From Elisabeth Nunes
Just 6 months ago, in April of 2021, Benefit Advisors Network expanded its membership across the border with our first two Canadian firms. The addition of Owen & Associates and The Leslie Group has been a pivotal step towards facilitating the opportunities and connections our North American members need to collectively provide seamless international service to their customers.
This Summer, our team set up a call with Owen & Associates to hear more about their approach to the Employee Benefits industry and the journey that led them to join BAN Canada as one of its founding members. Michael Owen, the owner and CEO of Owen & Associates, and Steven Owen, who stepped into the President role in June of 2021 were more than happy to answer all of our questions.
Owen & Associates (O&A) is a consulting and brokerage firm based out of Toronto, Canada; with additional locations in Collingwood, Ontario, and Kelowna, British Columbia. Established on a referral basis, their business sees a 98% client retention rate. They continue to service 400+ national clients with 20,000+ insured lives.
Their business model places clients and their needs at the center of all that they do. They strive to meet the unique demands of each business by providing both individual and group solutions for their customers.
On the home page of their website, you’ll see the tagline “Local Service. Global Perspective.”, Our conversation with Michael and Steven clearly highlighted how they embody that statement as a company.
A Unique Approach with First-Class Service
Many Canadian benefits companies are not designed to handle small groups with big brand needs – that’s where O&A comes in to fill the gap in the market. Their focus does not reside on the number of insured lives, but rather on addressing all aspects of their client’s needs. Quality of service continues to remain at its absolute forefront in all operations.
Historically, many of the companies they’ve served have been start-ups based in California’s Bay Area. Recognizing that some of these businesses may be two-life groups forever, they also know that occasionally they turn into 500, 1,000, or 2,000-life groups. Companies such as Yahoo, Square, Spotify, and Yelp have grown at incredible rates while supported by O&A as their partner.
Steven notes that in “the environment we work with, every client has the potential to be a unicorn”. O&A supports the up-front investment they make, by delivering first-class scalable services. This approach has allowed them to hold onto those fast-growing start-ups that scale up to become large companies and has led to their team receiving countless referrals.
O&A approaches business with a holistic technique, to act as a single point of contact for group benefits, group retirement, and third-party administration services. Through this method, their goal is to simplify the client relationship and streamline potential cross-functional enhancements and communication opportunities.
As they were working with global clients, Michael and Steven recognized two reoccurring factors. First, for many clients, Canada represents a smaller population and marketplace. Second, as companies trended toward centralization of HR and administrative functions with international providers, there was a need for Canadian expertise and support.
Administrative responsibilities can create significant financial liabilities if not performed in a timely and accurate fashion and they were identifying gaps in the services provided by carriers. Michael and Steven developed a special service where the O&A team acts as an extension of their client’s HR teams and handles the benefits administration in Canada. They advocate on behalf of their employees and are the dedicated point of contact for all things benefits related in Canada. This reduces the administrative function for the employer and allows them to build stronger relationships with their clients and directly with their employees.
The company now sits at just under 30 full-time employees working with clients across North America, Europe, East Asia, and Australia.
Once they joined Benefit Advisors Network, O&A wasted no time in making connections. They have had the opportunity to work with several U.S. members such as Alera Group Northeast in Hartford, CT; Benico Ltd. in Huntley, IL; Clark & Lavey Benefit Solutions in Merrimack, NH; GCG Financial in Deerfield, IL; and Genesys Enterprises in Atlanta, GA to support their Canadian operations.
The Owen and Associates Legacy
Michael (Mike) Owen started his career with Standard Life as one of the first Toronto hires given the challenge of establishing Standard Life as a viable group life and health carrier with consulting firms and brokerages. Later on, through his involvement in international business at Standard Life, it became clear to Mike that clients were underserved in the Canadian market, and that this was a niche he was interested in pursuing.
In his career, Mike has held various senior roles at Standard Life, WF Corroon, and Liberty Health, through which he helped establish their businesses in the Toronto marketplace. As a result of his experience in these areas “It was clear that the clients were underserved by both the carriers and on the consulting side of the business. Service was a key element that was missing and this was what led me to establish Owen and Associates – a firm whose vision was to put clients first, find solutions for their issues, and does so regardless of size.” Michael and Steven both believe that this was and remains the key to their success to this day.
“Our broker and consulting partners include the major houses, international networks, many of whom we have worked with since the mid-eighties. We continue to expand our business services, knowledge of the global market, and clients’ needs. We relish the challenge and the excitement of dealing with global companies and solving their issues.”
Prioritizing Relationships & Prioritizing People
Mike has always seen people as one of their business’s greatest long-term investments. Specifically, in regard to the strategic opportunity found in forming relationships with their southern neighbors in the United States. “We always believed that the United States is the greatest exporter of business globally”
Those relationships, paired with a strong service delivery, led to more opportunities and now O&A works through various international networks and their international relationships span 25+ years.
O&A has created client rapport that often results in recurring or longstanding relationships and opportunities. They’ve been serving their client Aligntech since 2002 when they were starting out with just 2 employees. Though just one of their client contacts, they have been led to 9 new engagements over the past 5 years, even as she moved through various employers to assist with global expansions.
All of this to summarize we have seen an average year over year fully organic growth of approximately 15% which has held consistent through the pandemic. Most of all, these longstanding relationships are a testament to the value and strength of our services
We are so delighted to expand the BAN network by partnering with our first set of Canadian members and giving that edge to each of our partners so that we can provide better coverage to our clientele.
For information on Owen & Associates, please contact:
For information on joining BAN Canada, please contact: