Fast Track With Thomas Wright—IBAO Future Leader

By Norah Black, VP Marketing & Communications, IBAO | Photos by Jason Gordon 

It all started selling life insurance door-to-door in a rundown part of Hamilton. Thomas sat at kitchen tables presenting policy options just like in the movies. “My first day on the job, I accompanied my manager on a house call. We go inside, and there’s a foot and a half of smoke. I’m literally moving garbage aside to sit on the couch, and this woman’s dog runs up and pees on my leg. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.” 

Thomas was 18. He’d deferred university a year, gotten a call back from a life insurance provider and used his last $500 to get his license. He says he only lasted six months in that job, but it provided a solid foundation for the rest of his career. 

Ten years later, Thomas is Vice President, Specialty Risk at one of the biggest brokerages in Canada. His peers absolutely gush about him.

“Thomas is a true symbol of humanity who sets a great example for the younger generation.” 

“Thomas shows extraordinary commitment to the industry as a whole.” 

“Thomas has done a tremendous job assisting his peers in the transition of Tredd Insurance merging with Westland Insurance.”

So how did this young broker fast-track his success and win IBAO’s Future Leader Award of Excellence? 

“I was a sponge. I used to sit outside people’s offices to eavesdrop. I’d try figuring things out on my own, then ask questions if I didn’t understand something.

“I worked pretty much every job at Tredd. Procedural jobs work well at the beginning of a career—for me that was Account Management in our Welder Program. I dealt with small policies, all very transactional, not 12 lines of coverage. It’s helpful to have an open mind and not think any job is beneath you. That’s a great position to learn from.” 

Once he built his confidence, Thomas started dealing with customers and markets. He received a recommendation letter from one of his clients that went a long way, and ended up transitioning to Program Director with two Account Managers reporting to him. He developed the program, got into sales and enjoyed leading a team. 

After taking an aptitude test, Thomas switched directions to take on the role of Marketing Coordinator, working with insurers to negotiate renewals. Shortly after, he became Marketing Manager. 

“I started handling the marketing for all our accounts. I loved it. I’d take submissions and negotiate deals with insurers. The analysis was the best part—rearranging things to figure the puzzle out. It often starts as this big issue. You have to windle it right down to see the best way it can work.”

During this time, Thomas got involved with the Young Insurance Professionals of Toronto (YIPT)—a group connecting insurance professionals through networking opportunities. After being nominated for a YIPT award, he asked how to get involved. Specifically, were there any initiatives that hadn’t been started. They had an Ambassador Program they’d been wanting to launch. Thomas presented a seven-page proposal outlining his plan.

A few months later, Thomas became involved with the events committee and was elected as Chair. He then put his name forward for President and successfully landed the position.

That’s just Thomas. He asks what needs to be done, looks for opportunities and gets involved to help drive initiatives forward. His YIPT colleagues gush about him just as much as his colleagues. 

“Since Thomas stepped into the role of YIPT President, he’s brought different viewpoints and is driving growth in a way that’s respectful and propels the organization to the next level to succeed in years to come.”

What started as a seven-page proposal on an Ambassador Program became a Strategic Plan outlining ways to evolve the association into a corporation and focus the organization on long-term growth.

That’s Thomas. Fast-tracking to success. 

“I always pictured myself in a suit and briefcase working downtown. I just didn’t picture insurance. Not one person, my entire life, mentioned insurance as a career option.

“But insurance is the perfect career for me. We’re not talking about your mom’s auto policy. We’re talking about working with brokers all over the world so your client can expand their business operations or work on ransom policies because your client’s consulting in the Congo. We have clients operating in 40 different countries right now. It’s not liking insurance. It’s looking at issues holistically, problem-solving and pulling everything together. Every single day is different and exciting. And the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Shifting perspective is something Thomas is familiar with in his personal life, too—he’s become very involved with the Legion located across from his house. 

“My fiancé and I were always too afraid to go in. Couldn’t tell you why exactly. But one day, the sign out front said, Missed your train? Come in for a cold one. So we did. It was one of the friendliest crowds. The couple sitting next to us have become some of our best friends, and we’re still going for cold ones.” 

Thomas’s fast-track mindset extends to his newfound Legion community. 

“I peel potatoes for Christmas dinners. I BBQ at summer events. I’ve helped audit their books. I think we’ve planned half our wedding at the Legion.”

In between edits on this article, Thomas married a fellow young broker. At the Legion. 

“Have I mentioned that story? I met my fiancé at IBAO’s Young Brokers Conference six years ago. Kristen was also relatively new to insurance at the time. We kept in touch and would run into each other at industry events. Kristen then joined the Tredd team (now Westland Insurance), and we started dating. And now, it’s a Westland wedding.” 

Thomas’s attitude has helped him push forward in all aspects of his career, including running Westland’s downtown Toronto office, overseeing every renewal and hiring to expand his team. 

“It’s hard to put into words how perfect I find this industry. And how much I want others to realize what it has to offer. People see the word insurance and don’t walk up to the booth at the career fair. And you know what, I didn’t either. But we know it’s an amazing career—it’s everyone’s responsibility in this industry to help shift the perception, because every interaction with us informs public opinion.”

Thomas is the exact kind of ambassador the industry needs. We’re lucky to have him.

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