The Targeted Strategies Group (TTSG) spent over 20 years helping Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs build economic opportunity through the successful succession of family businesses. Then almost 5 years ago, it was time for them to think of their succession plan. The founder, Garnet Morris, sought out the right candidate for the role when he appointed Susan Kichuk as CEO. He gave her a big mandate: to convert TTSG into a sustainable company that can provide bespoke insurance solutions to serve its clients over the long term. This seems like a simple concept, but it is unusual in the insurance industry. Canadian insurance brokerages typically wind down when their owner retires, whereas TTSG was on a path to grow as part of their transition plan.
Susan’s ability to build sustainable organizations was a core strength that she leveraged as they grew the team rapidly from 17 to over 125 professionals. It was important for Garnet and Susan to develop a team that could serve the clients’ needs over the long term and expand on TTSG’s foundation of innovation and expertise. Susan explains, “we are a group of professionals and thought leaders who collaborate with our clients and their advisors to provide insight and innovative solutions to complex estate planning opportunities and challenges.” This impressive team is comprised of Principals, Senior Advisors, Chartered Professional Accountants, MBAs, Lawyers, and Actuaries.
“Garnet has an incredible passion for finding ways to help successful entrepreneurs reach new heights and protect their legacies,” says Susan, “and it was essential to retain that passion with the growing team at TTSG.” Their goal was to create a life insurance service model that goes beyond the client’s life to support business owners in effectively transferring their life’s work and wealth to the next generation. The depth of talent that has joined TTSG since Susan’s arrival is a testament to her hiring capabilities and ability to find and attract top talent.
A Fresh Perspective
Susan stands apart as a female leader in the male-dominated insurance industry and with her fresh perspective from having a different background. According to Garnet, Susan differed from the other candidates during his search for a CEO. With the least industry experience but the most business experience, her intellect, abilities, and mental toughness set her apart from the others.
Susan started her career in Engineering about 30 years ago when only a handful of women graduated from the program each year, and then did a Ph.D. in Business and taught in the university system when there were very few women in the Business faculties. Then she was one of only a few female senior managers in the world at a global company – so she was definitely in situations where being female was rare – and noticed.
“And yes, along the way there were many ‘less than optimal’ experiences that went along with that. Throughout my career I chose not to dwell on the negative situations and in fact both treated every challenge as an opportunity to become stronger, and actively looked for people and situations that were supportive of what I wanted to achieve,” says Susan. “If you approach the world looking for obstacles – you will find them. If you approach the world looking for support – you will find that too. Sometimes both will find you whether you look or not, but you can control what YOU look for.”
It is pertinent to mention, Susan gets great joy from having mentored young women and seeing them climb the success ladder, maximizing benefits and instilling in them a ‘can do’ attitude. “They are focused first and foremost on making a contribution and creating value. They are driven, but at the same time understand that there is much that they do not know – and they are curious and dedicated to learning.”
Susan has learned a plethora of lessons in the last three decades. “The biggest ‘female leader’ lesson I learned– is to ensure that you take care of yourself. In my observation, and certainly as I reflect on my career, I had often put the good of the company, the good of my co-workers, the good of my family above my own well-being – and according to many things I have read, this was not unique to me as a female,” she says. “If you make your health and wellness a priority, and keep your energy and spirits up, you can do much more for those around you. This is why on an airplane they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. You are not much good to anyone if you run out of oxygen.” Armed with this unique ideology, Susan has been taking the company to new heights.
Building a Company
Careful succession planning is crucial to building a sustainable business that can not only survive but thrive for years to come. Successful entrepreneurs drive the Canadian economy, and their continued growth supports future generations. “According to the PwC 2021 Family Business Survey, formalized succession planning grew from 18% to 30% in 2020,” says Susan. “Our exceptional results can be contributed, in part, to the more purposeful planning on behalf of business owners and entrepreneurs who faced increased worries about their mortality as a result of the global pandemic. We were ready and able to support clients during these challenging times.”
The results speak for themselves. TTSG added $3 billion in life insurance in the last fiscal year to reach a total of $11.2 billion of in-force policies, making them one of the most significant brokerage firms in Canada. “We are the most creative think tank in the Canadian insurance industry, which allows us to continually develop and invest in new solutions for entrepreneurs and business owners. We invest in research, drive constant innovation, and embrace a culture of learning,” says Susan. With 5 offices across Canada, TTSG is growing from a local brokerage firm to a national firm that helps clients protect, preserve, and optimize their net worth and legacies.