After spending more than three decades at Ottawa-based insurance provider Encon Group, growing the company during a major economic downturn, Jean Laurin is retiring.
By Jacob Serebrin
“I’ve been very lucky to lead this company over the past 15 years and be able to work with a team of dedicated people. I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to work with these people,” Mr. Laurin, 58, says.
He spent more than 30 years at Encon and, in addition to his role as president, served as the CEO of Encon’s parent company, The Schinnerer Group. Encon and Schinnerer serve as underwriters for the products insurance carriers sell to licensed brokers.
Mr. Laurin – who was named Ottawa’s CEO of the Year in 2011 – will be replaced by David Cook, who has been Encon’s chief underwriting officer since 2009.
“He’s a perfect person for the job, he’s seasoned, he has 25 years with the firm here, he certainly knows the insides of the industry and our client base, so I think the firm will be in good hands,” Mr. Laurin says.
Over the course of his career, Encon has grown significantly. The company nearly doubled its revenues to $320 million in 2010 from $185 million in 2002.
“The company, since I took the helm, so to speak, has changed a lot over those 15 years. Annual premium volumes are probably two-and-a-half times what they were what they were 15 years ago,” he says. “That’s come from expanding our core product offerings. We added many different products.”
Those products include “environmental impairment liability, technology errors and omission, standalone umbrella commercial general liability,” he says.
“It’s certainly kept us busy and allowed us to grow in an industry that at times is extremely competitive."
Retirement will be a chance to spend more time with his family and to travel, he says.
“My wife Diane retired from her career in teaching last spring and our plans were always to retire together, so when she told me that’s what she wanted to do, I said to her that I didn’t want to be too far behind,” Mr. Laurin says.
The couple plans to cycle around Cambodia and Vietnam as well as go hiking in the Amazon and visit Machu Picchu. Mr. Laurin says he also plans to spend time with his two young grandchildren.
“I’ve lost a few close people to me over the past couple years,” he says. “It sort of makes you think, ‘What do I want to do with the rest of my life?’”
Still, he is going to miss some things about the office.
“I’m going to miss the interaction with my colleagues … For me the business has definitely been about the people, and more importantly the people here at Encon, working with them, I’m going to miss that camaraderie. I’m going to miss rolling up our sleeves and solving a problem,” he says.
In particular, he’s enjoyed working with younger people who are just getting their start in the industry.
“Although they think you have a lot to teach them, they can certainly teach you a lot as well,” he says.
Mr. Laurin has sat on the Telfer School of Management’s advisory board for more than six years and chaired a mentorship program that matches third- and fourth-year students with senior executives. Mr. Laurin himself has mentored five students through the program.
“That has been an unbelievable program, incredibly rewarding,” he says.
He says that between his family and his travels, he doesn’t plan to take on any other work-related projects.
“It’s not in the plan, I’m passionate about hobbies,” he says. “Travelling is a lot of fun and being a grandpapa to two young grandchildren is a lot of fun.”