowance to start, moving to 4 weeks after only 3 years on the job -- additionally, longstanding employees move to a maximum of 8 weeks of paid vacation over the course of their careers
- Trisura lets everyone share in the company's success with profit-sharing and cultivates an ownership culture through a share purchase plan, available to all
- Trisura encourages employees to continue their education with generous tuition subsidies for job-related courses (to $10,000 per year) and offers subsidies for professional accreditation
Trisura brings start-up culture to insurance
There are "no jerks allowed" at Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company, says Mike George, President, CEO and co-founder of what's a very rare enterprise indeed in today's business landscape: a homegrown Canadian insurance startup. Within a minute or two of conversation, George quickly shatters any stereotypes you may have about the insurance business. He's both an insurance evangelist and entrepreneur.
"I love deal-making. Every single time you're placing a policy you are making a deal," says George, who describes himself as falling into insurance after a stint at one of the big five banks. "It's absolutely a fantastic industry."
When George and his co-founders -- CFO John Garner and Chairman Robert Taylor -- set up their own company in Toronto in 2006, they knew it was their people who would distinguish them. Insurance, says George, is a business built on relationships and trust. Trisura's founders, who had worked together at another insurer before it was sold to a multinational, wanted to create a "winning culture" in which they gave employees the skills to thrive.
"Our first 14, 15 employees almost all came from our old shop," he says. "It was like getting the band back together."
Due to the consolidation in the industry, the founders saw gaps they could fill with specialty insurance, surety and risk solutions products. "There was an opportunity to focus on specialty lines and deliver great service and products -- all with great people," says George.
Trisura also got lucky with its timing. Had it started up in 2008, the year of the global financial crash, things might have been very different, says George. Instead, last year it made PROFIT's list of Canada's 500 fastest-growing companies.
Along with banning jerks and telling it like it is, George likes to get to know Trisura employees. Andrew Cartwright, who first worked at Trisura as an MBA co-op student, describes the CEO as "a very real guy." Trisura, he says, has a family feel where "everybody knows everybody else."
Cartwright recalls that shortly after he was hired in a permanent position as a financial analyst assessing risk, George "came down and said, 'Hey let's work together on this file.'" For the next few months the junior employee and the CEO attended meetings together, George asked for Cartwright's feedback, and he made Cartwright part of the conversation.
"I think that's pretty rare," says Cartwright, whose father and grandfather both worked in insurance. He shares George's love for the industry. "You're assessing risk in this business. That's the exciting and really fun part about it."
Cartwright also appreciates the varied nature of the job -- visiting end clients, meeting contractors, and assessing the three C's: character, capacity (to do the job) and capital.
After just over two years at Trisura, Cartwright and a colleague headed to Halifax to open the company's Atlantic Canada office. As an underwriter managing his own portfolio of accounts, he was empowered to build business relationships with brokers and contacts.
While the colleague stayed on in Halifax, Cartwright returned to Toronto after two and a half years. He now manages Atlantic Canada business and part of the Toronto business.
Cindy Grant, Vice President of Human Resources, says that as a result of its growth, Trisura is hiring across the board, looking for people who will be a good fit with the company's entrepreneurial culture. She wants employees with a sense of teamwork, who are ready to dive in and be service-focused whether dealing with brokers or colleagues. "One of the things I like to say is there's no competition inside the organization. The competition is outside the door."
Grant says the company is "very open to flexwork", with about one-third of employees having some personalized arrangement, be it a four-day week, shifted hours or working one day a week from home. Other perks include summer hours, days off to work for a charity, tuition subsidies and profit sharing.