Making the World Go ‘Round

“In our economy, nothing moves without insurance.” —John L. Pastor, President & Partner

John L. Pastor, president and partner at Mitchell Sandham Pastor, discusses the vitality of his trade

Perhaps because he was born into the business, John Pastor doesn’t look at insurance as just a job. Indeed, for the president and partner at Mitchell Sandham Pastor insurance brokerage, the work seems to have become an entire lifestyle. As a registered insurance broker of Ontario, a Canadian-accredited insurance broker (CAIB), and a Rotary Club member, he stays in tune with the dynamic tenor of his industry on multiple fronts. Recently he sat with Advantage to discuss the satisfaction his efforts bring him.

Advantage: Your educational background is in economics, and your professional background is in insurance. There are some obvious connections here, but what in particular drives your interest in insurance?
John Pastor: In our economy, nothing moves without insurance. Our economy relies on a profitable and sustainable insurance industry. And as brokers, we play a key role by offering choices, educating our clients on products, and purchasing the coverage on their behalf. In doing that, we help to ensure competition within the industry, which also helps to spur product innovation. But beyond that, I fell into this business because my dad was in insurance as I grew up. It was natural for me. When I was a kid, I would go with him to his office on Saturdays, when it was just a one-man operation, and I’d help clean and maintain the office. I just grew into the business from there.

What are some of the milestones that led you to your current partnership at Mitchell Sandham Pastor?
When I came out of undergrad, I immediately joined what was then my family’s firm, in 1988. I learned the business from the ground up while I was there. I got my insurance license then, too. I began selling and servicing personalized insurance for home and automobile, but then my interests started to lean more towards the commercial side, so I developed expertise and knowledge in this area. I got involved with some accreditation courses, such as [the CAIB program], and obtained a fully unrestricted license so that I would be ready for any eventuality.

As time went on, my dad was looking to retire and was looking for an exit plan. Through a prior insurance brokerage acquisition I had done with my dad, I met Peter Mitchell, and he had a brokerage [Mitchell Sandham Inc.] with Norm Sandham. I was looking at how I could buy the business from my dad on a basis that could allow me to continue to grow it and not be saddled with too much debt. Peter Mitchell and I had numerous conversations and found an opportunity that worked for my dad, myself, and for Mitchell Sandham. We then formed Mitchell Sandham Pastor in 1999.

Career Milestones

1984–1988
Earns a BA in economics and history from the University of Toronto

1988–1991
Serves as an account manager for Pastor & March Insurance Brokers, Inc.

1991–1993
Becomes a Canadian-accredited insurance broker and is promoted to commercial lines account manager at Pastor & March

1993–1999
Climbs to vice president at Pastor & March

1999–Present
Joins with Mitchell Sandham Inc. to form the company Mitchell Sandham Pastor, which then purchases Pastor & March

You insure people in a variety of different fields. Is it challenging providing so many insurance options?
Insurance is constantly evolving. There have been many changes over the years: lots of coverage enhancements, new lines of insurance to cover, new and emerging exposures such as cyber liability. You never stop in this industry. You need sound, fundamental knowledge of the principles of insurance, and then you need to couple that with [an] understanding of the exposures facing your customers. This has to do with the conversation and the relationship with your clients—asking the right questions, coming away with a solid understanding of the exposures, and applying your knowledge to arrange that coverage. We work with a lot of IT consultants and hospitality [clients], for example, and we’re very familiar with these areas.

Can you elaborate on how your community work connects to your professional life?
For the past 20 years, our business has been located in Mississauga, Ontario, where we’ve prospered. I feel a huge commitment to our community and have a big desire to give back. For many years, I’ve been involved through Rotary in many fund-raising activities, and I’ve also participated on the board of directors and chaired the committee responsible for making recommendations to the club on which charities or projects the club should be supporting. Whether it’s handing out a check from the club to someone deserving and in need, or a check from our insurance company making someone whole after a claim, I’m happy to be part of such a positive process.

What else satisfies you about your work?
I’ve developed a lot of great relationships in this business. That’s what the business is about. The clients I’ve been dealing with since I started—and many were clients in my father’s brokerage for years before that—the relationships I have with these people are incredibly satisfying. I’ve learned about various industries and how businesses operate, and I’ve met extremely interesting people. I get a sense of satisfaction putting together a competitive insurance program for them that meets their needs and gives them the peace of mind that insurance provides.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing in the coming years?
There has been a huge push for technological advancements within the industry and in the way we communicate with our insurance companies to better service the needs of our clients. We’ve invested fairly heavily in our technology and in our website so that our clients have various ways to communicate with us. Over the years, we’ve built a solid reputation for being advocates for our clients, and the referrals we get to grow our business are a big testament to that. I’m looking forward to building on that reputation and looking for ways to add even more value to the relationships we have with our clients. That’s key.