Interviewed by Angus MacCaull

A dynamic group of insurance professionals leads Nova Scotia’s Young Broker Network. The YBN’s board of eight includes representation from brokerages across the province. The current Chair is AA Munro’s own Zach Armstrong.

Anyone under 40 or within their first five years in the industry who works at a company that’s part of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia (IBANS) is automatically a member of the YBN.

Zach has been involved for several years and continues to learn a lot. The YBN brings him out of his comfort zone to deal with new kinds of pressure. He’s constantly developing leadership skills and remembering the importance of clear communication. He sat down with me over lunch to share his experience with this growing local group.

INTERVIEWER

What got you interested in the YBN? Do you remember?

ARMSTRONG

It was just at the golf event. I’m a younger person and you don’t run across very many other younger people in the industry and I kind of hit it off with James Mizzi. He was looking for some help for some events and so I volunteered—that was over four years ago.

INTERVIEWER

What different roles have you had over the years?

ARMSTRONG

My first year I was in charge of the education session at our Atlantic convention. Then the year after that I was shadowing the golf event. The last two years I’ve been running the golf event and just this year I’m now the Chair.

INTERVIEWER

Is the YNB connected to a larger network across the country?

ARMSTRONG

Yes! The last two years I’ve had a chance to go to Ottawa and for the national broker convention. We sit down with the president of the Insurance Broker Association of Canada, which is a great opportunity to kind of discuss what’s happening in every province and get ideas from other provinces.

INTERVIEWER

Are there any things that you’re hearing from across Canada that feel relevant to our challenges here? Do young brokers everywhere seem to be dealing with similar stuff?

ARMSTRONG

I think so. A lot of the people that are at these things are in their 30s. We’re not talking about people that are brand new to the industry.

INTERVIEWER

No.

ARMSTRONG

But I think a lot of the YBN chairs find that they aren’t taken seriously enough by their overseeing board. They’re dealing with people that’ve been in the industry for 35 years and done it one way their entire life and they’re a little slow to change. So that’s really been, as a whole, across the country, a big movement for the YBN: to try to bring Millennials into the workplace and to promote change for all generations.

INTERVIEWER

How are you connected to the local broker associations?

ARMSTRONG

Basically we’re given a mandate to look after certain events. We have a representative from the IBANS board come sit in on our meetings. They help us with any kind of questions that we have. Any money we raise go to IBANS; it doesn’t go directly to the YBN. Unless we’re fundraising for an outside group. One of the things I’m the proudest of is that we’ve managed to raise almost $3000 in the last two years for the Phoenix Youth House.

INTERVIEWER

They’re in Halifax?

ARMSTRONG

Yes. We were trying to figure out a way to engage our company partners with our brokers. And at the same time give back to our community. So at our golf event our company partners agreed to sponsor games with our brokers on the different holes. We pitted people against each other for fun and gave a trophy to whoever had the best game. It was cool to do this for a charity that is in line with who we are as the YBN.

INTERVIEWER

Youth.

ARMSTRONG

Youth helping youth.

INTERVIEWER

Nice. Anybody else on the horizon for this yea? Other community partners?

ARMSTRONG

Our big initiative this year is trying to figure out how to bring more quality talent into the insurance industry. Traditionally, you’re either born in it or you fall into it backwards. You don’t graduate from high school and say, “Hey, how do I become an insurance broker?” So this year we’re going to be visiting guidance counsellors and sitting down with them to talk about doing presentations with students on what our industry is about. What value it has. We want high school students to know that just like you could be an electrician or teacher, you could be an insurance broker or an underwriter. There are all kinds of options that we find people don’t realize that until later on in life.

INTERVIEWER

It’s not really on people’s radar.

ARMSTRONG

So that’s our big initiative this year. We’re trying to promote our industry and get more young talent to choose the insurance industry as a viable career path.

INTERVIEWER

What are some of the schools that you’re looking at?

ARMSTRONG

This year we’re doing four or five schools in the Halifax Metro area.

INTERVIEWER

Sounds like an exciting program! Do you have any insights or advice to other young brokers who are trying to find their place in the industry?

ARMSTRONG

I would say just get out and talk to people. Come to our events if you can. Once you get to know people in the industry you realize that it’s not really an “old boy’s club” anymore. Actually, for the first time in the workforce, there are more Millennials working now than there are Baby Boomers. So the time to change is now. And you can be the person that starts to cause change. Don’t just wait for things to happen. Get involved. Pitch ideas. You’re probably going get a lot of Nos, but eventually you will get a Yes.

Zach Armstrong, YBN Chair
Zach at his desk in Dartmouth Crossing