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HKMB - A Growing Alternative for Construction Insurance and Safety PDF Print E-mail



Separately, the insurance brokerages Morris & Mackenzie Inc. and HKMB International Insurance Brokers shared many similarities. Both could boast of corporate histories dating to the late 1800’s and strong reputations in the Canadian marketplace. Both were proudly privately held and 100 per cent Canadian. Both could take satisfaction in the high levels of service they provided to clients and could name several accounts they had held for many years on that basis.


In February 2001, the Toronto office of Morris & Mackenzie moved north from the downtown Atrium on Bay complex to Sheppard Avenue East. On Apr. 30, 2007, many of the people involved in that move returned to the Atrium, now as colleagues of HKMB.


On Jan. 1, 2007, HKMB finalized its acquisition of the Toronto and Vancouver offices of Morris & Mackenzie, cementing its position as Canada’s largest privately-held commercial insurance brokers and third largest overall. With an annual premium of $300 million, HKMB is indeed a force to be reckoned with.


Most Morris & Mackenzie colleagues chose to stay on with HKMB including all of the staff involved in Morris & Mackenzie’s well-established Construction and Surety Practices. These highly-experienced individuals have joined HKMB’s Construction and Surety Practices to create a unit with considerable heft in the market and tremendous internal resources they can bring to bear for clients.


Stronger Together

Now joined together, the characteristics the two companies shared still apply and are magnified on the service front. Of equal importance, the different strengths they exhibited separately are now strengths of the combined firm. As Kelly Parker, Surety Practice leader said, “We’ve quickly found out in combining our resources that one plus one sometimes equals more than two.”


Over the last 20 years, HKMB has been strongly focused on expansion which it has achieved both organically and through a series of carefully chosen mergers and acquisitions. As a result, its commercial practice is strong in a number of industry sectors. Morris & Mackenzie, on the other hand, while also expansion minded, chose in the 1950s to make construction one of the cornerstones of its commercial practice. When acquired, 40 per cent of its business was construction related. This and its strengths in Surety, Loss Control and Engineering, and contractor specific insurance programs are great complements to HKMB’s commercial practice and strengths in Claims Advocacy, Directors’ Liability and employee benefits.


Like many smart Canadian companies, both firms recognized the importance of international connections but went about making them in different ways. Because of its focus on construction, Morris & Mackenzie focused on connecting through industry related associations worldwide such as the National Association of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP). Meanwhile, HKMB joined broker networks including Assurex Global, Worldwide Broker Network and Intersure that gave it the ability to compete against international brokers and offer seamless global service. Combining these international networks greatly enhances HKMB’s ability to service construction clients with international needs.


Being privately-held companies that offered opportunities for ownership, both Morris & Mackenzie and HKMB have attracted and retained some of the best people in the industry. These people are now together under one roof working as a team for the benefit of all their clients.


It’s all about the people…

HKMB’s real strength lies in its 250 people. The company’s philosophy of not paying commission but instead offering the opportunity for profit sharing and ownership has fostered a cooperative approach amongst its colleagues. This is distinctly different from most brokers which President, Gregory Belton describes as “often a collection of individual, commission-paid producers who come together for the purpose of having access to insurance markets.” HKMB has access to virtually all insurance markets but their colleagues have no disincentive to recruiting additional internal expertise when it is needed.


The newly-expanded Construction and Surety Practices together comprise over 20 colleagues. Few other Canadian brokers can boast such a commitment of resources. Those at the senior levels of the Practices have each been in the industry for over 20 years and bring a depth and breadth of experience and knowledge to serving construction clients that is hard to match.


“Our clients know we are the ‘go-to’ people”, said Brian Edmunds, vice president on the Surety team. “If we can’t do it, no one can.”


Without doubt, HKMB has the technical proficiency and technology support systems to deliver the day-to-day transactional services expected by their clients. However, as Rick Taylor, Construction Practice leader and a part of the firm said, “Where we really differentiate ourselves is in the advisory services we provide. Most often this involves detailed contract analyses at the bidding and execution stages. Our clients who include general contractors, subcontractors, project managers, property owners and developers, architects, engineers and materials suppliers rely on us to advise on contractor responsibilities, performance and insurance commitments.” HKMB’s Surety professionals also provide consulting services and have been involved as consultants on some of Canada’s major construction projects including the Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island to the mainland.


In addition to insurance and surety experts, HKMB has three people dedicated to risk control, two of whom are engineers, and 10 people advocating daily for clients’ interests in their in-house claims department. Clients also have access to HKMB People Solutions, a department dealing with employee benefits and related services including WSIB consulting; and Private Client Management, a team of highly skilled personal insurance professionals with particular expertise in dealing with affluent clients.


“HKMB colleagues really do take a team approach,” said Vice President, Nelly Toledo. “When we recognize that our client has a need for specialized services or expertise, we will bring in the resources needed.


Adds Sheila Thompson, vice president on the Surety team, “Taking a team approach within our department means no call goes unanswered and a client does not have to wait for a specific person to respond to their request.”


International Reach

HKMB’s international capabilities eclipse those of any other privately-held broker in Canada and present specific advantages over the international services offered by the publicly held brokers.


As an equity partner in Assurex Global, the world’s largest privately-held brokerage group, HKMB has direct access to more than 115 broker partners in over 500 locations, in 74 countries, on six continents. And, since Assurex partners are handpicked using strict criteria, HKMB clients can be confident in dealing with the world’s top independent insurance  and risk management brokers.


In addition, HKMB’s network extends beyond Assurex through its membership in Worldwide Broker Network, Intersure and The Council of Brokers and Agents. The advantage that this gives the firm and its clients is the ability in many countries to choose amongst local brokers to ensure a consistently high level of service and the type of working relationship desired by the client. Neil Morrison, HKMB’s CEO, notes that “this kind of flexibility is simply not available through the large international brokers who require clients to work only with their local offices.”


Relationship with MCAT Members

“The reasons we have been so successful in partnering with and serving the construction industry is that, like our contractor clients, long term client relationships are important to HKMB,” said Parker. With the acquisition of Morris & Mackenzie, HKMB gained a substantial portfolio of accounts with mechanical contractors that had been with Morris & Mackenzie for many years. Edmunds echoed the sentiments of the whole team by saying “we look forward to continuing our successful relationship with many MCAT members and with the association itself. Together we’ll continue to break new ground.”


For more information, contact HKMB at Tel: (416) 597-0008, Toll Free: 1-800-232-2024 or visit the company’s web site at


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