In May 2004, Andrew Kemp gave up his senior vice president position at a large, international insurance-brokerage firm to join CMW Insurance in Burnaby, British Columbia. Starting as the COO—with a 20 percent stake in the company and the expectation of becoming president—Kemp recognized CMW as the perfect platform for his vision of what he wanted to develop and create in the British Columbia marketplace. Since taking over, Kemp has led CMW to become one of the fastest-growing brokers in the province, with $62 million in premiums. Here, Kemp tells us about about his transition and the company’s upcoming trajectory.
Advantage: What made you switch to CMW from a large, international brokerage firm?
Andrew Kemp: I spent 19 years at an international broker, starting from a junior position and moving up the ladder to become a manager and senior vice president. It was a pretty big company, and I felt frustrated working in a company that was more focused on shareholders than clients and employees. I realized I had to move on. I needed to be involved with a company like CMW. It was growing but didn’t have the systems, procedures, and processes to reach its potential. I came in and worked with management to put these in place and to continue to build a great company. In this process, I was focused on not recreating the environment I came from.
What is your role as president, and can you describe your day-to-day duties?
My daily responsibility is to lead CMW. I have a management team of seven in charge of various areas of the company, and I check in with them to mentor, lead, and direct them to meet their daily responsibilities. That’s the internal part. The external part is to be the face of CMW in the public, promoting CMW at different events, award ceremonies, and other activities. I also spend time meeting with our major clients and delivering what we say we deliver. Our major clients are what drive our business, and I want to make sure we look after them.
What strategies help the firm compete in the insurance market?
Our aim is to attract and keep the best people in our business. The reason we can do that is that we are a flat management. We don’t have a huge overhead. Every manager has active client duties and a revenue part to their role. We can track the best people and then pay them the best in the industry.
The economy is not that strong, and we’re in a tight market, so we work hard creating the right environment, perks, and plans for our staff. If asked the best place to work in insurance in Vancouver, most would say CMW.
What is the company’s business philosophy?
We see ourselves as trusted advisors to our clients. As an insurance broker, we want to be in the same place as our clients’ accountants and lawyers. We don’t want to be in a position as a supplier who supplies them a product once a year. To be a trusted advisor, you need to be experienced and knowledgeable. It takes 10–15 years to be valuable, because it’s a complicated business. I have 25 years of experience, and I’m still learning every day.
We also treat our insurer partners differently and, as a result, have the strongest relationships in our region to assist in getting results for our clients.
What makes CMW stand out from others?
It’s 100 percent the quality of our people. It’s a highly service-oriented business we’re in, and you have to know the products and be experienced and focused on service. Also, our clients have consistency in their service team. Ninety-five percent of our major accounts have the same service team as they had when they moved to CMW. This is totally different than our competitors, who are constantly moving internally or losing staff, and their clients are then having to reeducate their team on the account.
What gives CMW its expertise?
Our people, of course. We have been able to handpick the best people in our industry, and build a brokerage where our client-facing teams have, on average, more then 20 years of experience in our business.