Best Buy Insurance takes on larger brokers with Policy Works

As a multi-generational brokerage located in Ajax, Ontario, Best Buy Insurance has seen a lot of trends and insurance cycles come and go. However, the firm’s strategic direction is tied to commercial lines growth in the years ahead.

“The focus for us is in growing the commercial lines business,” says Gillian Van Kempen, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Best Buy Insurance. “We will continue to write personal lines as the market evolves, but we really see opportunity in commercial.”

Best Buy Insurance

Location: Ajax, ON
Focus: Commercial lines
CL/PL split: 40/60
Staff: 19
BMS: TAM (Applied Systems)
PW User since: November, 2006

Beginnings of the shift

Best Buy’s roots go back to 1946, when Van Kempen’s great grandfather started the brokerage, with the mantle then taken over by her grandfather. Her father, well-known Ontario broker Kip Van Kempen, rejuvenated the firm in the mid-1980s, with a strong interest in commercial insurance business, namely complex manufacturing risks and directors and officers liability.

After gaining her RIBO licence in 1996, Gillian Van Kempen worked in virtually every sector of the insurance industry, including as a claims supervisor for Allianz Canada. She returned to her roots as the fourth generation in her family to venture into the brokerage profession.

Commercial brokers as experts

Currently, Van Kempen oversees Best Buy's 19-staff operation with roughly 40% of premium volume generated from commercial lines. “Commercial is not a self-serve type of business,” she observes. “Business owners are not experts on insurance; they expect the broker to know and explain all the technical information.”

One technology solution Best Buy has relied on heavily over the past nine years to grow its commercial book is Policy Works, according to Van Kempen.

Operations drive success

“Policy Works is the most functional and complete tool for commercial lines compared to anything else I have seen on the market,” she notes. “It is simple, effective and easy to use. Our staff tell us they prefer using it, and that is something we want to keep reinforcing with our training.”


Our insurance carriers have said they absolutely love getting the material from Policy Works versus other formats.

GillianVanKempen.jpgGillian Van Kempen, Executive Vice President and Managing Director

A prime example of this functionality is the flexible fields Policy Works utilizes for any kind of commercial processing, whether new business, endorsements or renewals. “The fields are not locked down the same way they are in a broker management system,” Van Kempen says. “It gives you so much flexibility in the forms if you have to add notes, pictures or any other information. You can add an additional page or addendum quite easily in Policy Works.”

Consistency of process

For Van Kempen, that also means improved workflow throughout the brokerage for processing commercial business. “When you are going through and finalizing a submission, Policy Works gives you that self-check,” she says.

“Policy Works prompts that you have missed something – some are optional, some are mandatory. From a workflow perspective, it is user-friendly, logical and easy to follow.”

Professional Submissions and Proposals

Submissions to insurance companies also represent a distinct advantage of using Policy Works, according to Van Kempen. “The quality of submissions is very high,” she explains.

“Our insurance carriers have said they absolutely love getting the material from Policy Works versus other formats. With Policy Works, the submission is all bundled together nicely in a logical presentation.”

The benefits carry over into client proposals. “For the proposals we send to our clients, they look much more professional than most brokers can do on their own,” she notes. “They are thorough and detailed, but also look much cleaner and crisper.”

Competing against larger brokers

Armed with the functionality of Policy Works, Van Kempen observes that Best Buy can take on more complex accounts often associated with the larger alphabet brokers. “Some brokers may focus more on smaller, package commercial business, and for them a more limited system may be fine,” she says. “However, for more sophisticated medium and larger business accounts, you really need a functional commercial management system like Policy Works.”


Policy Works is the most functional and complete tool for commercial lines compared to anything else I have seen on the market.

GillianVanKempen.jpgGillian Van Kempen, Executive Vice President and Managing Director

Van Kempen cites the example of a large, multi-national commercial client that recently sold their business. A customer of the brokerage for more than 30 years, the firm had multiple, world-wide locations that required complex insurance solutions. “Despite this complexity, we could plug all of this information into Policy Works and we could list off all the details for the various locations as separate sections. It was easy to track and organize. There is no other system I know of that can do that,” she notes.

While the commercial lines marketplace is increasingly competitive, Van Kempen holds that agile brokerages like Best Buy Insurance can pursue a “wide spectrum” of business accounts, including large manufacturers, complex D&O risks or international firms.

“We know we can compete with any brokerage out there and we have the employees, the skills and the technology to excel in commercial lines,” she says.

Partnership helps fuel growth

Policy Works will be a crucial ally in Best Buy’s aggressive growth strategy in the future, according to Van Kempen.

“To put it simply, the Policy Works people really get it when it comes to commercial lines,” she concludes. “What they do at Policy Works is great and I hope they keep kicking it in the right direction.”