Copoloff: 50 years of discretion, loyalty and organic growth

By Alain Thériault | December 02 2014 11:30AM

Sid Copoloff | Photo: Réjean Meloche

Copoloff Insurance Agencies has been keeping a low profile lately. Formerly present across Canada, the managing general agency is pursuing prosperity by grouping its activities and nurturing the organic growth of its most loyal advisors.

You may not have heard the name Sid Copoloff for a while, but this industry veteran and the founder of the first MGA in Canada is still on the job. After 50 years, he makes it a point to personally take advisors’ calls and meet them in person. “Our doors are open all the time. Service has and always will be the most important for us,” he says.

This is one of the messages he shared during an exclusive interview he gave The Insurance and Investment Journal at the firm’s headquarters in the Town of Mount Royal. His daughter, firm vice-president, Shelly Copoloff, was also on hand, as was communications director Stacey Zerdok.

Copoloff is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Sid Copoloff was demonstrably grateful to his employees and advisors, without whom none of this could exist, he says, referring to the firm’s history and achievements. Even so, the firm has been deliberately keeping a low profile for the past few years. “We keep as private and quiet as possible,” he says.

Organic growth

Recruitment is an area of focus for the MGA. Newcomers often migrate from the career network, Copoloff says, mentioning London Life and Sun Life Financial. They also come from referrals, for which the firm has a special program. “We have an advisor reward program in place. Our advisors help us to recruit,” he explains.

Shelly Copoloff describes how the firm acts as a link between advisors and the next generation. “We’re working with some sons and daughters of our advisors for the transition. We have several father and daughter or son teams.” In short, she says that she can develop advisors “from point A to point B.” She adds that the MGA works closely with supplier Transamerica Life Canada, which offers advisors a succession support program.

True to his policy of discretion, Sid Copoloff declines to give precise figures on organic growth, premiums in force, assets or growth rate. “We’re not the biggest, we’re not the smallest; we’re somewhere between the two,” he offers. To quell rumours, he confirms that Copoloff is not for sale.

As for the choice of suppliers, the firm has 14.

After many industry mergers and acquisitions, Sid Copoloff says that he has in-force business from 67 companies. “A little bit here, a little bit there...but many disappeared,” he adds.

He considers his loyal troops his prime asset. They are behind the success of his 50 years of operations. The 10 employees serving Copoloff for over 25 years include renowned industry figures like Jean-Charles Tremblay, dedicated to life insurance and agreements with national accounts, André Potvin, brokerage director and Marla Gross, investment products director.

“Loyalty is worth everything. We have advisors that could easily leave us for more money with another MGA but they don’t. Because they know they get that service that they need, the quotes, our back-office, our sales team; they will help them from start to finish.”

Shelly Copoloff calls the team tightly knit. “If we didn’t have the group of people that we have, there would be no business. We have a team who take ownership for their responsibilities and we come together in an approach as one,” she explains. The Copoloff team comprises over 30 employees.

Zerdok agrees: “Even Sid never wanted a title on his business card – he only has his name and Copoloff contact information, that’s it!”

Copoloff also boasts over 350 loyal advisors. National accounts agreements with securities brokerage firms have multiplied in recent years, amounting to potentially thousands of advisors, Sid Copoloff points out.

Proximity is a priority for this businessman “We work very closely with our brokers, providing them tools for the development of their business, helping them with compliance and other regulatory requirements,” he explains.

Compliance requirements

The burden of compliance combined with the proliferation of new rules and laws controlling the industry are not obstacles to Sid Copoloff. On the contrary, he sees this business environment as a way to get closer to advisors. The new Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association guidelines are advantageous. “[They] protect all of us at all levels,” he says.

To provide service continuity, MGAs, with their aging cohort of advisors, must prepare to transfer their blocks of business. Insurers should support them with this step, Sid Copoloff says.

Not all aging advisors, however, are looking to sell. One of Mr. Copoloff’s pet anecdotes is about an advisor of his who at age 91 turned down an offer to buy his clientele. “‘Why should I sell?” he told me. ‘I still can service all my clients and I still drive my car.’”

Sid Copoloff also shared that community involvement is important to his firm. In cooperation with the Batshaw Centres Foundation (which supports non profit youth and family centres), Copoloff Insurance Agencies is participating in a fundraising activity in honour of its 50th anniversary. The goal: to give the next generation a helping hand through Copoloff Scholarships.