Ken Worsley joined Cowan Insurance Group in February 2019 to head up our new Agribusiness sector. Supported by a strong team of agribusiness experts, he is leading the launch of our national Agri-Commercial business with a focus on building out the Cowan brand in this space and developing new client relationships. Recently, he sat down with us to chat about his career and share his thoughts on the industry.
So Ken, you came to Cowan with a wealth of experience in the insurance and agribusiness industries. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today?
I started in the insurance industry as a farm risk inspector. With a background in fire protection and engineering, doing a role focused on assessing the physical perils and hazards of things like farm buildings and equipment felt like a good fit for me. Before that role, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to farms beyond going on school trips when I was a kid, so it was a bit of an adjustment at first, but it became something I was really passionate about.
As I progressed in my career, I moved into commercial insurance where I continued to focus on agribusiness. I’ve held some leadership roles on the carrier side, building and executing business strategies to support the needs of our clients and partners. When the opportunity came to join Cowan, it seemed like a natural fit and I am excited to work with the team here to grow their business in this sector.
In your role with Cowan, you are regularly going into the field to talk to farmers about their businesses and what pressing issues are on their minds. What do you see as the most significant ones affecting them today?
Right now, climate change is one of the biggest issues I’m hearing about. When you rely on growing crops for your livelihood, any increase in extreme weather can have a huge impact. This year, it has led to frequent bouts where the land is too wet or too dry and doesn’t allow for proper planting and harvesting conditions. This means that a lot of farmers have been out on the field later this year, and these delays impact the rest of the supply chain.
Another big issue facing this community is mental health. With the weather challenges, it’s been putting a lot of additional stress on farmers. Poor weather leads to lower profits, while expenses continue to rise. As a farmer, you have less control of the products you sell and their pricing, so it can be challenging to mitigate the risks and manage your stress levels.
When I’m out talking to clients, my biggest focus is always seeing what we can to do help take some of that stress off of them and give the peace of mind that their business is protected.
With so many different types of farms, is there a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to farm insurance, or is each case unique?
While there is a lot of overlap with a traditional commercial insurance policy, there are some farm-specific things that you need to consider, and not all brokers are aware of that. You need to understand that farms are now sophisticated business operations and need to be insured accordingly.
There’s also a lot of differences in risk when it comes to your specific type of farm, location and size. What you face if you are on a cattle farm in Alberta, have dairy cows in Quebec or own 100 acres and grow corn in Ontario are not the same, and that should be reflected in your policy.
As a broker, how do you ensure that your clients have the insurance services and products they need?
When I’m working with a client, I try and gather the information that I need to obtain the best pricing and protection for them. Being willing to have a thorough discussion of what risks your clients are ready to accept and getting all the details we need is vital. I try to go line by line through what they have, what it costs, and how to best protect it. This goes a long way in getting something that both of us are confident with and often ends up saving them money in the process.
What are the pitfalls of having an operation be underinsured?
Like a lawyer or an accountant, your broker is your partner in protecting your business. We should be making sure that you have the coverage you need, and you should be continuously updating us throughout the year if things change so that we can reevaluate as necessary.
If you don’t have enough coverage, you can end up in a situation where your property isn’t insured to its full value, which can cause problems if you ever need to make a claim. With the size and scale of farm operations now, taking on too much risk to save money in the short term can be an issue if there is ever a loss and you are unable to cover the uninsured costs.
As a broker, it’s our job to explain the options that are available to you and the risks and benefits involved with each. We can provide a range of different quotes and help with the cost/benefit analysis to determine what works for you.
What value does Cowan bring to the table as a broker specializing in agribusiness?
Our dedicated team of agribusiness experts understand the industry and the unique risks you face. Often times, brokers that don’t specialize in agribusiness aren’t aware of new products and coverages available to farms. This can lead to less effective coverage and less competitive rates. We keep ourselves up to date on the latest options offered by our partners and how they can help us meet our client needs. In a market where farmers are facing an ever-eroding profit margin, have the right coverage at the right cost is more important than ever.
Most importantly, as an independently owned brokerage, we work for you. We will take the time to explain the options available, understand your needs and build you a customized solution. Cowan has also built strong relationships with our insurers, allowing us to access better pricing and coverage for our clients.