rom humble beginnings come great things, and Bow Valley Insurance Services has certainly grown into something great. When Kirit Gohill and his business partner Gord Keegan Sr. started the insurance brokerage firm in 1979, they had no idea that 40 years later it would become a major player in the industry in Calgary. They scraped together some money to establish Bow Valley Insurance’s downtown presence and slowly built a quality business from the ground up.
“We started with nothing. We each put in $2,500, had a small office in Bow Valley Square with one employee, and built the business through acquisitions and referrals,” says Kirit Gohill, president of Bow Valley Insurance Services.
Since Keegan’s retirement in 1998, Gohill has pushed the firm forward on his own. The brokerage has grown organically as well as by acquisition over the years, buying such entities as Connolly Insurance, Bentley Insurance, Sterling Insurance and Sirs Insurance to widen its customer base. It also grew from a three-person operation to one that employs 70 people out of the 10,000-square-foot Horton Road office as well as two small one- and two-person branches in the city.
Despite the significant growth, Bow Valley Insurance has maintained the founders’ dedication to customer service and client satisfaction. And being an independent insurance broker helps it do just that: by representing several insurance companies, the team can better look after the varied needs of its clients.
“We try to find customized insurance solutions with our ability to go and shop around from all these different insurance companies,” says Neil Gohill, managing director at Bow Valley Insurance and Kirit’s son and successor. “We try to find our clients the best coverage at the best rates.”
Instead of being limited to the best products available at an individual insurance company, Bow Valley clients are presented with the best products out there to ensure the most competitive rates and superior coverage. This allows the brokers to help clients better protect their assets, no matter what those assets may be. The firm has solid relationships with some of the largest insurance companies in the country and often places clients with such companies as Intact Insurance, Wawanesa Insurance, AMI, Aviva, Economical Insurance, Saskatchewan Mutual Insurance, Travelers Insurance and Northbridge Insurance. The firm also believes in having long-term relationships with its suppliers and vendors like Arc Digital, Blue C Inc., Executive Mat Service, Greenery Office Interiors, Payworks, Robil Forms, Sun Life Insurance, Telsec Property, Unity and Connected.
Bow Valley Insurance offers service in both personal and commercial insurance products, and it specializes in group auto and home insurance policies for corporations and associations. It also has expertise with insurance policies geared to long-haul and short-haul trucking, commercial fleets and recreational vehicles including motorcycles, trailers, motorhomes and RVs.
What is more exceptional than the products Bow Valley Insurance offers is the way in which they offer them. Many insurance providers operate call centres to deal with customers’ needs, which means clients have to repeat their situation or issue every time they contact their insurance broker. Bow Valley does not. Each of their customers is assigned a knowledgeable representative to act as a consistent point of contact in their insurance dealings. Many of the brokerage’s employees have been with the company for more than 20 years and some for more than 30, so staff develop great long-term relationships with their customers.
“They will always be with that particular person. Having a dedicated account manager makes a big difference to our customers,” says Neil. “They know the accounts and they get to know the customer really well. It’s important that we build those relationships.”
These representatives are more than just a voice on the phone; they are working continually to ensure clients have the best coverage possible for the best price. They keep in regular touch with clients to stay abreast of any changes that could alter their insurance needs or make them eligible for discounts. Whether clients can save by combining personal auto and home insurance policies, are eligible for a discount after upgrading a home furnace or water heater, or if additional coverage could better protect them given their lifestyle, Bow Valley Insurance representatives pride themselves on keeping information and coverage up to date.
The brokerage keeps its offices up to date as well. As an innovative company, Bow Valley Insurance is at the forefront of technological advancements that can affect the industry and its client base.
“We’ve been investing in new technologies that are up and coming,” says Neil. “When we see something new that is available, we assess it to see how it fits in to our company, and if it fits we try to implement it.”
The firm recently implemented an artificial intelligence chatbot for the website in order to better answer clients’ questions and inform potential clients of what Bow Valley Insurance can provide. It offers a smartphone app that allows clients to access their insurance documents like vehicle pink cards, all with the swipe of a finger. To further accommodate clients’ busy schedules, Bow Valley is employing audio signature technology that allows clients to authorize transactions using a voice recording rather than a physical signature.
Many tech-savvy clients embrace 21st century technology and appreciate its implementation to make their lives more convenient. However, Bow Valley still caters to those clients who prefer a face-to-face meeting, and staff welcome clients in to the office to discuss new policies, go over changes to existing policies, update information or to carry out a complete review of their upcoming policy renewals. The firm is dedicated to going above and beyond to ensure clients are happy and well cared for.
In fact, that is part of the corporate core values. Bow Valley takes its six core values seriously and they are addressed in every staff meeting and applied in every transaction. Firm employees know them and live by them: staff is expected to go above and beyond for clients; be eager to learn and adapt; display structure and discipline in their work; value reputation; be team players; and treat everyone with respect.
“We hire by the core values, we operate by the core values and we manage by the core values,” says Kirit.
The leadership team promotes the core values to staff and encourages them to recognize the embodiment of these values in others. The team is careful with who they hire and is proud to have a staff full of dedicated professionals who have bought into the vision. To celebrate this, staff can nominate colleagues for going above and beyond in their dealings with clients and each other, and both of them can win a gift card in appreciation of their great service to clients and the company. There is also a monitor in the middle of the office that displays the core values, staff nominations to highlight the application of those values, and regularly updated customer reviews that allows the staff to see what people are saying about their experiences to ensure Bow Valley is hitting their service targets. Expectations are high and the staff routinely exceeds them.
Exceeding expectations and delivering a superior product has contributed to Bow Valley’s four decades in business. With Neil Gohill representing the next generation leading the charge into the next four decades, Bow Valley Insurance will remain an insurance leader in Calgary.