The broker landscape across Ontario is filled with some of the best, most sophisticated brokerages in Canada and with that it’s a tall feat to set yourself apart from the crowd. In recent years, Ontario brokers have also had to adopt new practices, raising both their service levels and business acumen to a new standard. IBAO’s 2021 Brokerage of the Year winner, isure insurance, was recognized as a leader in the field years ago and has done the even more difficult task of staying at the front of the pack since then.
Dario Battista, isure’s Founder, President & CEO, shared insights on his business, being a leader in the digital insurance world, the secret sauce to his success and how he has created a strong culture that made the impossible, possible.
Started from the Bottom, Now We’re Here
Dario was first featured in this magazine after he won our 2015 Innovator of the Year Award. He told us how he started in the insurance industry as a first-generation broker, seeking out this career not because of what he would be doing, but more around what he wanted to be. He talked about his business inspiration, insights about his team and their culture, the future and transformations of isure as well as how data plays an integral role in their day-to-day business. The goal was to build a business that was greater than the sum of his personal efforts and after years of working in the industry, 2007 marked the year that isure was born. A trailblazer in the digital space, isure launched during a time when the online business world was the path less taken and there were very few supporters.
Fast forward six years and isure claimed the year’s top prize for their long-term growth, mastery of digital marketing within the broker channel, progressive use of technology to streamline internal processes and a focus on building and maintaining a culture despite working from home. Dario and the isure team have developed a perfect balance of culture and business that has contributed to their many achievements.
The isure Difference
Helping clients manage their risk so they can build a better future.
Make insurance friendly and easier.
Insurance About You.
Respectful – Every person deserves our time and attention.
One – Succeed by working together.
Client – The CLIENT is the center of all that we do.
Kind – Grateful and giving back to the world.
Innovative – Learn, grow and never stand still.
Trusted – Professional, honest and fair with everyone.
The Road Less Travelled
The 2022 landscape we’re living in is one that is hyper-digital, with access to do and purchase almost anything online from the most basic to the extremely complicated. This was not the case when isure was born. Driven by a desire and need to grow, Dario was looking for a model that allowed isure to generate business under the brand but didn’t have to rely on anyone else to bring in those leads. isure worked hard to reimagine the way insurance was not only sold but presented and communicated. This new model offered clients, a way to purchase insurance that hadn’t been on the table—a digital-driven, one-stop shop that put the client first.
Brand and choice were the ultimate solidifying factors that digital and online was the right direction for the isure brand to grow. For the past 15 years, Dario and the isure team have seen year-over-year organic growth, the ability to retain control of the business and the opportunity to overcome all the challenges that have been presented over the years.
Finding Your North Star
As an early innovator in the digital insurance space, constant evolution and stick-to-it-iveness were important factors in staying relevant. Playing the long game has proven to be extremely beneficial in becoming an important player in the Ontario broker channel.
Dario credits his success as a business owner to his goals and values—building strong relationships with clients, partners and team members, knowing the business and saying no. The latter point being widely known advice from Warren Buffet, on what separates successful people from the crowd—that two-letter word. No. Saying no to almost everything allows you to stay focused and on the fast track to results-driven success.
“We stay grounded by sticking to our values. We come from the perspective that it’s all about the client, but we can’t be on our A-game for our clients without nurturing the team. That’s a primary focus for us—our values underpin everything that we do. We developed this acronym—ROCK IT—and we do stay true to these every day.”
“Keeping things really simple for our team is also important. We ask them to prioritize two things when speaking to clients: make it friendlier and easier. If you do that, we are going to win our share of wins. Being clear and getting your team moving in one direction. Those are the two things we can control.”
The Dream Team
Dario firmly believes that putting your effort into hiring well and getting the right people with attitudes that mesh with your brand values is critical to achieving success.
“Finding people who can cover my blind spots and complement my areas of weakness was very important to me. My management team is designed in a specific way to bring to light each of our team members’ specific talents. Clear ownership has allowed us to formalize process and heighten our success and move forward.”
On his quest to further the brokerage Dario hired Noel Austin as his Chief Operating Officer at isure in 2016. The duo had known each other for years, having gone to school together and remaining friends since.
“We’d reached the maximum level of growth that we could with our existing structure and with that we needed to continue to evolve and that’s where Noel and his expertise comes in. Between the two of us, Noel focuses on the internal and digital operations, and I focus on strategy and marketing. Having Noel in this internal facing role has allowed us to up the ante in several ways within our brokerage—formalizing processes and work that we’re doing. The industry is constantly evolving, and so are we. Our current structure, gives me a way to ensure that we are moving forward internally with our operations and staff.”
Going further than just hiring the right people, the isure team invests in every team members’ skills and knowledge. They have a structured training platform that assists in getting new team members licensed and in a role in a matter of months. The first of two formalized training programs is isureU, a personal lines broker training program that covers the most basic to the most complicated areas of the business. The second, is a recently launched commercial training program called the 905. Both learning platforms provide new and seasoned team members the opportunity to plot a career path, set goals and stick with it for months and years to come.
“We ask our team to prioritize two things when speaking to clients: make it friendlier and easier. If you do that, we’re going to get our share of wins. Being clear and getting your team moving in one direction. Those are the two things we can control.”
Dario stresses the importance of professional management—the idea that you need to have the right team, the right processes, and the right mix in place so that as an owner you can work on the business, not in it.
1. Play the Long Game:
Stay focused on your goals and don’t get distracted
2. Invest In Yourself:
Don’t expect others to invest in you if you aren’t willing to do the same
3. No One is Entitled to Success:
You need to work for it and earn it
4. Your Reputation Matters:
In an industry like insurance, your reputation will follow you everywhere, so it better be a good one
“When I started down this road of a digital brokerage, I was told resoundingly that this would not work. That I couldn’t compete and that this would blow up in our face. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we’re still here, we’re still doing our thing and we’re growing. We know who we are and we’re successful at it. We’re doing what I was once told was impossible.”
Fifteen years later, Dario and the isure team have not only made the impossible, possible, they’ve raised the bar. The brokerage today operates under complete independence in a world that is dominated by larger competitors with deep pockets. Dario highlights that he and the team will continue to take this approach and grow organically through their own success and cash flow, ensuring they have the flexibility to continually reinvest in the business.
“We’re very proud of the fact that our mix of business is split evenly between personal and commercial. Within the commercial one third is small business and the rest is medium to large, with a number of complex risks. A total unicorn within the digital space.”
“We’re growing, but we make sure that we don’t dilute our brand promise. We’ve continued to do our thing year over year and do it on our own terms. We’re the masters of our own destiny.”