As one of the largest independent insurance brokerages and consultancies in Canada, there are a wide range of roles our people play in the organization. Tracy Spark, a business development executive with COWAN INFINITE, is a part of a team that offers a unique private client and risk management service. We recently sat down with Tracy to talk about her path to becoming a trusted insurance advisor and what sets COWAN INFINITE apart.

Thanks for joining us for this interview, Tracy. To start, can you share a little bit about your background?

I’ve been in the insurance industry for just over 25 years. I got my first full-time job at a local brokerage right out of school. After a few years, I moved into working in the direct insurer space before deciding to return to the brokerage side of the business. In that time, I continued my insurance education journey and completed my Registered Insurance Broker and Chartered Insurance Professional designation.

In 2010, Cowan was looking for someone to help build out a new division called Private Client Solutions, focused on creating personal relationships with our affluent clientele. This was really engaging at this point in my career, as it allowed me to be a part of defining our offering and differentiators. Since that time, I’ve been working to develop and grow our COWAN INFINITE brand. I’ve also continued focusing on furthering my education, completing the Schulich School of Business Executive Program and receiving the Charted Private Risk and Insurance Advisor (CPRIA) designation through St John’s University.

What is your current role at Cowan?

I have been with Cowan for nine years in various roles, including Senior Manager Private Client Solutions, Director of Personal Insurance and most recently appointed as Business Development Executive. With my appointment to Business Development, this allows me now to solely focus on business development activities to drive growth into the organization. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I love in a segment that I feel so passionate about.

A big part of my role is also collaboration. I work closely with our other departments to identify opportunities where we can expand our service for clients. I also create and manage relationships with external businesses and professionals like lawyers and accountants to provide our private client offering as an extension of their services.

You were the first Canadian to obtain the CPRIA designation. Can you tell us a bit more about what that is?

The Chartered Private Risk and Insurance Advisor (CPRIA) certificate is offered by the Private Risk Management Association. It is a unique program through the Tobin Centre of Executive Education of St. John’s University in New York City, in partnership with St John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance, and Actuarial Science. This designation provides me with insight into specialized insurance solutions to complex industry issues specific to the affluent client. It enables me to give better advice to our clients, and access to experts in nearly every field that affects our clients.
Cowan has proven to be a trailblazer in our industry, specifically with supporting our team members pursuing the CPRIA designation, to understand the unique needs of the affluent demographic and be recognized as experts in our field.

How does the private client experience differ from regular insurance?

Many people have relatively standard home and auto insurance needs, where it’s simple to pick up the phone or get an online quote and get the coverage you need. However, that is not always the case for our private clients. We provide bespoke solutions and a tailored experience, including customized coverage options when ‘off the rack’ solutions are no longer a fit. Private client is also about building long term relationships with our clients and their family, so that we can properly assess their needs.

Our strategy is to protect our client’s lifestyle. To not only look at today’s needs but to fully understand their long term goals. We work as their trusted advisor to help protect assets they have accumulated and cover any possible gaps in coverage.

What makes COWAN INFINITE a unique offering in the marketplace?

At COWAN INFINITE, we have a dedicated team of senior brokers focused on private client service. They are specialists in dealing with more unique scenarios that our private clients often encounter, like insuring a home in the United States or overseas. We also provide access to our most senior experts in wealth and asset management.

While some organizations may offer one or the other, very few can provide a full 360-degree view of a client’s individual needs like we can.

What are some of the areas you often see gaps in the coverage of your clients?

The one thing I see most often is a client being underinsured. Inadequate liability coverage is particularly concerning for those that have accumulated significant assets or wealth, as they are most often the obvious targets for lawsuits. That’s why we offer what is called ‘umbrella coverage’ to our clients. This is liability coverage that sits overtop the rest of your policies—homes, boats, cottages, vehicles—which will pick up any shortfalls. It is also worldwide and covers all members of your household. We work with clients to look at their overall assets and determine the right level of coverage for them.

How have you seen the industry change since you began your career?

As I think back to the early years of my career, I can’t recall ever seeing a dedicated private client services segment as a specialization. With the development of technology and the focus on convenient transactions, we’ve seen a shift of customer demands, such as the ability to get a quote or service your policy online. Although we must support those wanting this type of service model, it’s not for everyone.

Private client services were developed as a result of a strong need for those still wanting a personal relationship or having needs that require a more in-depth conversation due to the complexity of their situation. It’s been exciting to see how it’s evolved.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I love the people I get to meet. Learning about affluent individuals takes being a broker to a new level. It’s so interesting to sit across the table from someone, hearing how they became successful and what their journey looked like. It fuels me to do better and to be better. Many of these successful individuals have given up so much to get to this point in their life. They recognize the community support, which has contributed to their success and feel the responsibility to give back locally.

Our role in this is to always look for new opportunities to learn more. We want to make sure we are equipped to respond to our clients’ sometimes unique and non-traditional needs, stretching us beyond the traditional definition of an insurance broker.

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