Symposium West 2023: Propelled by People

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When: Thursday, August 17, 2023

Where: Ontario Mutual Insurance Association

350 Pinebush Road,
Cambridge, Ontario
N1T 1Z6

Symposium West is the premier professional development event for insurance professionals, designed for members of the Southwestern, Hamilton/Niagara, and Conestoga Chapters of the Insurance Institute of Ontario. Thought-provoking sessions bring together bright minds, idea-focused on a wide range of subjects. The shared goal is to foster learning, innovation, inspiration, and stimulate conversations that matter.


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"This was my 3rd time attending and every year I am impressed with the quality of this event"
- Symposium West Attendee

"I could have listened to these people for the whole day. Great variety of perspectives. Great moderator. Thoroughly enjoyed and did not want it to end."
- Symposium West Attendee

"This was an amazing day and I plan to attend again next year!"
- Symposium West Attendee



8:00 - 8:45 a.m. Breakfast and Registration
8:45 - 9:00 a.m. Introduction and Welcoming Remarks
9:00 - 9:30 a.m. Morning Keynote Speaker: Douglas Porter
Chief Economist and Managing Director Economics - BMO Financial Group
9:30 - 9:45 a.m. Break
9:45 - 11:00 a.m. Morning Seminar Session A:
1. Workforce Evolution: Proactively Responding to the Pace of Change
2. Capacity Crunch: Consumer Fairness and Sound Carrier Practices in an Inflationary Environment
3. Risk Managing the Human Peril
11:00 - 11:15 a.m. Break
11:15 - 12:30 p.m. Morning Seminar Session B:
1. Workforce Evolution: Proactively Responding to the Pace of Change
2. Capacity Crunch: Consumer Fairness and Sound Carrier Practices in an Inflationary Environment
3. Risk Managing the Human Peril
12:30 - 1:15 p.m. Lunch
1:15 - 2:30 p.m. Up Close and Personal: Senior Leadership Panel
2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Ice Cream Social
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Afternoon Keynote Speaker: Ben Fanelli
Chief Vision Officer - Heroic Minds

Morning Keynote

Douglas Porter

Douglas Porter
Chief Economist and Managing Director Economics
BMO Financial Group

Douglas Porter has over 30 years of experience analyzing global economies and financial markets. As Chief Economist at BMO Financial Group, he oversees the macroeconomic and financial market forecasts and co-authors the firm’s weekly flagship publication, Focus. Mr. Porter manages the team that has won numerous forecasting awards. Most recently, his team took the #1 spot in the StarMine Awards for Most Accurate Forecasters for Canada in 2022. Also, Douglas led the team to a #2 ranking for Top U.S. Forecaster among 53 global firms in the 2022 Focus Economics Survey.

Morning Seminar Sessions

Registrants will be able to choose 2 of the 3 morning sessions.

Morning Session A: Workforce Evolution: Proactively Responding to the Pace of Change

Employee recruitment and retention are top challenges for the insurance industry and in 2023, we find them compounded by the rapid pace of change. Key drivers of that pace include the evolution of technology (notably the impact of artificial intelligence) and continuing demographic shifts. In addition, the Insurance Institute of Canada’s Demographic Analysis of the p&c Insurance Industry 2022-2026 indicates that competencies such as adaptability and flexibility are now ranked ahead of industry-specific knowledge and technical skills.

Within this context, join us for a dynamic panel discussion about the evolving future of work and proactive steps to consider as we equip ourselves to thrive going forward.

After attending this session, you will gain:

  • A deeper understanding of the factors driving change and how roles are transforming;
  • New ideas and insights on the desired skills and competencies of the near future;
  • Proactive strategies you and your organization might consider when recruiting new entrants and retaining existing staff.


Steven Moro
Vice President, Operations 
HUB International  

Christa O'Neil
Christa O'Neil
Chief Operating Officer
McFarlan Rowlands Insurance Brokers


Daniel Shum
Daniel Shum
Senior Partner, Insurance Practice Leader
IBM Consulting

Darlene Diplock
Darlene Diplock
AVP Sales Training Canada 
HUB International

Jenny Hallahan
Jenny Hallahan
Vice President, People and Innovation 
Trillium Mutual Insurance Company 

Morning Session B: Capacity Crunch: Consumer Fairness and Sound Carrier Practices in an Inflationary Environment

Over the last couple of years, Canada’s economy and population have been experiencing extended inflationary levels not seen since the 1980s. During this time, Canadians reported that they were most impacted by rising food prices, followed by higher transportation and housing costs. But the trickle-down effect is felt by many industries in our economy, no less the insurance industry.

In this session, our panel will discuss the impact of inflation and our current market on carriers and how they are balancing both fairness to their consumer and profitability in a capacity crunch. The panel will give context to the environment in which we are operating and speak to the impact on treaty reinsurance rates and available capacity. They will also explore how underwriting companies are handling reduced capacity, more expensive treaty premiums, and the impact that these have on their underwriting and pricing approach. Rounding out the discussion, they will explore how claims departments are changing their operations to accommodate for potential increases in fraud and increased settlement amounts while balancing expenses and customer fairness.


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Brenda Smythe
Assistant Vice President, Commercial Underwriting
Economical Insurance

Clare Anstie
Clare Anstie
Senior Vice President
Guy Carpenter

David Himes
David Himes
Claims Performance Manager, Casualty  
Gore Mutual Insurance Company

Morning Session C: Risk Managing the Human Peril

Employees are an organizations greatest asset, but there is potential for them to become a company's greatest hazard and loss. Advancements in technology and new work environments have created a greater exposure to cyber risks and privacy breaches that endanger an organization's operations. 

This session aims to bring brokers, underwriters/risk management and claims professionals together for a discussion on real-life scenarios and how they can affect an organization. 

You’ll leave this session with a clearer understanding of: 

  • Potential threats that an organization can face created by their employees actions 
  • Outline the Enterprise Risk Management Process
  • The importance of having risk management strategies in place to identify, analyze, prioritize, mitigate, and monitor the human element of an organization 


Sebastian Rybarczyk
Manager, Home Product
The Co-operators


Jody Ickovitz
Jody Iczkovitz
Claims Manager, Specialty Lines Claims 
Intact Insurance 

Colin Robertson
Chief Underwriting Officer & Vice President Risk Control 


John Alaimo

John Alaimo
Vice President Commercial Lines
StoneRidge Insurance Brokers

Up Close and Personal: Leadership Panel

Our popular leadership session brings you into the boardroom and offers a glimpse into how organizations rose to the challenges of the pandemic, lessons learned and an outlook for the future.


Lee-Ann Vansteenkiste
Lee-Ann Vansteenkiste
Chief Operating Officer
Salus Mutual Insurance


Tom Reikman
Tom Reikman
Senior Vice President and Chief Distribution Officer
Economical Insurance (Definity Financial Corp)

Christine Van Daele
Christine Van Daele
Westminster Mutual Insurance Company

Donna Barcley
Donna Barclay
EVP, Commercial & Specialty,
Westland Insurance



Paul Gilbody
SVP Operations



Afternoon Keynote


Ben Fanelli
Chief Vision Officer, Heroic Minds

Ben spent five life-changing years with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League venturing through a traumatic brain injury, leadership roles, winning CHL’s Humanitarian of The Year award in 2013 and NHL Camp with the New York Rangers (NHL). After his time with the Kitchener Rangers he continued to pursue public speaking, podcasting, social entrepreneurship, non-profit work with a focus on concussions, Coaching Men’s Hockey at the University of Waterloo, completing his BA in Communications and Masters of Counselling & Psychotherapy all while continuing to build Heroic Minds. Ben has been public speaking since the age of 12. In 2014 he began speaking to fortune 500 companies, universities, schools and sporting organizations.

In 2016, Ben began The Heroic Minds Podcast (with over 100k listens) where he interviewed individuals with heroic life stories to uncover why the world is becoming increasingly vulnerable and what leads to resilience, courage and high-performance.

Whether the presentation is tailored to sport, business or general well-being, Ben’s message revolves around the invigorating yet forgotten framework of heroism. Through the human, natural and social sciences Ben delivers actionable takeaways through story-telling to fend off anxiety, depression, and increase overall life performance.

Thank you to our sponsors


Event Partner




Prestige Sponsor

Westland logo


Dumfries Logo

Crawford logo



Gold Sponsors

Definity logo

OTIP and RAEO Logo



South Easthope Mutual Insurance

The Cooperators Logo


Lambton Mutual Insurance logo                             Collectivfide                                        Engage HR Human Resources Solutions Inc.

Silver Sponsors

Cognition+ Logo

Middlesex Mutual Insurance Co. Logo

Curo Claims Services Logo

The Ostic Group Logo

Axiom logo

BCM Logo

Kent & Essex Mutual Insurance Logo

West Wawanosh Mutual Insurance Company Logo