Among Gary Hirst’s many accomplishments in his career, growing CHES Special Risk from a three-person company to a 50-plus-employee operation in three major Canadian cities is a particular point of pride. Officially, he’s the company President and CEO, but he admits that building a successful company doesn’t come from holding the leader’s title. He describes his role more as being the company quarterback.

“Growing a successful company starts with team-building, and I view my role as trying to make work easier for my team,” Hirst says. “Over the span of my career, I’ve acquired the ability to recognize the talent and experience needed to succeed.” And he counts himself lucky to lead a team of highcalibre employees.

“Our recruitment mantra is ‘best person for the job,'” Hirst says. “Our team is given the latitude, trust and recognition to do their job without micromanagement – we hire based on professionalism and experience, and that is how the company has blossomed.” Hirst took ownership of the company in 2016, with no business and three employees. The company now services over 1,000 brokerages across Canada with 50 employees. Hirst’s and senior management colleagues’ background in construction insurance has propelled growth in that portfolio and shown gaps in the market that CHES has filled with its niche products.

CHES’ ability to underwrite these niche risks is not only due to expertise and hard work, but the relationships that it has built with brokers.

“The amount of M&As is staggering, and it often forces brokers to do business with their competitors,” Hirst says. “When dealing with CHES, brokers are talking to an independent MGA, which adds an element to CHES that is unmatched.”

CHES fosters broker relations through empathy – many CHES underwriters have experience on the broker side and therefore understand their stressors and policyholders’ needs, such as issuing policies within 48 hours of binding.

Not only dedicated to his company, Hirst is dedicated to the insurance industry in general and the MGA channel in particular, which inspired him to establish the Canadian Association of Managing General Agents, which operates based on three pillars: regulation, education and advocacy. His drive for running CHES Special Risk and establishing CAMGA stems from the same passion.

“I love meeting people, talking to people and helping people,” Hirst says. “To a very large extent, it’s my way to give back to the industry after a 37-year career.”

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