IAN KEITH, CEBS, Group Insurance & Pension Advisor, 360° Health Benefits Inc., Ottawa, Ontario
“It’s not about making a sale, but rather building
a relationship that can last decades”
As a Co-Founder and Partner at 360° Health Benefits Inc., Ian Keith, Group Insurance and Pension Advisor provides personalized and comprehensive advice to businesses in Ontario. As an expert in Employee Benefit plans and Pension plans, Ian knows his industry inside and out.
From the beginning, Ian didn’t always know he wanted to become an Insurance Broker. After completing a finance degree at the University of Ottawa, Ian found his way into the industry as a group benefits specialist at Great-West Life. “That’s where a lot of people in my industry start,” Ian mentions. “They learn from the inside, working for the insurance company as a wholesaler before becoming a broker or retailer like myself.”
Over the next 17 years, Ian worked for several large insurance companies, gaining group benefits knowledge and experience that very few brokers in the industry have. Throughout this time, Ian learned how insurance companies operate from the inside out, which has given him a competitive edge in his career. “I got into the machine and experienced how it functions,” he says. “With my detailed knowledge and experience, there are very few questions I don’t know the answer to.”
The path to becoming a successful broker and entrepreneur
When Standard Life was acquired by Manulife in 2014, Ian knew it was time for a change. According to Ian, “The broker role was the next logical step in my career.” Though he was hesitant in the beginning because he never wanted to bother people with cold calling, Ian eventually found his stride as a successful broker.
His first two years as a broker were tough, but Ian experienced a few wins in late 2016 that gave him the confidence to continue. With great dedication and perseverance, Ian started a business in 2018 with his business partner, David Bourada, and in 2021 they rebranded it as 360° Health Benefits Inc. “Where we are today is a culmination of a lot of dedication and time over the past 8 years,” Ian says.
“When clients need us, we are here”
As a small business owner, offering employee benefits can be a daunting task. It involves understanding complex policies and regulations and managing day-to-day administration. That’s where Ian comes in. “I’d say it’s our knowledge about how to structure a plan, along with how to properly manage the plan that leads to smooth outcomes,” he explains.
Ian believes that helping people is more important than making money. He takes the time to build rapport with his clients and is always willing to help, regardless of the financial gain. “For me, it’s not so much about the money than it is about the relationships.” This mindset has served him well, as his clients often come back and refer him to others.
Back in the day, Ian’s father owned a printing company. “Since the age of 7, I was helping my dad out,” he says. Ian recalls that his father always had a strong work ethic and commitment to delivering on his promises. “When he said he was going to do something, he did it; even if it meant working long hours and sacrificing time with his family.” These values have carried forward to Ian’s work as a broker today. “I take pride in my work and strive to ensure that my clients are satisfied and well taken care of.”
Ian takes the approach to listen to his client’s problems and find ways to solve them. His commitment to his clients is what keeps them coming back. “If I commit to something, I take it very seriously,” he says. “When I tell you I’m going to do something, you can trust I will always follow through on my word.” His approach has led to a low client turnover rate, which he considers to be the ultimate compliment.
Broker advice you can expect from 360° Health Benefits Inc.
As a Benefits Advisor, Ian’s job is far from routine. “On any given day, I get a number of odd requests.” That being said, there are certain types of advice that he continuously offers his clients. “We commonly try to help clients manage their plan the right way and to run it properly. When you start playing fast and loose with the rules, there could be risks involved and someone can be negatively impacted as a result.”
According to Ian, many small business owners are tempted to exclude certain employees from the plan with the intention to save costs. However, Ian stresses the importance of following the rules and including all eligible employees in the plan. “If you do it properly, you don’t have to worry about problems in the future,” he says. “If you lay a solid foundation, risk will be minimized. But, if you build a shaky foundation, it’s a house of cards waiting to fall apart.”
Unlike most sales professions where the focus is on closing deals in the short term, Ian’s approach is to sell himself as a partner for the long haul. By building trust and establishing himself as a reliable and knowledgeable expert in the field, Ian is capable of helping clients navigate the confusing world of employee benefits with confidence and ease.
Ian’s expertise sets him apart from competitors who may simply rely on insurance providers to handle everything. “I know a lot about how to ensure that you get the best possible results with the least possible risk,” he says.
Making a positive impact on the industry
According to Ian, employee benefits can be divided into two main categories: insurance and claims. “Insurance is for low-frequency events that have a major financial impact, such as life insurance, disability, and unlimited medications, while claims are high-frequency events such as dental and vision care which are important but not as financially significant.”
For Ian, the most meaningful and impactful part of his profession is when he gets to help families in need by putting insurance in place that protects them from high-impact life events. “Whether it’s facilitating a life insurance claim, helping someone file for a disability claim, or securing coverage for a high-cost medication, I find it deeply rewarding to know that I can make a real difference in people’s lives,” he says.
The increasing demand for benefits in lower-income industries and beyond
Although Ian’s company does not target companies in a specific niche industry, he has noticed an increase in demand for benefits plans in lower-income jobs, such as retail businesses, childcare facilities, and landscapers due to the tight labour market in Ottawa. “Our ideal clients are small to mid-sized businesses,” he says. “Anywhere between 10 to 100 employees would be our sweet spot.”
That being said, Ian believes that the demand for benefits is spreading into other industries as it becomes increasingly necessary for all companies to offer benefits in order to retain and attract talented employees.
Continued learning for continued success
In the world of insurance, staying up to date with the latest trends is crucial for success. For Ian, ongoing learning and professional development are essential elements within their business strategy.
As a licensed professional, Ian is obligated to complete certain education credits every year. However, their team goes above and beyond the minimum requirement by attending most in-person and virtual seminars hosted by insurers throughout the year. “As technology in the benefits industry evolves, we need to know how it works so we can help our clients use it,” he says. By staying informed and educated, Ian and his team can ensure they are providing the most effective solutions and advice to their clients.
Prioritizing family and building a strong future
Now that the business is financially stable, he can devote more time to his family life. Ian is married with two children and values spending quality time with them. “I believe that having a fulfilling personal life improves your performance at work,” he says.
That being said, Ian also mentions that “there is no life balance if there’s no money to pay for life.” As a business owner, Ian has a clear vision for the future of his company. In the future, Ian plans to focus on continued growth, one client at a time. “I see the value of building a strong foundation and expanding organically, with the right people in place to support the company’s growth,” he says.
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Ian Keith, CEBS
Group Insurance & Pension Advisor
360° Health Benefits Inc.
1000 Innovation Drive, Suite 500
Ottawa, ON K2K 3E7