Featuring Joyce Usher-Mesiano, VP Business Development Eastern Canada, Westland
I began my insurance career over 30 years ago as a commercial underwriter and field representative at Continental Insurance and Gan Insurance. I went on to become a broker, and with that experience, in 1998 I became a co-founder and President of National Brokers Insurance Services with two female business partners.
National Brokers Insurance Services was an independent, privately held brokerage, headquartered in Vaughan, Ontario. We quickly established a reputation for challenging the status quo to offer superior insurance products, expertise, strategic advice, exceptional service and a competitive advantage while managing clients’ risk exposure. We noted that being a full-service brokerage was seen as the single biggest advantage. This entailed the organizational culture to embrace rapid decision making, responsiveness and flexibility.
I was honoured to win the WXN Top 100 Women in Canada in 2016 and 2017 and the International Enterprising Women of the Year in 2013. I was also awarded three scholarships for executive education to Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Ivey Business School, and Harvard.
I’m passionate about charitable work, particularly lung cancer care and awareness and my business partner and I founded the Butterfly Effect Fund (BEfund). This is a small movement that will have a profound effect on the care and research of lung cancer working with the Princess Margaret Hospital.
In 2021, National Brokers Insurance was acquired by Westland Insurance. Today, I am Vice President of Business Development, Eastern Canada for Westland MyGroup/Westland Insurance. I’m incredibly proud of the work I do and the impact that I’ve had in my career so far. I couldn’t have done it without the support of many and I’m happy now to support others as they grow in their careers in the insurance industry.
How did your career path begin and what advice has helped you along the way?
You hear how people fell into insurance—well, in my case, I decided to come to Toronto for a summer job to try it out. I fell in love with Toronto and was excited with the decision to make insurance my career.
I am so thankful that I received great advice along the way and had incredible mentors who helped develop and strengthen my skills. One advisor in particular really impressed me—I had just finished my formal schooling and they said to get ahead, I should define my expectations, absorb as much as possible by continuing my education and pursue personal development. That was it! I enrolled in insurance courses, attended seminars and conferences, obtained my Canadian Risk Management designation, obtained interprovincial licences and executive education at Tuck Business School and Ivey. I joined specific groups and associations for entrepreneurs and women in business, sat on executive advisory groups and on board of directors. All of this strengthened my voice, furthered my education and gave me access to more opportunities.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to women in the workplace?
Follow the simple ABCs:
Ask for help. Ask questions, use your voice, and listen! Find a mentor and become a mentor. I enjoy being a mentor for young businesswomen—sharing their experiences while learning and embracing the mentees’ core values and personal direction, then helping to align and empower their personal brand.
Be bold and brave. Speak up, ignite passion in what you do and inspire others. Support one another, advocate and share experiences along with successes. Equality helps everyone by making a balanced society. Develop your personal brand and stand out in a crowd by creating a positive and lasting impression.
Challenges will come your way. Have the courage to accept them. We learn from mistakes and change helps us to succeed. Challenges bring clarity to what we really want and how our path will lead. At a time of challenge always revert to A and B, ask for help and be bold and brave.
Looking back, what has been the most rewarding part of your career?
I would say when we opened the doors to our brokerage—National Brokers Insurance was 100% women owned and we really started from scratch. Starting any business comes with challenges, including regulatory requirements, dealing with bureaucracy, and finding the balance of working long hours while being mothers to young children. Yet, there was a great deal of rewards during that founding—from construction, to setting up the office’s programs and protocols, to obtaining insurer contracts, to hiring employees and welcoming clients. We built it, we grew, and we are immensely proud of our achievements. Our standards were clearly defined. When employees succeed, we succeed. Our employees were and continue to be of utmost importance to us. Our culture fully engaged and empowered co-workers to pursue personal development to better serve clients and achieve our company’s full potential. This all brings a smile to my face.
What keeps you excited about going to work every day?
I enjoy the WIN! I like working on new business, programs and projects. I enjoy putting everything I have learned and worked for over the years to effective use. My network is inclusive, and I am proud to have those contacts to work with. Trust is earned and you must always treat your network with respect. It’s a great responsibility that is even more rewarding.
“Be bold and brave. Speak up, ignite passion in what you do and inspire others. Support one another, advocate and share experiences along with successes.”
How do you stay on top of the ever-changing world of insurance?
I am a bit of a news junkie and that includes what is happening in our industry. I rely on newsletters, magazines, news feeds, e-blasts, conferences, podcasts and meetings. Keeping informed keeps my mind open to new opportunities and developments.
What habit did you develop that was most helpful to you throughout your career?
Reaching out to say thank you. Perhaps not a habit, but it is something that I have been mindful to do each time I receive a referral, assistance, an invitation or helping hand. Reputation is extremely important and I believe it should include expressing gratitude. Do not take a relationship for granted—a simple gesture can go a long way.