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How We’ve Kept People at the Centre of Our Digital and Business Transformation

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When we started Surex, it was a brick-and-mortar insurance brokerage in the small town of Magrath in Southern Alberta. We both have experience living and working in small towns, and we knew that we both wanted to stay there. However, we also had greater visions for expanding our business beyond Magrath and making an impact on our industry. We set out to build Surex as an online insurance provider (think Travelocity, but for insurance.) Today, is Canada’s fastest growing online insurance provider.

While we have been able to transform our brick and mortar brokerage into an online business with customers across Canada using technology, our success is largely due to the fact we have always put people first when making decisions for our company. Here are some examples of how we’ve put both our customers and our employees first.

1) Our customers are not just ‘users’ – they’re people.

Insurance, as we know, is a “grudge purchase” – no one wants to shop around for quotes and then pay for coverage every month. We all need some form of insurance at some point, so we wanted to give customers the power to choose the plans that work best for them. Surex’s model aims to cut the unpleasantness out of the buying process, and help customers make quick, easy decisions on a purchase they don’t necessarily want to make, let alone revisit to ensure they’re getting the best rates and appropriate coverage. Each customer is assigned a dedicated insurance assistant right from their first contact, ensuring they only need to tell their story once and are always in touch with the same licensed advisor who knows and responds to their growing needs. While other insurance providers represent and drive sales of their own product, we partnered with several great insurance providers to give our customers the freedom to choose plans that work best for them, regardless of the company offering it.

2) We set our brokers up for success.

Over the last few years, we’ve had the privilege of working remotely with our teams across Canada who is not only sales superstars; they have also dedicated assistants to their clients. They are incentivized by customer satisfaction rather than sales quotas or benchmarks, and their service delivery is seamless from a tech standpoint. When we were looking for a CRM suite to work with, we found that there wasn’t a single solution on the market that could meet our needs. So we made our own, in tandem with the sales staff so every need is met with unique functionality. Our advisors are armed with custom tools to manage their workflow and convert sales. We’re completely anti-micro managerial, and we encourage employees to work from home, trust them to meet their goals, offer mobility within the organization, and promote from within wherever possible.

3) We don’t sacrifice personal touch for growth.

We use customer data and input to make key business decisions. In 2016, we debated whether we should adopt the cheap and efficient call center model used by most of our competitors, or maintain our differentiator where each customer would speak to the same person about their policies and questions, rather than the first available agent at the time of their call. So we surveyed our customers and found that 98% of policyholders wanted to speak to the same person about their quotes, policies, and claims. Our decision to put customers’ wants and needs first, rather than having customers mold to our business model, was one of the most important decisions in scaling our business thus far.

4) Our long-term vision is to disrupt our industry to benefit the customer.

As we continue to expand, our vision is not just to achieve incremental change, but to provide long-lasting change that will impact how we all buy insurance. Insurance is probably one of the last industries to adopt digital. While some carriers have created their own online insurance brands to capitalize on the direct-to-consumer approach, they ultimately can’t offer the same flexibility on pricing that we can because they’re still only selling their own products. We offer a marketplace of products, and our licensed advisors ultimately give the buying and decision-making power back to consumers. This lets us provide real transparency in pricing for our customers, allowing them to choose the best solution out there rather than settling for the best one that a supplier has to offer. This is a revolutionary concept, and we work everyday towards achieving this for more people.

5) Our families and our community come first.

While we’re proud of the benchmarks we’ve achieved for the business, we’re even prouder that we’ve accomplished it all while keeping our small town roots. E-commerce technology enables businesses to be on a level playing field with their competitors whether they are based in a rural setting or an urban metropolis. While we wanted to compete with our big city counterparts, we knew that we did not want to uproot our families or give up being part of the community in which we’ve grown over the years. Now, we’ve been able not just to stay in Magrath ourselves, but we’ve also been able to keep our employees in Magrath – and those who have lived elsewhere have come back to Magrath and continue doing the work that they enjoy thanks to technology. Our brokers have done the same from wherever they are in Canada. We’ve even put Magrath on the map – having one of Canada’s fastest growing businesses based in a town of 2,400 is no small feat.

We’re evidence that technology has the capability to put any Canadian SME on a national or even global stage. But most importantly, we believe that you can leverage technology to grow your company and still keep people first and foremost in business and in life. Success with digital transformation can only come by prioritizing the people who have to work with the technology you are providing.


Matt Alston is the co-founder and Lance Miller is the CEO of Surex, Canada’s fastest growing online insurance provider. Quote, compare & buy online, with access to instant proof of insurance.


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