When Al McLean registered his insurance company in 1956, he was not aware of the changes that would transform the industry six decades on. However, he was aware that general insurance brokerage, coupled with outstanding service that focused on the needs of the clients, was the key to success.
He was right. Sixty years later, McLean & Shaw’s shareholders may have changed, but its independence and unwavering commitment to customer service have never changed.
Gail Tory, CEO, bought the business in 1994, and Doug Laird, President, joined Tory as a partner in 2011.
“We are a boots-on-the ground organization that works very hard for our clients and our insurer partners to make sure that we are all successful in our endeavours,” says Tory firmly.
“We are very proud of where we are today, to be an in-depth brokerage firm serving the needs of our clients,” adds Laird. “Independence means there is no ownership of any kind from suppliers in our organization. We have the independent ability to place our clients with the appropriate coverage and insurer, without having any obligations to any particular insurer.”
McLean & Shaw services clients throughout Western Canada with cross-border and international insurance requirements.
“It’s really our responsiblity to understand the needs of our clients,” Laird points out. “We are the professionals in risk assessment, and it’s our duty to assess, identify, evaluate this risk and offer solutions to our clients.”
They take this responsibility very, very seriously. For example, if they hear about a life change for one of their clients (for example, addition to the property, growing family, extensive travel, downsizing, business growth) they get in touch with questions to ensure the client is not over or under insured.
“We anticipate and ask about the client’s needs,” says Tory. “We don’t ask questions to be snoopy. It’s to make sure we can do our job properly.”
“More and more, we are acting as a claims advocate for customers,” Tory adds. “This is part of the service, not an add-on, and it’s important in the world of brokering.” This means that if a client has trouble processing a claim, McLean & Shaw are on hand to follow up and keep the process moving as smoothly as possible.
McLean & Shaw ensure it is aware of new, pending and emerging products. For example, “Up until this year, overland water flooding on personal homeowners insurance was not available, but now most insurers have come up with a solution to address the needs of homeowners with a potential risk of loss due to water.” This was something that was very needed in the industry for a very long time, and a policy of which all homeowners should be aware.
But for the agile company, it’s more than matching products and services with clients. The CEO and the president both know the company must be efficient from the inside out, and that means embracing technology, having great HR policies in place, building the right team and taking care of its people.
“As entrepreneurs, we are sitting here dealing with 23 year olds and 50 year olds. Their needs and expectations are different. It’s a challenge for an entrepreneur and employer to be able to meet those needs and expectations, but matching people with their passions in a commercial environment to keep them engaged in areas that support their interest is exactly what we do,” says Tory. “When I look at myself at my stage of life and career, in my experience, which spans 45 years, my big responsiblity these days is mentoring and helping people think through what has to be done. Mentorship is a key factor for any entrepreneur. You’ve got to take advantage of the old guys with the experience!”
Turing 60 hasn’t slowed down McLean & Shaw’s growth.
Tory informs, “Four years ago we brought on two partners, Pierce Krol and Otilja Majewski. Krol was looking for an opportunity in Grand Prairie. He now has a staff of six and is close to reaching $1 million in commissions. About four years ago we also took all the farm and equine business out of McLean & Shaw and started AgPro Insurance Brokers. Bonnie Kluthe has joined as president of AgPro, and we will build that company as managing general underwriter. One of the beauties of being independent is that we were in a positon to provide flexibility and choice without any insurer influence.
Tory and Laird take social responsibility as seriously as their corporate obligations. Tory is a supporter of Dreams Take Flight, and the company has completed several charitable initiatives, including supporting Edmonton’s Ronald McDonald House.
Tory also enjoys empowering and supporting other leaders. “I joined a group called TEC Canada. It’s a group of CEOs that gets together once a month to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly in our businesses. We really get down to the nitty gritty as to how we solve industry issues. We seek guidance and mentorship from our fellow members. It’s all confidential.” She smiles with pride. “I’m the only female in my group.”
McLean & Shaw is extremely proud to have clients on the roster that have been with the firm since their predecessors first opened the doors 60 years ago, and some of these clients joined the firm for its 60th anniversary celebration. “Our celebration was to share the success and to say thank you to everyone who made it possible for us to meet this milestone,” smiles Tory.
One such client is Sokil, a transportation group that has provided complete logistic solutions for more than 65 years. “Congratulations, McLean & Shaw on your 60 years in business!” praises Greg Sokil. “We have dealt with McLean & Shaw for over 60 years both personally and corporately. We have found the experience and knowledge of their staff (personally and commercially) to be amongst the best in the industry. They are well respected in the community for their innovative ideas. All the best in the future and another 60 years!”
The president and the CEO conclude, “Those that work with McLean & Shaw know they can trust in the fact that we are going to going to follow through. What we are selling is a future promise to pay in the event of a peril or a loss. What we are selling is intangible. When someone has a claim, they need to make sure we are delivering – and we do. We will continue to build on our existing foundation and continue to look for opportunities like what the company has done in the past, including mergers and acquisitions. We remember our roots and how we got here and will continue to build on the relationships we’ve earned over the last 60 years. Laird concludes, “Our business has been built on a strong referral platform and that word-of-mouth endorsement is a privilege we never take for granted.”